Podcast

Innovation: Innovating for The Next Generation of Tech

Today’s episode is a continuation of the last episode on innovation. The main topic today is how to facilitate innovation in large tech companies and ultimately create cutting-edge and innovative technologies.

Written by: Terma
Podcast Innovation

Today’s episode is a continuation of the last episode on innovation. The main topic today is how to facilitate innovation in large tech companies and ultimately create cutting-edge and innovative technologies.

This episode focuses on how to facilitate innovation-practices as a tech company and covers the important question “how do you make specialized experts work together to create innovative solutions that works in real life?”

Listen to this episode and get a practical understanding of innovation, how Terma integrates innovtion into their business model, and the difficulties in facilitating an innovative process.

Today’s Guests:

  • Innovations Specialist at Terma, Annette Skyt
  • Professor of Innovation and Management and Staff Manager at Aalborg University, Jacob Brix

Your Host: Mikkel Svold
Produced for Terma by Montanus

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Episode Transcript

Mikkel Svold:
Welcome to Allies in Innovation, I'm Mikkel Svold. And in this episode, we'll pick up the thread from the last episode on innovation. Today, we'll zoom in on how to innovate cutting edge technology and also how to innovate in large companies or large tech companies that is. Personally, I look very much forward to hear how to make these super specialized experts work together and create something that actually works in real life and also where they're not biting their heads of each other. And again, to enlighten us, I've invited two innovation experts into the studio, namely Annette Skyt, welcome to you.

Annette Skyt:
Thank you.

Mikkel Svold:
And just to take that again, Annette works as an innovation specialist at Terma and has more than 15 years of experience in working with innovation in different places. And my second guest is you, Jacob Brix. Welcome to you.

Jacob Brix:
Thank you.

Mikkel Svold:
And Jacob, you're a professor of innovation and management, and you're also staff manager at Aalborg University Business School here in Denmark. So today's topic is innovation of next generation tech. And I think before diving into the pitfalls of how to make innovation in tech companies and how to do that and how to make something that works, let's shortly recap last episode, and just shortly define what is innovation and why is it important? Maybe Jacob, you can pick that one up.

Jacob Brix:
I'll give it a go. Well, first of all, we talked about mostly technological innovation and that being a process with a certain outcome that is technological innovation. But we talked about what is opportunity recognitions and elaborating opportunities that are technological of nature, creating prototypes, making them work, putting them to market, commercialization and of course also the adoption. So they become useful and create the value that they're intended with them, sort of definition.

Mikkel Svold:
And why is this important?

Jacob Brix:
Well, from the research perspective, you can say that it very much depends on the definition, but if you're looking at a corporate perspective, you would like your products to create value. So you can say revenue for yourself, but also value for your customers on your clients and so on. So many definitions, they stop with the patent as an output, then we have the innovation. But again, if the patent is not put into use and create value, what was the worth of that patent? So that was my provocation as well. We also talked about this notion between single loop learning and double loop learning, or as we talked, is it the incremental innovation we are working with what we have to improve it, make it more efficient, both being production processes but also products, or was it more strategic radical innovation. Creating the new technological platform that could be potentially replacing what we have or could be adding to what we have. And yeah, I think that was more or less the big themes of the former.

Mikkel Svold:
Absolutely.

Annette Skyt:
We also talked about problem solving versus opportunity finding and that there are different approaches that you should use when you're doing one or the other. Because one is a defined task, and one is very fluffy and undefined and therefore it becomes difficult to approach and therefore there're special things that you can do or should do when you do opportunity finding.

Mikkel Svold:
And all in all, I guess, the conclusion was that innovation in companies is basically there to keep the company relevant to keep the company at the forefront. And we are talking about knowledge driven companies, tech companies to keep them at the forefront of the market as well. And that I think segues nicely into my first question here, because how do we innovate cutting edge technology? How do we do that?

Jacob Brix:
Well, if I could give you the recipe I would love to do so, and also get that the fee-

Mikkel Svold:
And we'll put it on the website.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah, we'll put it on the website. Yeah. But you can say, and this might sound extremely fluffy, but it's also concrete. You need to have different types of knowledge being put together, intertwined in new ways and making it solve some problem. It might be a problem that exists, or it might be a problem that you invent that exists, so to say. So, in that way, innovation is really about creating knowledge that we have by mixing what we have beforehand or by creating new knowledge that we didn't have, and didn't necessarily expect to have looking forward.

