Tips for innovation success

Tips for innovation success

Industry experts offer advice on new technology launches at Economist conference

Leading industry figures gathered at the Economist's Innovation Award summit had advice for businesses looking to release new products into uptapped markets. An open attitude towards innovation and new technologies was considered the key to success by all speakers.

Matt Bross, BT's chief technology officer, said that his firm uses a combination of external and internal innovation to drive new projects. The telecoms giant has “innovation scouts” who research new ideas in locations such as Israel, China, Shanghai and Malaysia, while internally there is an innovation box for ideas.

Innovation must now take place “at the speed of people’s lives", Bross advised. He added that rather than focusing on building up a product portfolio, it is important to create innovations that are relevant to people and take account of the way they live. “Everything that I am driving in terms of the innovation agenda at BT is meeting people where they live, work and play,” Bross said.

Today, when discussion turns to innovation, “there is a lot of talk about what I would call invention", Bross said. “Invention is really interesting, but it becomes innovation when it enhances the quality of the person’s life,” he added.

For instance, BT is driving open innovation in its recent work with FON, using BT’s science and technology to enable shared Wi-Fi connections, Bross said. This uses broadband lines inside people’s homes to create a community resource while keeping the home line secure. This open Wi-Fi approach takes away the frustration of logging on and is an innovation "at the speed of people’s lives", Bross explained.

Also speaking at the event, Procter and Gamble vice-president, Jeff Weedman, advised delegates that a key part of finding new ideas was to remain “indifferent” to where they came from.

Nokia’s Stephen Johnston added that businesses should no longer just release products to their own schedule. Instead, they should follow the market, conduct research and “let go of engineering control,” he explained.