3 Ways to Build a Culture of Collaborative Innovation

3 Ways to Build a Culture of Collaborative Innovation

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You’ll have a far more innovative, resilient organization if you follow three practices. 1) Create tools that allow everyone to communicate strategically about innovation. Materials science company W.L. Gore puts its key innovation criteria in the form of a one-page “Product Concept Worksheet.” The template allows anyone to propose a new idea — and everyone to judge its merit. 2) Vet and refine ideas collectively and continuously. In nimble organizations, innovation ideas aren’t reviewed once or twice a year by a senior committee. Instead they undergo a constant process of review, refinement, and — if necessary — death. The goal is for only the best ideas to survive. 3) Keep top leaders focused on helping those close to the coal get the resources and support they need. The job of top leaders is to serve people who are close to the market. Andy Roberts/Getty Images
All organizations have the ability to be smarter than the sum of their members’ intelligence and talent. Unfortunately, most are actually dumber. The good news is there are a handful of practical steps to boost collective intelligence.
Create tools that allow everyone to communicate strategically about innovation. Good ideas can come from all corners of a company, but would-be innovators may need help developing a strong strategic argument. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the innovative government agency focused on transformational breakthroughs in national security, uses a set of simple questions called the Heilmeier Catechism (named after a former director), to think through and evaluate proposed research programs: What are you trying to do? Articulate your objectives using absolutely no jargon. How is it done today, and what are the limits of current practice? What is new in your approach and why do you think it will be successful? Who cares? If you are successful, what difference will it make? What are the risks? How much will it cost? How long will it take? What are the mid-term and final “exams” [that will allow you to measure] success?
Materials science company W.L. Gore puts its key innovation criteria in the form of a one-page “Product Concept Worksheet,” which contains: a concise statement of the product concept, the technology to be utilized, the form of the product, and the customer needs that the product will address.
Either approach can easily be adjusted for use in most organizations; they provide common language that allows anyone to propose a new idea — and everyone to judge its merit.
Vet and refine ideas collectively and continuously. In nimble organizations, innovation ideas aren’t reviewed once or twice a year by a senior committee. Instead they undergo a constant process of review, refinement, and — if necessary — death. The goal is for only the best ideas to survive. In our research, we found that successful collective vetting depends on at least two things.
The first is clear, commonly understood guidelines (also known as simple rules ) by which to judge proposed innovations. In an effort to rejuvenate its innovation pipeline, Corning created a set of simple rules, derived from successful past innovations: address new markets with more than $500 million in potential revenue leverage the company’s expertise in materials science represent a critical component in a complex system, and be protected from competition by patents and proprietary process expertise.
Second, diverse stakeholders are invited in early and often to help judge and refine the idea. At Gore, “passionate champions” for new innovations use the company’s tools to frame the strategic case for their idea, vetting it with customers and colleagues in the process. If the idea gains support, the champion schedules regular peer review sessions with people from manufacturing, R&D, sales & marketing, and other areas of expertise who are in a good position to judge and refine the idea. The company’s culture of frank talk drives these review sessions. People understand that their collective job is to kill bad projects as quickly as possible and accelerate those that show the most promise.
Guidelines make it easier for everyone to judge the value of new innovations and avoid large, bad bets on relatively untested ideas. Senior leaders periodically review the portfolio of project ideas that are bubbling up and knit them together, using their knowledge of organizational capabilities and market/technology trends to create organizational strategy.
Bust through barriers that block innovation. Most organizations have regular procedures for leaders to determine which new projects should get funded and who will be assigned to these initiatives. But at nimble organizations, leadership is flipped upside down. The job of top leaders is to serve people who are close to the market. They do whatever they can to clear the way for promising new projects and get innovation teams the resources they need.
NASA’s leaders are undertaking an intensive effort to understand and transform several major barriers to innovation. They asked their employees to help; people responded with nearly 300 recommendations. Some of these aimed to encourage more idea generation by giving people more time, money, recognition, and dedicated physical space for innovation. Others focused on reducing process requirements for innovations, for instance, fast-tracking low-cost missions and giving special treatment to high-potential technologies. One proposal would require new flight programs and projects to include an element of innovation to encourage informed, appropriate R&D risk, as a means to counter the agency’s risk-averse culture. The outcome of this effort remains to be seen, but NASA’s leaders are certainly making a concerted effort to tackle the blocks to innovation.
Using these three practices, companies can harness the insights and energy of all of their people through a collective “prediction market,” in which innovation ideas are examined, improved, and pushed forward by the many, not the few. An innovation prediction market makes many small bets on new ideas at early stages, only a few of which will pan out after intensive collective vetting. In so doing, nimble companies aggregate the intelligence of their workers to better predict future success, and act to make that future real.
Kate Isaacs is a research affiliate at the MIT Leadership Center, a partner at Dialogos Generative Capital, and an Executive Fellow at the Center for Higher Ambition Leadership. She helps companies and multi-stakeholder collaboratives create social and economic value through trust-based relationships. Dr. Isaacs holds a PhD in Organization Studies from the MIT Sloan School of Management and an M.S. degree in Technology and Policy from the MIT Engineering Systems Division. Deborah Ancona is the Seley Distinguished Professor of Management, a Professor of Organization Studies, and the Founder of the MIT Leadership Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Management. She is the coauthor, with Henrik Bresman, of X-Teams: How to Build Teams That Lead, Innovate and Succeed (Harvard Business School Press) and coauthor of “In Praise of the Incomplete Leader” (Harvard Business Review). This article is about INNOVATION

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Low calorie wines and hard seltzers are big sellers, but are they healthy?