Mikkel Svold:
And just to stop briefly, you're saying solve a problem that we know exists or create a problem, why would you create a problem?

Jacob Brix:
Well, I'm not saying create problem technically, but I'm saying if there is a problem that no one has seen yet. You discover it. But I mean, there are many stories about creating markets that people haven't seen before. So, in that way you create a problem, the people just necessarily didn't expect it to be a problem for them. But in that way, you are very much in the radical disruption way where it is something that is so new, you might also need to explain to people why this is necessary, why this is a good thing.

Mikkel Svold:
And you also said that innovation is what happens when you're combining knowledge from different domains. And I want to push that question to you Annette, in your experience, how do you do that?

Annette Skyt:
You find people from different departments and put them together in a group, that's a very practical way of doing it and try to make them talk about what could be the next technological innovation. You can’t overlook every expert in the company and therefore you might get parallel innovation sometimes. And then when they actually surface to be recognized by some management, which is sometimes what happens, then you can see, okay, this is more or less the same solution for a need that is out there.

Annette Skyt:
And what we are also trying to do in Terma, is trying to prevent that from happening actually to gather the ideas very early and put people together though, where we can see there might be some overlap. I mean, it still happens because also we don't have the overview of everything, but that is one of the challenges is that you get people in different departments that will do solutions for the same things,

Mikkel Svold:
But solving this or to make experts work together, you say you put them in the same room. Is it really that simple?

Annette Skyt:
No, it's not. No, actually, you have to have a process behind that because what happens if you just put experts with very deep knowledge in a room, say for example, 10 people in a room, what sometimes happens is that they're talking about what they know and not about what they're trying to achieve. So, what you have to do is to put them into smaller groups, have them discuss two by two or something like that, because if it's gets too big, what should you call it? It's more of a I'm wiser than you are competition than it is trying to put knowledge out there and listen to what everybody else knows.

Mikkel Svold:
So, it's not as pure and knowledge sharing, it's more promoting yourself.

Annette Skyt:
Yeah, that sometimes happens. But if you have a good facilitation of a meeting, then you can prevent that from happening in that particular meeting and you can actually gain. And in between the knowledge is where the good innovations are or that's my experience, at least. That if you combine two experts and their knowledge, then you'll get something brilliant and something new if they're willing to listen to each other. But that requires both the process and special people. So, yeah.

Mikkel Svold:
And you're saying?

Jacob Brix:
No, I'm actually just nodding in agreement with Annette here.

Annette Skyt:
I can't hear you nod.

Jacob Brix:
No, but I have to say I'm nodding in agreement with you, but the thing is why is it that we put these people together with different types of knowledge? And of course you can say in a large established company, it would often be because we want to reduce groupthink because often if you have a meeting with the people you are working together with, on a daily basis on operations, then you might also just be looking biased on the operations. And it would be hard for you to switch mindset and looking at something completely new. So, in that way-

Mikkel Svold:
Is that groupthink or can you define that just shortly?

Jacob Brix:
Well, groupthink is more or less that we, Annette and I, from many years ago, we were actually colleagues. And at that point of time, we had some collaboration, some innovation projects. And at some point of time we could finish each other's sentences when we were talking. I know how Annette would react to a person in a company saying something. So, in that way, that is groupthink. But in our organization, we also need to avoid this internal bias. And in large organizations, a good way is to have people from different departments to work together. You also look very much in perhaps smaller organization where they have interorganizational collaborations rights, so they are trying to having new thoughts, new competencies, especially competencies and expertise, and trying to make something new out of it. Because I mean, two types of knowledge could create something that is way better than one type of knowledge. So, it becomes more systematic in a way, a 360 look at an idea you could say.

Mikkel Svold:
And does it make sense to have a problem at hand that you'll then work with in that team or that group? Or is it also a good strategy if you're looking for new problems like you said in the beginning, so looking or discovering projects or problems I mean?

Jacob Brix:
I would say that from a research perspective, often you talk about innovation as a process that can be very long and you would need to have different external, or can say external from other departments in your innovation team at different points of time. Because at different points of time, we have different degrees of uncertainty, which we talked about in the former episode here. So, the people you are inviting should also be someone that you can, some say that this expertise might be relevant here. We are not sure but it might be. So, should we invite a physicist? Should we invite someone who has digital expert knowledge? Because if we don't have it in the team, that is a way of complimenting. So, it might also be that you should prepare a lot for such a meeting. You could call it a consultation. What are the questions we need to ask the experts that we cannot answer ourselves?

