I missed the Nobel Prize by a smidge. More precisely, (not to mention, much more honestly), I recently had the privilege and opportunity to visit Stockholm, Sweden for Innovation Technology training at the offices of Innovation360 Group AB. As it turned out, my trip only coincidentally occurred within days of the 2015 Nobel Awards Ceremonies. This year’s prize for Peace went to a “quartet” from Tunisia who were recognized for their long, relentless struggle on the path of national liberation, construction of democracy and promoting universal values and principles. My journey, while considerably less prize-worthy, was nevertheless, one that I will always remember.
Landing in Stockholm – New Insights, Fresh Perspectives
De-planing my KLM aircraft in Stockholm, I headed for baggage claim. Awaiting my luggage in the Baggage Claim area, my eyes drifted to the surrounding walls where large “Poster-Pictures” touted key advances in Science, Technologies and the Humanities in which Sweden played an integral part. I was somewhat taken aback by a claim which described technological advances in the field of mobile computing & communications were attributed to the Swedes. My American mind and pride immediately conjured – “hey, if it’s 19th, 20th or 21st Century cool technology, it’s gotta be US conceived, developed and delivered, right?” Upon more considered reflection and a little focused reading, I was able to allow that, perhaps, there are in fact countries and peoples outside the US who are contributing to significant advances in the world. My education in Innovation was beginning before I even stepped foot into the classroom.
Setting my prejudices aside, I realized that opportunities for innovation exist almost anywhere and everywhere. This includes unexpected corners and pockets of small groups of people who see things differently and don’t accept the status quo. This includes advances that come from traditional rivals. Thinking about my flight experience, I recognized that KLM, the huge Dutch carrier, seized the opportunity to increase market share by teaming with Air France. The result is improved, expanded service abetted by sophisticated behind-the-scenes technology. Today, the merged Air France and KLM Airlines, once rivals, transport nearly 90 million passengers annually. My SkyTeam experience was excellent of innovative workforce planning and great customer relationship management.
Blending Old and New
In Stockholm, I stayed at the new (about 5 years old) Nobis Hotel. And, it’s while it’s new, it’s built within the walls of a 500 year old stone and marble structure. The Nobis eclectically combines the best of the old and new of architecture, design and service for an exceptional hotel experience. How they manage to blend old world, majestic marble and carved wood with Scandinavian modern and make it work is beyond me. This experience was repeated time and again during my time in Stockholm – testimony to the fact that a culture of innovation is sustained by an appreciation of old and new, left and right, black and white – in short, diversity.
Classroom Innovation – What I learned
I thought that I’d come to Stockholm to learn how to use a new “cool tool” – the InnoSurvey (SaaS) technology. What I learned, in fact, was more about information – how to acquire it and apply it for competitive advantage in the age of digitalization. The tool merely provides the fastest way to capture, catalogue and display organizational information in ways that are amazingly meaningful to people who care about that organization – especially that organization’s ability to create and capture value to improve (profits, markets, value to society, etc.).
The Fundamental Lessons Learned
That’s a hard question. At the macro-level I learned that the advent (or onslaught) of technological changes such as mobility, big data, analytics, social media, cloud, artificial intelligence and robotics mean that companies need to innovate continuously with agility and efficiency to survive and thrive. But, if I focus strictly on what I learned in the classroom it would be this: The InnoSurvey (register here to take a free survey) http://innovation360.com/innomembers/ is more than an Organizational Innovation Diagnostic Tool. InnoSurvey is a powerful organizational “GPS” that measures ALL the key values (aspects) of Innovation, benchmarks those against relevant information such as competition, analyzes that information and then provides concrete recommendations to guide organizational value creation. As such, it’s what the great Claude Shannon might describe as the ultimate organizational oversight and insight tool to help leaders reliably distinguish among possible alternatives – the very essence of information. And, in this age of digitalization, that’s probably the equivalent of the Holy Grail for the Innovation Age.