Archive | March 2014

Shell is Open for Innovation










Shell realises that, despite the presence of internal excellence, there are more smart people and technologies in the external world that can add value to their innovation portfolio.

The stereotype image of a large company is one of distance, secrecy and lack of speed.  Yet Shell is actively trying to change this view.  This mega company with a turnover of $451bn recently invited a small group of bloggers to visit Shell Technology Centre Amsterdam (STCA) to tell them about their innovation plans.  My invitation arrived out of the blue so, not being sure what I’d done to deserve it, I accepted with a growing sense of curiosity.

Why does a company employing 92,000 people and spending $1.3bn on R&D need to go outside for more innovation?  The reason is one of the classic foundations of Open Innovation.  Shell realises that, despite the presence of internal excellence, there are more smart people and technologies in the external world that can add value to their innovation portfolio.  This year also coincides with the 100th anniversary of their first laboratory in Amsterdam – in the office kitchen! – providing an extra platform for publicity.

Shell have a much longer-term view than many other industry sectors, given the nature of the challenges the world faces with issues such as energy, food and water; and the investment profile of the solutions that need to be implemented.  One example is the development of the world’s largest gas-to-liquids plant, from small scale at STCA via pilot plant to full build.  This really brings home the sheer scale of the business, highlighting the need for long-term external collaboration.  Even work of this scale starts small, and needs external partnerships.

According to Sergio Kapusta, one of the company’s Chief Scientists, Shell wants to be “The most competitive and innovative energy company”.  In order to achieve this, Sergio stated that they are willing to work with anyone. Jaco Fok, GM of Open Innovation, described the well-structured and coherent programme for working with external partners.  It consists of:

  • Gamechanger, seeking proposals for radical innovation;
  • External Technology Collaboration, primarily with suppliers;
  • Shell Technology Ventures, an investment fund for early stage companies;
  • Shell Techworks, looking to rapidly prototype technologies already proven  elsewhere;
  • Shell Ideas 360, a global idea competition for students.

I’ve been involved with several innovation portal projects, and I’m a fan of the Gamechanger programme.  In 17 years of operation, it’s evaluated 1500 proposals and implemented 100.  One of them is a massive project to develop a Floating Liquefied Natural Gas (FLNG) plant, a truly radical innovation; I’ll write more about Gamechanger in another blog.

Shell is also engaged in joint ventures to explore new technologies and business.  One example we saw was Paqell, a JV with Paques, to use sulfur-extracting bacteria to remove dangerous hydrogen sulphide from natural gas.  This has many advantages over current methods, not least from a sustainability perspective.

Our tour of STCA also showcased many aspect of supportive technology, from leading edge techniques such as 3D metal printing to more traditional work such as glassblowing.  STCA also enables new technologies to go from bench to pilot plant on the same site, albeit a large one!

There was a thought at the back of my mind, perhaps the skeptical scientist in me, that wondered about the depth of the openness. It’s entirely reasonable not to be told certain information, such as the details of the un-patented work going on in the catalyst lab.  The answer came for me when I asked our guide how much of what we’d seen, except for the tiny number of specified items, could be published or discussed outside of Shell.  The response – everything.

In my view, Shell has it right in its approach to Open Innovation.  They recognise the strategic need; they have structures and initiatives in place; and they are now strengthening the message to attract more partners for Open Innovation.  On the evidence of the blogger visit, the openness and long-term commitment are not only real, but also very exciting.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and Pass The Idea (



Marketing Moxie: Leading through Innovation

Listen to your stakeholders, search outside of your box, diversify your network, record lessons learned 

East African Business Week, by Hope Wilson, Monday, March 24, 2014 

Kampala, Uganda – “I work for an international company,” writes a reader in Kampala. “Our corporate executives from America came to visit our offices, and they kept talking about the importance of innovation. They said it is vital to our success. They want us to innovate, but I don’t know how to do this. Can you give me some suggestions for improving my innovation skills?”