Mikkel Svold:
So, we are talking about now, instead of having a team of say 10, 15 people, you would have a team of say five people and then invite different experts percent to the team. Yeah.

Jacob Brix:
So, you can actually say that the team is the core from different departments, for example, as Annette explained. And then you can technically call it when now we have a group work where we invite people, so the team becomes a group and then we perhaps pay a fee to a consultant or something, and then they leave again, thank you very much. And then we are back being the team again, with the new knowledge they had. And it might be that we invite them again or invite someone else later on. So that's the way that if you know what to ask for, it's easier to define the knowledge need, and then you might need to use your network to find someone that can be vouched for, so to say.

Annette Skyt:
And it's also very important because sometimes in organizations, you have these things we already know, and that needs to be challenged if you want to break patterns. Because in all organizations, there are spots where you think this is definitely something we know and that if you then invite somebody from outside the fence-

Mikkel Svold:
What could that be? Just a random example.

Annette Skyt:
I think the example that I like to use is that we had whole department saying to each other, that the customer was specifying a specific code language, coding in a specific language. And that was a requirement from the customer that it needed to be in that language. And you could not argue about it until somebody actually asked the customer and found out that the customers didn't care, they just wanted the features that a language gave them. And that challenges that you either do yourself by asking somebody from the outside, or you actually insert somebody from, and I called it outside the fence, and you insert somebody from outside the fence into a group to talk about the knowledge that is known knowledge in the company and challenge that.

Annette Skyt:
Then you might get some experience that, okay, we thought this was the thing and we thought we knew, but it turned out that we didn't. And sometimes you find out that you actually did know. And that's also a good thing because you're validating your own knowledge, but it's important to have different experts and a diversity in a group that you need to develop or that needs to develop something. Because if they all think the same way, you'll just get the same things that they always do.

Mikkel Svold:
And I think maybe it was in the last episode or just a little bit earlier now, you mentioned that at Terma, you create these cross functional teams, innovation teams that is.

Annette Skyt:
We're working on it, yes.

Mikkel Svold:
You're working on it. Okay. And what thoughts go into, I guess, cherry picking the people that should sit in that team? How are they chosen, or do they choose themselves? Or do they raise their hand at some general meeting?

Annette Skyt:
That's true question actually, because there is how is it done today and how would I like it to be done. So done today is that the people that are, for example, the project manager of an innovation project, chair says, "I want these five people to be part of the team." And then they're part of the team and everything is fixed. But if I should say, what to me is most important is that people are curious. And that they are curious both on their own knowledge, but also in other people's knowledge. And that's not necessarily the deep experts. In this case where the team was put together, it turned out that they were both curious and deep experts. So that was very fortunate. But to me, the competence that you should have that is most important is curiosity.

Mikkel Svold:
And that also, I guess, means that the people in the group can be quite different. It's not a specific type of person or it's not extrinsic people or intrinsic, it's-

Annette Skyt:
No. Curious and willing to learn. Yeah.

Jacob Brix:
But we're also back to some of the newer research that is being published on strategic and radical innovation, they actually talk about the new management roles that are required to process, but also support organizationally the development of strategic and radical innovations.

Mikkel Svold:
And in five words, what is that?

Jacob Brix:
Well, I can't give you five words-

Mikkel Svold:
You can give me more than five words.

Jacob Brix:
I can give you more, but what they have defined is nine new management roles, where you have more or less three different types of roles for the early stages of the innovation, the discovery phase. And then you talk about, you have the elaboration phase that is three different roles, because you are at another level of uncertainty. And then you have the acceleration phase where there again are new roles to be ascribed to the process. And therefore, it's also, as we said in the earlier podcast, well, it's a long process because it might take years and therefore it cannot be the one manager necessarily that goes from the start to the end, but there needs to be some orchestrator aware of this process. So, when the project has gone into this stage, we need a switch in management way, team, et cetera, because we have less uncertainty and more certainty. Therefore, we can allow ourselves to ask new questions and be more-

Mikkel Svold:
And it will be different people who are better at performing at that certain stage.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. Well, in theory-

Mikkel Svold:
In theory, yeah.

