17 August 2019  4 min read

Nobody owns​ ideas. Execution makes a difference in innovation.

Nobody owns ideas! I mean think about it—isn’t it a bit naive to believe that out of 7 billion people on the planet, you were the only person at a specific time to come up with your marvelous idea? Even if you find the AHA moment and it brings you the unique concept. I genuinely believe that it is not the idea alone that triggers innovation, but instead finding the right team of people who believe enough in the concept, make it better and help see it come to life as a compelling business model.

If you are afraid of folks stealing your innovative idea, you should probably leave the business and do something else. That was most likely the only idea you had, and the truth is you will need perhaps 100,000 more before one turns into something.

Given that a great many people are coming up with every day, there’s a slight chance that something you discover and test is globally different. To state that you’re in that little bracket of the novel innovation could be a sign that you’re probably in a bubble, and for some reason, you are unable to consider that other people had been thinking about a similar idea to yours.

Have an innovative idea?

So what?
Innovative ideas are worth $1 plus tax, and given how hard it is to take an idea and turn it into a working business model and product, the likelihood that other people will think “oh my God, what a great idea, I’ll borrow that” and turn it into something successful is amazingly petite.

You can’t steal execution
If executing was as simple as copying someone's idea, we’d have lots of business models, startups, and products which were simply copycats. We would see people taking an idea from a conversation, borrowing it and turning it into a successful business growth overnight.

There is the sporadic horror story—the founder who pitched his idea on the “Sharks tank” TV show, didn’t get investment and someone watching the show thought “that’s a good idea.” However, that’s an outlier.

Many of the big success stories you see started with an exciting approach in a “me too” area, and they contrasted by executing differently, more precisely and leaner than competitors. You should focus on the execution of your plan and let the parrots copy if they want to try. Copying makes people copiers, not executors.

Execution improves innovation performance (examples).

Anadarko.

Anadarko Petroleum was founded 60 years ago in Texas. It was (acquired by Occidental Petroleum) hydrocarbon exploration company with $13 bln revenue in 2018.

Anadarko established a digital department which carries various experiments, to take industry-standard, classical for petrotechs workflows and improve them by applying cutting-edge technologies and business models.

“The velocity of data is increasing, and we are trying to design new workflows around how we leverage this data and make decisions,” says Cody Comiskey, Geo Deployment Supervisor.

Anadarko experiments with different business models, and technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), highly effective algorithms, machine learning, and software development roadmaps. The digital R&D teams want to figure out how these tools can leverage and accelerate the performance of the petrotech business players and partners by executing boldly.

One of the program’s successes leveraged machine learning to prognosticate sub-surface features of a specific geographic area—for example, salt and sand and other minerals. It is a disruptive innovation because it saves geophysicists months or even years of understanding data and providing a comprehensive analysis of the specific surface. The team discovered new or improved current frameworks providing the ability to analyze more data points faster, which benefits geophysicists with the opportunity of making faster assessment reports.

“This helps an interpreter get multiple pictures of a data set, look at multiple interpretations to make a decision, and collapses the timeline from months to a few weeks,” says Comiskey. 

Anadarko’s innovative program grew from a need within the emerging technology program, says Richard Copsey, Open Innovation Manager. While company's R&D department team began identifying the business challenges and customers' pain points, it realized the company couldn't provide enough internal capacity to address all of them, and the number of issues the team can undertake is strongly limited. For this reason, lack of internal FTEs (Full Time Equivalent), company managers decided to experiment with innovative ideas that enabled them to grant smoother, quicker access to a global talent pool. As a result, they achieved access to a more comprehensive range of ideas, technologies, and new business options. One of the tools which brought the highest value was crowdsourcing.

Also, the innovation program developed relationships with startups via collaboration with EUNIKE Ventures. It helps to fill gaps in problem-solving with crowdsourcing or sometimes addressing other pain points which were learned by interacting with Anadarko's customers and partners.

One solution the company developed, helps track well production metrics to predict the future output of each well. Before the innovative project was executed, this process had been orchestrated for 1700 wells manually. The team leveraged machine learning, and algorithms and automated the process, accelerated the data digesting and reporting.

“Ultimately we’ve found that open innovation, and specifically with crowdsourcing, have proven to be a valuable tool to augment our capacity,” says Copsey. “We tried new things, and they didn’t work,” he says. “We tried crowdsourcing, started seeing acceptable results and decided to continue with it.

NIKE. Nordstrom. Zalando.

Evangelists say an open-source mindset fosters collaboration and make it easier for companies to gather resources and tackle subjects like sustainability.

Nike, for instance, launched a GitHub (open-source platform acquired by Microsoft for $7.5 billion) open-source project for developing a logging library, which is a data repository that saves the time of developers in understanding the reasons of a bug and app crashes. This open innovation project which leverages the open-source technology would allow Nike to have a more excellent perception of the potential difficulties that online customers could fall into when they use the e-commerce store for browsing, basketing and purchasing operations.