FitVine and Cense wines and hard seltzers are marketed as healthy alternatives to higher-calorie traditional wines and light beer. In MetroWest and the Milford area sales are brisk to health conscious consumers.
Walk into just about any package store these days, and you will see some wines marketed as a better alternative for those who are health conscious.
They are stacked in slick displays that mention fewer calories, sugar, and alcohol content. Hard seltzers, popularly known as “spiked seltzers,” are another option. These flavored drinks, with just a hint of alcohol, market low, or no carbohydrates, and minimal calories.
The Daily News visited a few local packages stores to get answers to a few questions – are people buying them, are they truly healthy, and are they here to stay?
Finding a market
It’s all about meshing with the actual, or imagined, healthy lifestyle that many consumers strive for. That means occasionally enjoying a hard beverage after a workout at the gym, according to Paul Morganti, who has owned Fifth Avenue Liquors in Framingham for nearly 50 years.
“People are looking for an edge to live a little more healthy,” said Morganti, while standing in front of a display for FitVine, a California winery that produces red and white wines that contain less sugar, fewer sulfites and no flavor additives – and contains about 95 calories in a 5-ounce serving. Several backgrounds pop up on the company’s website, including one that shows a woman dressed in work-out tights, lying on what looks like a yoga mat, reaching for a glass of FitVine. 7th annual Spirit of Hudson: Local brewers say people want beer with less alcohol content
The company is not alone in trying to reach the health-conscious drinker. WW, formerly Weight Watchers, recommends Cense wine as an option to its members, which contains about 85 calories in a 5-ounce serving. The same serving of a traditional wine contains about 125 calories.
In another area of Morganti’s store there is a big display of variety packs of White Claw Hard Seltzer. Each 12-ounce can is 70 calories, with no sugar, no carbs, and 3.7% alcohol per volume.
“People are into (hard seltzers) big-time. They are looking for any way they can to cut calories here or there,” he said.
Why are people buying (or not buying) them?
When 23-year-old Sarah Patry of Newton walked into Lincoln Liquors in Framingham, she made a beeline for the spiked seltzers.
“It’s nicer than feeling sick,” Patry, said, comparing how she feels after drinking something with less alcohol content, compared to a traditional wine or beer. LIST: Wine Spectator’s 2018 Restaurant Awards
Her friend, Christian Longtine, 23 of Framingham, called the high-calorie content in many traditional wines “insane,” but spiked seltzers are not his thing.
“They don’t do anything for me,” Longtine said. “I’d rather have a beer to get a little tipsy.”
How are sales going?
Slow, for FitVine statewide, according to Even Boyd, senior marketing manager at 3X3 Insights, a New York City-based analytics company that serves alcohol retailers, brands and distributors.
Last year, FitVine – which is also sold at Fenway Park – captured approximately 2% of sales in the wine category.
“The company is starting to find its way,” said Boyd, explaining that FitVine is a relatively new player in the market.
Spiked seltzer sales are skyrocketing, Boyd said.
The top three sellers in the state the past 90 days are: White Claw Hard Seltzer, which captured roughly 22% of flavored, malted-beverage sales; Truly Hard Seltzer, made by Boston Beer Company, at 18%; and 5% for Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer. Polar Beverages, Harpoon enter spiked seltzer market with Arctic Summer
“It’s the wave now,” said Boyd of what he called “sober-curious younger drinkers” that want a lighter beverage, with a little kick, to complement their active lifestyle.
Are they healthy?
Dr. Kimberly Parks, medical director at Synergy Private Health, a lifestyle-based cardiology and internal medicine practice in Chestnut Hill affiliated with Newton-Wellesley Hospital, did not give a definitive answer.
Parks has practiced medicine for 18 years, and mentioned the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association recommendation of one glass of wine daily for women, two daily for men. The American Cancer Society calls alcohol a carcinogen, Parks said, and recommends zero consumption.
Some studies show health benefits from moderate alcohol consumption, according to Parks, but she added, “We know that alcohol kills.” Some companies are marketing healthier alcoholic beverages because drinking is dangerous, she said.
Parks offered one tip – eat a few grapes or blueberries instead of pulling the cork on a wine bottle or cracking open a can of a hard seltzer, because they give a higher concentration of healthy antioxidants.
Toni DeLuca, the wine director at Julio’s Liquors in Westborough, which sells Cense wine, has her own approach.
“I tell customers, if they are conscientious about what they put in their bodies, to ask me for input, or do their own research on how a wine is made.” Off the Vine: Are you drinking sophisticated wines?
Ultimately, there is only one way to stay healthy when drinking alcohol, according to DeLuca.
“Moderation is key,” she said.
Are these products here to stay?
Parks thinks they could be around a while, because they’re following the lead of packaged foods that tout health benefits.
“Those products are selling like wild,” Parks said.
How good a company is at marketing is also key.
Morganti said many of the factoids FitVine touts on the display in his store, like less sugar and fewer sulfites, can also be said about a lot of wines. But, while FitVine is out there promoting itself, some competitors would rather not do it.
“(Fit Vine) markets the best,” Morganti said.
Henry Schwan is the health reporter for the MetroWest Daily News. Follow Henry on Twitter @henrymetrowest. He can be reached at [email protected] or 508-626-3964. Sign up for weekly e-mails

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