Jacob Brix:
... yes. In theory, yes. But I also think that this is an important signal to say that when we are talking about strategic and radical innovation, it's not the job of one person. Definitely not in the team, but also not as a manager of the team. So, there are these transitions going from high degrees of uncertainty to for example, a patent to commercialization and adoption on the market. And we cannot look at it as one thing.

Mikkel Svold:
And for typical tech company, is it better to be a large organization where you have a lot of different people who can chip in during this process? Or better is it, would you say from a theoretical point of view that is more efficient or newer innovations or more radical innovations come from smaller teams, or smaller companies that is?

Jacob Brix:
Well, technically you would say that you see a lot of large organizations that buy startups, you know venturing. So, their way of solving their innovation problems is to buy the startups companies and putting them into the company and then develop them or support them, sort of-

Mikkel Svold:
Yeah. And you see that with both Microsoft and Facebook for that, or what they're called now, and yeah you see that a lot.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. And well, first of all, because then they can focus on operations, sales, increased revenue, and they don't need to create the innovation, it has been created. So, in that way, it's a very smart way if you have the resources to do so, you also see serial entrepreneurs who have cracked the code of developing tech innovations. They do it again and again, and again, and again. Scale up, sell. Scale up, sell. So, it's also becoming a business model for people who are serial entrepreneurs to help large organizations. And I guess that's also why you're talking about opportunity finding, I mean, technological forecasting, technology scouting. I mean, there's a reason why large organizations often invite entrepreneurs to pitch their ideas at advance.

Mikkel Svold:
I want to dive into that a little bit maybe because I find that quite interesting. How do you find opportunities that are maybe say 5, 10 years out on the horizon? How do you keep yourself updated to that level in tech companies?

Annette Skyt:
I think we talked a little bit about some of the upcoming technologies that then create an organization around, for example, artificial intelligence. We create an organization around it and say, "Let's see what we can do with this into our products." And that's one of the ways of doing innovation in the company, but that's also, and we've done that before with other technologies and finding out is it feasible within the company or not? And if it's not, then it is closed and shut down again. But that's one of the ways to get new technology into the company is actually to do department or a small group that works solely with this. And then they try to get internal traction to the existing projects and products.

Annette Skyt:
Another thing is also, we have very many knowledge and experts and they go to different conferences and look at different technologies. Another way of looking at it is to sit in standardization for us. Another way of looking at it is to sit in where the political assessments are done or is this, for example, we talked about sustainability earlier, maybe in the other episode, but to go to meetings where there's talk about sustainability and what does this mean? And is that something that has any impact on Terma for example? So, all these things that you see, what are the mega trends out there? Does any of them have any impact on Terma? And you do, for example, do a workshop on one of the mega trends, saying urbanization, everybody's moving into the cities. Is that something that we can use in our company, for example. So that kind of things is going on all the time and-

Mikkel Svold:
And that exact example from a Terma perspective, do you have an example of something that, the mega trend that everyone is moving into the cities, what would that mean to Terma tech? And I'm putting you on the spot. So, if you don't have the perfect, brilliant idea right now, if you have something that you know that you're already looking into.

Annette Skyt:
Not exactly on urbanization, but one of the things that we are looking into is for example, the increased use of drones everywhere, what does that have of an impact for Terma? And what do we need to adjust our equipment to when we talk about drones, for example? The drones as a mega trend is not going to go away again. And we see more and more of our current applications are actually worrying about drones, or want to have something that can detect the drones. And we also have spotted a couple of new opportunities within detecting, spotting drones. So that's one of the things that we are looking at as a mega trend. Then there's the interconnectivity of everything that is also something that is going to be increasing, that you have more data sources going into the same picture, for example. So that's also something that we are looking at.

Mikkel Svold:
And that's where AI comes into the picture, I guess. Yes.

Annette Skyt:
Yes, for example. Yeah.

Mikkel Svold:
Okay. And picking up on... Once you have the ideas of the problems defined, and maybe you even have some idea of the solution, or you have some solution for the problem, how do you then move from the idea face and then into operations? And what obstacles do you usually see along the way? How do you do that, Jacob, do you?