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Another example is Nordstrom and American chain of luxury department stores, a retailer with $15.86 bln revenue in 2019. It started the open-source project called Hello, Retail! The scheme aims to simplify and accelerate the process for merchants, which are adding a product to a retailer’s inventory. Moreover, one of Amazon’s most popular open-source projects is an analysis of machine learning models used to help generate personalized recommendations for Amazon customers (including Whole Foods, acquired by Amazon). Machine learning enables a retailer to estimate what each shopper is interested in based on his or her purchase. The technology also helped to develop Amazon Product Sampling. APS is a program where Amazon sends free sampled of various products. Because of the enormously broad and profound amount of data which Amazon digests, the samples are chosen not randomly with the high probability of buying the full product.  

Nike has also started various open innovation initiatives; one of them is a project which shares data on Nike's product materials and their environmental influence. For this reason, Nike revealed in 2013; an app called Making. Using the data from the Nike Materials Sustainability Index, Making provides users ranked information concerning the most popular resources in a footwear and clothing industry under four specific criteria: water, waste, energy, and chemistry.

The app is available, for $0 because Nike believes that, through sharing internal knowledge about the most sustainable products, other business will be more likely to source these materials for their products lines. E-commerce retailer Zalando goes one step further: the Berlin-based company uses its collaborative, open-source projects as scouting grounds for potential talent, according to Manjuri Sinha, the company’s global lead for technology talent recruitment. When the company initiates a project on Github, it can see all the contributors and their activity.

Ericsson fires up 5G technology at 5TONIC open innovation lab.

Ericsson, Telefónica, and UC3M tightened their strategic partnership in 5G area with the launch of EU 5GROWTH initiative and collaborating with INNOVALIA on 5G solutions for Zero-Defect Manufacturing (future of machinery).

On June 13, Ericsson and Telefónica successfully implemented 5G NSA technology at the 5TONIC open innovation lab. 5Tonic is an open research and innovation laboratory founded by Telefonica and IMDEA Networks. The lab is based in Madrid, Spain, and collaborates with Nokia, Asti (mobile robotics), IFEMA (fair trade organizer) and many more.

The development and research which Telefonica leads include "a new 5G Massive MIMO Radio running on 3.5GHz band along with 5G virtual Evolved Packet Core and User Data Consolidation. The first 5G data transmission has been completed using a 5G WNC Pocket Router, and tests will continue with new commercial 5G-capable routers and phones to cater for new uses cases at 5TONIC" (Source: 5Tonic.org).

Execute on innovation if you want to bring growth. Execution is king, it is the best way to transform the product concept into a working business model.

Connecting internal resources with external innovators brings and open many benefits, including products and services tailored to customers' expectations, lower research and experiments costs, better risk spread, and faster time-to-market and market-fit.

  • Improved products, services, and well-developed microservices. Less risk because of more tries.

Open innovation can lead effectively to cheaper improvements in existing products and services or the faster development of entirely products and business models. For larger companies, in particular, testing new ideas quickly and achieving product-market fit can lead to reluctance in investing more extra time and resources into another new product right away. Larger companies are heavy, and the decision process is murky and complicated. Open innovation makes such a hustle both less costly and less risky. Please think of how the world of apps has influenced smart devices (phones, tablets, watches) manufacturers to evolve hardware specifications. Open Innovation helps to make more hits and increase the probability of the home run.

  • Leaner R&D Costs

Today’s companies need to fund more in research and development efforts than companies of earlier generations did. One of the reason is competition which is more fierce and can come from everywhere (think about AirBnB and Marriot or Spotify and Apple Music). Spending R&D resources wisely is a must, and open innovation helps to diversify and share the risk in the value chain. Working on the ideas with external partners like startups, individual innovators, or colleges and universities leverage the process of creation, brings larger companies closer to customers which, as the effect, gives faster time to market.

  • Meet the "riskman" quicker, react bolder.

Open innovation helps mitigate risk by spreading it between multiple parties. Numerous stakeholders invest their resources in open innovation projects (like Ericsson and Telefonica), and they want to increase the chances of success or avoid failures as early as possible. Moreover, the multiple viewpoints, vast brainstorming, open borders for experimenting can help reduce the chances of development going off-track.

  • Faster Time-to-Market

Open innovation accelerates time-to-market because many tasks can be done in parallel, by multiple organizations. The great example could be UPS and trucking startup TuSimple. TuSimple helps UPS and provide improvements in UPS automated deliveries. The startup believes its technology can reduce the costs of shipping goods via tractor-trailers by 30% (Source: UPS pressroom). Examples show how old products can be improved continuously, and ROI can be secured quicker.

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