Innovation Roadmap 2013: Push the Improve Button

Roadmap Earlier this week the Chief Technology Officer of EMC, John Roese, launched his own version of what used to be called the Innovation Showcase:  The 2013 Innovation Roadmap.

The Innovation Showcase was launched in 2007, and for six consecutive years the ideation growth across EMC’s global employee base has been consistent.  In 2007 employees submitted just over 400 ideas; in 2012 they submitted a grand total of 2200 ideas. Each idea was targeted at a specific challenge that EMC is facing as a company. In many cases these challenges come directly from EMC Executives that wish to extend beyond their organization for a broader set of suggestions to the problems that they face. Every year this process has been celebrated as an “idea showcase” at EMC’s annual (and global) Innovation Conference.

This year John has renamed the program to build upon the ideation success of the previous six years and focus on the continual delivery of employee ideas as a scheduled, predictable roadmap. As part of this effort the Office of the CTO has asked all business units to also financially sponsor the Innovation Roadmap at a Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum level. This fund can be leveraged during the incubation stage.

Big Data for Innovation Insight

One of the benefits of being a Big Data company is the leverage of our own analytic technologies.  For several years I have been describing our use of Greenplum technology for the purpose of creating a global innovation analytics sandbox. Several graduates of EMC’s Data Scientist course (including myself) have taken our learnings and applied analytics on this global innovation data.

The visualizations have influenced our corporate innovation decisions, and perhaps the best example of this is the “Improve Idea” button that our employees can press before submitting their idea to EMC’s 60,000+ person employee base.

Below are some of the innovation analytics that led to the creation of the Improve Idea button:

  • We have been running a longitudinal study of idea incubation progress. This study allows us to measure collaboration (or lack of collaboration) that moves (or doesn’t move) ideas forward.
  • We have measured the evolution of idea submission trends over time, and recognized that our employees do not have an easy way to explore previous ideas and how they relate to new ideas.
  • We’ve created global social network graphs that highlight idea collaboration and idea quality. We’ve also identified boundary spanners (ideators whose influence spans countries).
  • We identified clusters of innovators and understood the culture that made them successful.
  • We analyzed word count on idea submission and informed our employees that more well-thought out and articulated ideas have a higher success ratio.
  • We discovered that successful ideation programs in a given region quite often have a robust innovation framework in place.
  • We studied clique size and the impact on idea effectiveness.

EMC’s Data Scientist curriculum teaches that the last two phases of the Data Analytic Life Cycle (Communicate Results and Operationalize) should have a goal of driving behavioral change. Our analytics supplied a wealth of evidence that idea collaboration strengthens idea quality. We therefore put a plan in place to encourage collaboration by connecting inventors before they actually submit their ideas.

The button shown below is the result of that effort. I will dive into our implementation of the Improve Button in a future post.

In the meantime, I encourage my EMC co-workers to “push it”. The Innovation Central submission server is open until July 12!


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Steve ToddSteve Todd is an EMC Fellow, the Director of EMC’s Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author Innovate With Global Influence. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 200 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd

Steve Todd




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