Jacob Brix:
Well, I think that you can say looking at innovation as a process, then you would start having prototypes. You might create a, what's it called in English? The first series of a production or-

Mikkel Svold:
Working in beta.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. So, in that way, you can fail quickly so to say, and learn, but it's all coming back to learning processes. This is also where innovation becomes very tricky, because at some point of time, you'll go from having innovation, so at least technological innovation as a technical problem, we need the technology to do this and that. But then when that meets people, for example, organizational internally, it becomes, you can say complicated or even complex, the process, because then you might have routines in the organizations that are resisting the change that is coming as the first point of time. So why is this, I talked earlier on about this not invented here syndrome, but of course, can we show somehow that this is actually performing very well or looking to outperform what we have that is the good thing. That we are showing this is a better way for everyone.

Mikkel Svold:
And now we are talking about internal processes-

Jacob Brix:
Internal processes.

Mikkel Svold:
... in a company.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. But then when we go outside, we also see that, well, why should people want this? Is there political system who needs to approve this? Can people buy it if they want to? And do they want to buy it? So, this adoption, it becomes socially complex because why? And often we focus very much in our innovation processes about the technological problems. And this is also my critique, saying that well, when we have the pattern then we can produce it, success. Yes, I snapped my fingers here. But is that really the success? So, what do we do to make sure, and now I know that this industry that you are representing Annette, it is quite different than if we were creating a burger shop.

Jacob Brix:
So, it is just highly complex and there are many more things that have to work and be done, for example politically or internationally, perhaps also legislation-wise nationally. So, it is not just a process that stops when the thing is a thing, that's just the beginning. And that's also why, I mean, people often ask me, "How can it take so long?" Well, that's because producing the thing that works might take four years. But then-

Mikkel Svold:
Of getting it approved.

Jacob Brix:
Getting it approved, getting it out, showing before it comes obsolete and something new comes. Yeah. So-

Annette Skyt:
I just remembered the point here is that, when you do this transition of an idea into the operations, you usually present what the outcome of the innovation processes. But what we are not very good at is also to document what are the decisions to not do something. I mean, so when you, when you transition something into operations that they need to work with, then they might do all the questions. Why didn't we do this? Why didn't we do that? And those questions have already been asked and answered earlier in the process, but it's not necessarily transparent for people that, that's been done because we fail to communicate that in the transition phase.

Mikkel Svold:
So, in the transition phase, you need an FAQ or frequently asked questions manual where people can look up where-

Annette Skyt:
That's a very good point.

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. But it also comes to, I mean, the human side of innovation, the motivation. I mean, do the people who are now to work with this new technology, do they actually know what it is and why it is there? Because I mean, newer research has shown that if employees, for example, in the production line or in development department, they understand the business model. So, when I'm doing this with this part of the technology where I'm working, it actually implies that someone somewhere in half a year or three months or six months, that's also half a year, can do this and that. So, I mean, what is the effect I am actually creating by doing my tiny bit of this part can actually increase motivation and that's necessarily not also part of that transition talk. Yeah, sorry.

Mikkel Svold:
So, it's about keeping your eyes or visualizing what is the end goal here, but I'm also hearing it's about making sure that the input that people create or that the input that they feel they make, they need to be able to cease themselves in the output. Is that also-

Jacob Brix:
What is my role in the big picture? Increases motivation and motivation is good if you have employees who wants to be satisfied in work environment. And I know that's not the theme of today, but a positive work environment with trust also affects innovation.

Mikkel Svold:
Yeah. And I guess if you put it the opposite way around, it gets obvious. So, if you have a distrustful relationship or-

Jacob Brix:
Or cannot see why, yeah.

Annette Skyt:
Yeah, I agree. And one of the things that we are also discussing or talked about is the motivation and any idea that needs to have a highly motivated person behind it or a highly motivated team behind it. And that's also, it could be a challenge in the transition phases that here comes a highly motivated team trying to sell their baby, and nobody wants to buy it because they're not motivated for it yet. They could be and there are different things you can do, but that's also sometimes a challenge to do that transition. And-

Mikkel Svold:
And I guess also from the buyer perspective that I'm air quoting here. If they're not ready to buy, so it's both if the inventors, let's call it or the innovation team is not ready to pass it on but also if they're not ready to receive it at the other end.

Annette Skyt:
Yeah. And sometimes what you can do or where we've done in other companies is, you take the people who actually want to, because that's also motivation-driven. The people who want to go with the idea into the operations for a little while and trying to do the first steps in there, then that softens the transition phase. But that requires that both the people that are going there are open and the people that are receiving are open. Yeah.

