Thursday, June 6, 2013

Doing Is More Important Than Defining | Key to Innovation

Business has only two functions: Marketing and Innovation

29 May: Launch of The IBM Innovation Index of NZ 2013...

...a comprehensive, multi-indicator benchmarking study that tracks...

...the shape and rate of innovation in New Zealand, from 2007 to 2011.

The IBM Innovation Index of New Zealand / 2013

On a chilly morning in May, I found myself having breakfast with New Zealand's top business executives at a posh venue on Auckland's sea-front for the exclusive launch of IBM's Innovation Index of New Zealand 2013 - an accurate report of the state of NZ industry and commerce.

The event was opened by Rob Lee, Managing Director, IBM NZ who officially launched the 2013 Innovation Index, followed by an open mic discussion moderated by Lance Wiggs (who did a great job as MC) featuring an erudite panel:

Event Highlights

With a topic as important as this, the gathering soon became a passionate, all-in discussion:

Melissa Jenner, Head of Better by Design, NZTE came up with this gem of a definition:
"What is Innovation? It is the commercialization of brilliance."

Paul Brislen, CEO, TUANZ, came up with an insightful: "While R&D expenditure has grown steadily, the rate of NZ Innovation rate has flat-lined over 4 years. This means, we're spending lot of resources only to stand still."

Number cruncher, Keith Ng, got his dataviz geek on explaining how #NZInnovation was measured.

By far, the landmark observation of the event which resonated with the room... 
came from panel member, Paul Adams, Founder & CEO, EverEdge IP

"Doing is more important than defining. 
Focus on results. Commercialize."

Other outstanding comments
  • More than 90% of customers do an online search before purchase. Yet less than 50% of businesses in NZ have an e-commerce website.
  • Collaboration is the way forward. Government has a role to play, but we need better (not more) governance.
  • Awareness of entrepreneurial opportunities needs to be ramped up at colleges and educational institutions.
  • IBM will invest in a lab to encourage entrepreneurs, and build a startup ecosystem to harness creativity, and help the brilliant and deserving convert to market success.
  • Plenty of creative ideas in NZ, but there is a culture of holding back. 
  • The energy is there. The missing link is a go-to-market strategy. No scale and commercialization.
  • With so much potential, how come no Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, Tesla has come out of NZ?
  • The biggest obstacle to innovation in New Zealand is fear of failure.
  • In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs don't rely excessively on or wait for Govt. support.

My humble opinion
  • Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. It needs a culture that encourages experimentation. It needs a business community that supports it from inception through to launch, scale and commercialization.
  • Business leaders must step up to the plate (like IBM), and create Innovation Labs in NZ. Not as a part of their CSR initiatives, but as future-proofing to ensure NZ's viability in coming years. 
  • IBM organizes Smarter Commerce Global Summits every year. Business owners, executives and entrepreneurs could learn a lot by following these websites (Overview and Rethink Business) and tracking #SmarterCommerce on Twitter
  • Globally, IBM has identified 4 sectors - Social Business, Mobile, Analytics & Big Data, Cloud Computing (SMAC) which will converge - along with cognitive computing - be the key focus areas of innovation and change, to significantly impact business, government and society in general.

Let's look at the data - the nitty-gritty of the Index 

  • You can download your copy of The 2013 IBM NZ Innovation Report here
  • Find out more about Insights and Key Findings here
  • To dig into year-wise and industry-wise data, check out this smart, interactive data visualization tool. It gives you a good look at 18 NZ industry sectors across 3 broad measures for each: R&D, IP and Business Innovation. What's more, it let's you drill down deeper, industry by industry, into the 12 index components to really understand the drivers of change in innovation rates. Have a play.

The event hashtag was #NZInnovation I fished some tweets out from the stream. Just for you!

Acknowledgements and Gratitude

  • Thank You, Ebisu. Great Miso soup. Yum nibbles over brekkie. Amazing coffee :-) 
  • Many Thanks to IBM New Zealand for hosting a lavish and generous breakfast in awesome IBMer style! In particular, I'd like to thank: Courtney AllenRob Lee, Dougal Watt - Very nice meeting and speaking to you all. 
  • Most importantly, kudos to IBM NZ for creating a forum and starting a much-needed discussion on a business-critical, future-defining question:

The NZ Innovation Index is out. The figures are out there. What next? 

* What does New Zealand need to do? What is the country's innovation strategy? 
* Which business(es) will step up and lead NZ towards the path of growth and innovation? 
* Will NZ innovation break new ground in traditional fields (Agriculture, Dairy, Farming, Fishing, Wool, Honey, Wine). Or will Kiwi creativity shine through in new sunrise technology sectors?

To borrow Rob's words: "Let's hope this study furthers the goal of tending and developing all elements of New Zealand's wider innovation ecosystem... by encouraging continued discussion and, ultimately, action." Wise words well said.

Awesome Start

Success scholarships supporting business students are a great start. Way to go IBM - UnitecNZ!

Historic Day for New Zealand

29 May, 2013 is a historic day not just because of the launch of IBM's NZ Innovation Index, but also because it marks the 60th Anniversary of man's conquest of the highest summit on Earth. It was on 29th May, 1953 Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay scaled Mt. Everest. (Video)

A great idea can come from anyone, anywhere, anytime!

Start a discussion. Start a movement. Have an idea? Share it. Put it out there. Keep the conversation going... For further information on the IBM Innovation Index of New Zealand:

Visit website:
Facebook - SmarterPlanetNZ
Follow and Tweet @IBMNZ ... use hash tag #NZinnovation if submitting an idea.

Parting Shot

Signing off on a great quote from my good friend and marketing maestro Brian Meredith:

There are 3 types of companies in the world:
1. Those that make things happen
2. Those that watch things happen, and
3. Those that wonder WTF happened !!!

