Vision & Business model_iStock_000036383734Large copyInnovation is at the core of the shift from Product to Service thinking, but innovation has become a rather over used word and so lost it meaning.

This great white paper by Toby Farren, CEO of Playtank, can help companies better understand their innovation process, both now and in the future. Playtank develops ways of collecting and recycling ideas from large groups of stakeholders, truly democratising the ideation process, so they bring many new perspectives to the innovation process.

The paper re-enforces the holistic nature of innovation, and brings home the fact that the internet and changes in society are enabling new  more collaborative tools to be used to stimulate and manage the ideas process.

Personally, I  got 3 key insights from the paper:

  1. Innovation is more than a word, it is a mindset as it involves all aspects of the organisation.

    For example:
    a) Resources: tools, budgets & people
    b) Processes: Front end processes that collect ideas such as Democratisation as well as the back end processes such as stage gate
    c) Measuring Success: Important to demonstrate and maintain momentum
    d) Values: Influence the scope of how an organisation thinks about innovation
    e) Behaviours: Influence how people act when involved in innovation
    f) Climate: The sum of all these components to create an innovative culture

  2. The importance of both great Front End and Back End Innovation processes:

    Front End innovation is the ‘fuzzy’ part where ideas are developed number of different ways which are not always logical. Although ‘messy’, it is important that this has structure as no organisation can deal with an unlimited number of ideas.

    Back End innovation is the structured process for taking fuzzy ideas and developing them into propositions.  A common theme that runs through all these methods is a focus on short term deliverables and ease of measurement, with the goal of decreasing risk and ensuring innovation-market fit is as optimized as possible before launch.

  3. Democratisation

    That increasingly innovation methods are becoming more collaborative in nature and aim at collecting inputs from a much wider group of people. Often a playful environment (sandbox concept) is used to allow groups to play with ideas, and even recycle old ideas to solve new problem. Open Innovation and Ecosystem thinking pull on expertise and experiences outside the immediate organisation

To download a PDF of the  white paper, simply open up this link WhitePaperInnovationFinal copy

Read on for the official introduction:

In board meetings, at trade shows and conferences, and across professional social networks: over the past few years the word ‘innovation’ has been a major topic on the managerial agenda.

But what exactly is innovation? And how can it benefit your business?

The easiest way of understanding innovation in a business context is with the following definition: “Staying competitive in existing markets or entering fresh markets by doing things (and thinking about things) in ways which are new to your organisation.”

A common misconception surrounding innovation is that for a company to be considered innovative, they have to create a sleek new product, with a trendy name and a disruptive business model. While trendy new inventions can certainly be considered innovative, this is a very impractical way of looking at innovation for most organisations.

If innovation can be considered the act of doing things or thinking about things in ways which are new to an organisation (to create value), then by that definition, one company’s innovation is another company’s ‘keeping on the lights’. No one company can do or achieve everything in this world (one of the reasons why collaboration is so important) and that’s perfectly fine. What that does mean however, is that certain companies have gained knowledge and have optimised ways of doing things that other companies aren’t at all familiar with.


For example, if a small flower store happens upon a technology solution such as ‘1 click ordering’ for the online portion of their store, thereby dramatically increasing their online orders, that can be considered not only a lucrative decision, but also an innovation for that company. The fact that Amazon has supported ‘1 click orders’ for years does not impact the fact that the flower store thought about a process (the customer ordering journey in this case) in a new way (“what readily available technologies can we use to improve our customer ordering journey?”), which resulted in a competitive outcome for the business.

Now, obviously all innovations aren’t quite that simple. Many businesses are operating with structural, procedural and managerial layers orders of magnitude more complex than in the flower shop example, and the larger the organisation the more difficult it can become to instigate meaningful innovations.

This whitepaper will provide an insight into the different elements of modern innovation fostering, including the various factors determining the capability of organisations to innovate internally; the differences between frontend and backend innovation; and a focus on the relatively new ‘open’ innovation methods (including the advantages of utilizing sandboxes in the frontend innovation process as well as collaborating with external bodies).


Nick Frank is Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Si2 Partners


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