Mikkel Svold:
And now we talked a little bit, or you mentioned the motivation behind bringing ideas to life and making innovative processes come to life. And I want to talk to you a little bit about also, not just the motivation from the teams involved, but also what can you see the motivation from a top or the motivation internally in the organization? How do you make sure that an innovative process produces, I guess, measurable figures that people are able to see that we're actually moving forward? Because I see that as a problem. Jacob I know that you are invested in this question.

Annette Skyt:
How do you measure innovation?

Mikkel Svold:
Yeah. That's actually the question, right?

Jacob Brix:
Yeah. Well-

Annette Skyt:
Good question.

Jacob Brix:
... you can say that many of us wish that we could establish concrete measures for the strategic and radical innovations. But it's tough because what should we look after in three to six months to see if we are on the right way with the new technology we are inventing according to our strategy? What should we ask each other about in three months or in 15 months to investigate? So, in that way, you can say, perhaps organizations should start internally in the management team, but also with the innovation team to have this dialogue. Simply just to have, you can say, are we actually aligned in a way of thinking about this innovation project?

Jacob Brix:
If you're looking at measures for, you can say, or innovations that are not necessarily strategic or radical in that sense, you have OECD they have created the Oslo manual and I think it's fourth version right now. It's supposed to be accessible online, but it's actually a manual that says, well, here is how you can define different types of innovation and here is how you can measure it. And they actually use that to create, for the European Union, the community innovation survey. So which countries are most innovative? The point is that they're actually also measuring on outputs. So-

Mikkel Svold:
And explain to me, why is that bad?

Jacob Brix:
Well, it's not necessarily bad, but then we are back to innovation equals a new patent or a new product. It doesn't say anything about the adoption or the increased sales. So, it has become implicit in what we measure. So, the patent is the goal. If you have an organization that has very many patents created, do they actually also... Well, then they score high on the innovation survey, but how many of these patents are actually put into use? How many are bought? How many are adopted license agreement, et cetera? That's another question that is not asked.

Mikkel Svold:
That's back to the if you have an idea and don't share it, it doesn't really have any value.

Jacob Brix:
It has value, but it's a social construction. And I know many people will dislike me by saying that, but until you have a sale of your patent, was it worth it? But you can also say that, well, it's a way of begging a company so no one else does it, that there can be many motives for doing it. My argument is just that if we look at it from an organizational point of view, why don't we look at the why. Why did we do this? Because we wanted to have a safer world or we wanted to have increased revenue, or, blah, blah, blah.

Jacob Brix:
So, moving focus from output to outcomes would be something that would matter a lot also when we are talking about effect logic or the outcome logic, which we talked about in the form of…. So why do we do this? Why is this innovation strategy important for us? And then reverse engineer that question into something concrete. That might be the best way to look for company internal messages, because we have a lot of KPIs, performance indicators for operations, which may get valid to choose operations over innovation. But why don't we have indicators for innovation?

Annette Skyt:
That's a good point. And that is one of the main challenges is that operations always overrule innovation because of the short-term notion of the operations and that creates value tomorrow that you can measure and innovation does not. And it does not necessarily create value at all. If you're going on the wrong path, then you might actually lose money going that way. Instead of getting a good opportunity, you might have failed. And therefore, to me, and that's just my personal view of it, if you limit the amount of money that you're willing to spend on a specific idea and the amount of people that can work with it for such a long time, and then say, there's a stop and go meeting or a decision point, and then you say, should we go further or not? Then to me that is a good measurement of how many you get through this decision points.

Mikkel Svold:
And now you've mentioned quite a few times that innovation can take not just three, five years, it can take 10 years to come up with something that's really innovative. And then coming back to your point here now about setting the frame around the innovation process, how big should that frame be? I'm sure that, that's going to vary from project to project, but when would you say it's fair to have that check in meeting, the stop and go meeting, stop or go for technology?

Annette Skyt:
It depends because, I mean, the stop and go meeting should be on a concept level. And the stop and go meeting in a stage gate model that we are also using is usually when you have a business plan and where the idea concept, you're not ready to do a business plan yet, that's all. So, there should be a stop and go meeting long before you reach to the business plan. But you need to have a business idea and then after that, if that's a good enough idea, then maybe you should have a business concept. And then if that's a good enough concept, then you can go to the business plan.