Be it launching a business, marketing project, or a new idea, the best strategy is:
Just Do It. Doing is the key to change and innovation, key to make things happen.


  1. Thanks Amar. I felt as if I was there!

    The issues that vex us now are frustratingly similar to those that perennially confront us.

    For example, in the first issue of Idealog magazine I wrote a column about the pressing need for collaboration - not as an over-arching, government initiated project, but as a way of working - for all of us.

    Other aspects are more confronting. New Zealand lies in the middle of nowhere. It is just a fact of geography. Wishing we could change it is as foolhardy as King Canute's courtiers imagining their great leader could command the waves to recede. So long as primary produce is our primary source of income we are doomed to bob on the tides of international demand for commodities. We are in a dairy boom cycle - but everybody should understand that, by definition, cylces cycle.

    Technology has been touted as our saviour - but that strategy is also fraught. The tech successes in New Zealand have not been the by-product of national initiatives. By and large they have been the result of individuals with ideas and drive. There is nothing novel about that. Shacklock appliances (novel designs for stoves that burned local fuels more efficiently) applied the very same tenets in the 1870s.

    The size of our population is always going to be an issue too. Who will buy our products? There is finite growth in the local market. And when businesses like Vend and Xero target global audiences it makes sense to be close to your customers (Kenichi Ohmae has written interesting things about this - often rehearsed by the likes of Tom Peters - if you are selling in a country - prepare to be in-country a significant amount of your time). The idea of commuting globally and teleporting via the web seems like a good idea - but it just doesn't seem to work out that way.

    Then there is the issue of 'exit strategy'. Once you have built your business in New Zealand it is going to need injections of capital to go for growth on a much larger scale. The local stock market is one port of call. But for a lot of businesses the cost of floating and the obligations of compliance are just too great. A trade sale is cleaner and easier. But the people with money to spend are often in the US, Europe and in the future Chindia (a term borrowed from Harvinder Singh - whom you may know). So in the end the assets become foreign owned and the entrepreneur becomes a poster-boy or girl in New Zealand for a bit then fades off into their cashed-up future.

    I don't know what the answer is. As William Goldman famously said in his book about Hollywood 'Adventures in the Screen Trade' - 'Noone knows anything' (or, when it comes to what will succeed at the box office, you guess is as good as mine).

    A starting point shouldn't be a think-tank or a report - it should be to watch and watch again, until it sinks in the video of Sir Paul Calaghan's presentation 'Mapping Our Future'. In my view it is the Ne Plus Ultra of clear thinking about our country's future.

    We must catch up soon, haven't seen you for a while.

  2. WOW! David. Thanks for a profound, honest and insightful comment. You made my blog look smart. Glad the post took you there :-)

    We need a To-Do list. Put action points with dates on it, and names of people next to them (only those who put their hands up). Then go after them goals. It's doable. Keyword: Collaboration. -- No rage against the machine. Zero ego. --> Just Do It!

    * Why do this? It creates an A-team - a bunch of accountable people.
    * How to do it? Businesses (only those directly involved can participate. Only those invested with working business models can log on. It's actually a network of high-profile projects... each feeding/ adding value to each other. Collective Genius... Collaborative Growth. Back to keyword.
    * Who funds this? Business (Public, Private, MNCs) and Govt.
    * 7 CEOs. One Beast: Paul Brislen, David MacGregor, Lance Wiggs, Rob Lee, Brian Meredith, Jack Yan, David Gapes. Can't go wrong!!

    Call it The NZ Innovation Lab, Kiwi Collabyrinth or NZ's very own InnoValley.

    Thanks again David. For stopping by and adding value. Here's the link to Sir Paul Callaghan's video:

    ps: I haven't met Harvinder but would love to connect... over our coffee catch-up?!

  3. The 2010s are the right time to properly kick off the 21st century. David is absolutely right with our country’s problems. Two themes I can touch on: the fact that cities drive globalization increasingly more than countries now, and the democratization we have seen with technology and even having a voice, could spur some action; secondly, the tyranny of distance can only be overcome if we encourage the sort of thinking that’s needed to create real innovation (not just in technology), not products that can be easily duplicated. David is absolutely right that there is no one perfect solution, but we can make a start by creating the right networks (I am thinking city-to-city) and build better relationships globally—something many political leaders are not adept at doing. No, this isn’t the complete solution, it’s merely off the top of my head, but it is a start—and hopefully another point on which to kick off more comments.

  4. Many Thanks, Jack. for your comment. Love the sound of that: 2010s is the right time to kick off the century! And yes, Smarter Cities drive globalization. Your comment reminds me of a good one from Andrew McAfee's TED Talk: "We are so fortunate to live in these fast-changing times. It's almost criminal not to make something good out of it." Think not just technology-wise, but of an economy that's overall healthy, wealthy and wise."

    "Building better relationships globally" Bullseye! That's a winner! Because social tech is made for that. I'll end on a Seth Godin quote, “How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of one of the greatest shifts of our generation?” He's talking about the innovations in social technology and their significant impact on human relationships. Thanks again, Jack.

  5. Michael FriedbergJune 11, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    Excellent blog - some great quotes indeed. From the Index we see that marketing leads growth in business innovation - no surprises for me but I think its a call to action for marketers to step up and for businesses to value and invest in the role/function of marketing, in order to drive innovation.....come NZ marketers lets get this show on the road

  6. Thanks, Michael. Well said. I agree entirely. Years ago, Drucker wisely called "Marketing & Innovation" as the two focus areas. Now, the lines between CIO and CMO have blurred.

    In today's social, connected, data-driven ecosystem, marketing plays a more significant role in business success today than ever before. Collaboration is the way forward - applies as much internally, as externally. In short, Social Business is the way to go...