Mikkel Svold:
And how do you evaluate that just very briefly? We were actually already running out of time. So how do you evaluate whether it's a good idea or a bad idea?

Annette Skyt:
If it's a good idea, it's something that we actually know that there's a need for. And how do you evaluate if there's a need, that's a good question.

Mikkel Svold:
Market research, I guess.

Annette Skyt:
Yeah, which is not the answer to everything, but yes, that's part of it, and a business concept. And then you also have an indication of where should you sell it? What is the application area? What is the business model that you want to use here? Is there different business... Having all those discussions before you actually take the big decision to launch a project, to me, that is doing innovation the right way.

Jacob Brix:
If I could just make a comment here, there is also one of the most cited innovation researchers. He says that, "Well, the worst managerial decision you can make is to give a project green light without giving it resources." And this era is something that we see as researchers, a lot that people say, "Well, you can do so, but it's in your spare time." And if the management team doesn't believe in it, I mean, why should we actually allow people to proceed with the projects? So, in that way, that could be a good indicator of saying, well, perhaps we should just have more teeth in our decisions to stop. But that was just to say that well, it's shown by research that many organizations are very bad at shutting down projects they don't even believe in.

Mikkel Svold:
Okay. I think before closing down this conversation, I really want to just briefly try to shed some light onto the future of innovation because you both are at the forefront of innovative powers or where that domain-

Jacob Brix:
Thank you.

Mikkel Svold:
... is moving. Yeah. Very welcome. But Jacob let me ask you, what are the tendencies that you see within innovation and within the research that's done right now? What are the tendencies and where will it take us into the future?

Jacob Brix:
Well, asking from my professional point of view, because I am an organizational theory person and not a technology person, I would say that, well, it is all about how do we create the organizational context that can foster strategic and radical innovation? How should managers act? What should they ask for? How should they foster the employees and the teams? So, for me, it's very much about creating management innovations for innovations because technologies, well, they develop constantly, but since we don't know that much yet about how to really manage radical and strategic innovation, that would for me.

Mikkel Svold:
It seems like a super interesting area.

Jacob Brix:
It is, but it's also socially complex because it's context dependent. Now Annette has many years of experience from different companies and what she did in one company is not necessarily what is successful in the next one. So, it's also understanding this translation role of how can I, in this context, act, think innovatively so that it's not only something that's on a thought basis but also action basis.

Annette Skyt:
And I think that there's an increased awareness about innovation between managers and what it does and what it doesn't do. And there's an increased awareness of how we should manage the innovation. It's not completely there yet, but I mean, people have done things, and something worked, something didn't. And that experience is now out there in the companies. I meet a lot more competences in management towards innovation than I did 10 years ago even. So, to me that's also a trend that is foregoing and hopefully, it also means that there will be more room for the long-sided innovation because there's definitely room for the problem-solving innovation. The opportunity finding has a bit more of a struggle, but the problem-solving innovation that is now an integrate part of the companies around where I see it at least.

Mikkel Svold:
Okay. But we still have a bit of a way to go with the radical and strategic innovation as I hear it. Yeah.

Jacob Brix:
I mean, you can say just, if I should have a final word here, I mean, one of the most recent papers I've read that was very interesting. It was called something like, well, which innovation process for which innovation project? And you talked about the stage gate for incremental innovations, but if you use that same tool for another problem, now I'm making goose bracket with my fingers, then we might be using and we will be using the wrong tool. So, it's also for managers and innovation managers to be aware that we need to find an innovation process that fits with the innovation outcome we need. And then we shouldn't use the same tool for the different problems.

Annette Skyt:
Definitely.

Mikkel Svold:
I think this talk can go on and on and it's super interesting, but we need to wrap it up now and it is good. Annette and Jacob please, thank you so much for joining once again, this talk.

Jacob Brix:
You're welcome.

Annette Skyt:
Thank you.

Mikkel Svold:
And to you, dear listener, we'll have all the links to everything that we've talked about in the show notes @terma.com. And if you do like this episode, don't forget to hit the subscribe button. I need to say this because that really helps us spread this good knowledge around. So please leave us a comment and rate this episode. So, you make sure that we can bring you the coolest insights possible. Thank you so much for listening.