Innovation plays a critical role in the success of our companies. Some marketers believe that it is not their responsibility: They believe that the product development department should focus on this area. But innovation is critical to every facet of a business, and  marketers should continue to develop this skill set. Today, I’ll share a few tips to help you develop a mindset of innovation.


Listen to Your Stakeholders

A few years ago, I represented an engineering firm that was developing a large project in the western United States for their client. The engineering firm wanted to impress their client with their innovation skills. As a result, they asked me to focus my time and effort with the technical teams, so that we could invent something great.

Instead, I had each of the engineering team leaders coordinate work sessions with their groups, and I took my marketing team into the community to meet with all the project stakeholders. During a two-week timeframe, we met with dozens of individuals, businesses, NGOs, government agencies, and others who were affected by the project.

Following the meetings, my team and I met with each of the engineering task forces, where we explained the issues, concerns and interests of each of our stakeholders. Together, we generated numerous ideas and implemented more than a dozen innovations that resulted in a very positive response from the firm’s client.

Always take time to listen to your stakeholders. Be aware of what they need—even if it’s a need that they don’t recognize yet. Then leverage your team’s ingenuity to find solutions for those needs.


Search Outside of Your Box

As an undergraduate student, I read a book about Leonardo da Vinci. It said that he looked for inspiration from a variety of sources. For example, he did not look only to his fellow painters for inspiration to paint his masterpieces: he studied nature, human anatomy, and other subjects.

After reading that story, I realized that diversification was important to my success as a marketer and business woman. I started reading newspapers from other cities and countries, and magazines that explored everything from biology to automotive mechanics to ballet. I recorded all of the thoughts and ideas that inspired me in a notebook—regardless of how unrelated they seemed.

Over time, I found that inspiration came from the strangest places: I once came up with a marketing campaign strategy for a telecommunications construction project based on an article I had read about otters several years earlier!

Study other industries and subject matters; you never know where inspiration will be waiting for you!


Diversify Your Network

One of the greatest benefits of working in a global economy is the ability to build upon the diversity they contain.

I recently attended a presentation by a team of six people who had been engaged to find a factory in Southeast Asia for a global manufacturing firm. The firm’s preliminary research had not yielded good results, and they didn’t believe that the team would be successful in finding a facility. However, the team exceeded all expectations by finding three factories that met their client’s requirements.

When asked how they had succeeded, the team explained that their diversity was key: Their group had two women and four men, represented five countries from three continents, had six areas of business specialization (one per team member) and had six very diverse personal lifestyles.

“We realized that each of us had a special skill set—based on both our professional experience and our personal backgrounds—that served an important purpose during this project,” the team leader said.

“I realized that, as a white, American Jewish man, I had a skill set that was helpful in some situations, while it was a disadvantage in other situations,” he continued. “In those moments, I had to rely on my colleagues’ unique skills to move the project forward. I learned that we are always stronger when we value our differences and build on them together.”

Enhance your intellectual capital by spending time with people who are different from you in terms of culture, lifestyle, beliefs, education…and watch the amazing ideas that these diverse perspectives inspire!


Record Your “Lessons Learned”

One of my mentors told me that, before bed every night, he writes down two lessons that he has learned during the course of the day.

“It doesn’t matter if you failed or won; it only matters that you learned lessons that you will apply tomorrow,” he said.


Since I adopted this practice, I’ve found that my strategic application of knowledge has increased substantially. If we do not pause to review the events of our lives—and learn from them—we are significantly more likely to repeat them.

However, when we do improve our skills of observation, listening to our customers, appreciating diversity within our teams, and learning from our life events, we are better positioned to innovate solutions that both provide value to our customers and increase profitability for our business.

Hope Wilson, CPSM, is president of Wilson Business Growth Consultants, a firm that provides international business strategy and communications services. Specializing in infrastructure development, Hope has received 12  international awards for her work. 

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and Pass The Idea (


3 Management Mistakes That Crush Innovation

Taxi, Nachtfahrt
Forbes LEADERSHIP 3/21/2014 by John Cotter
THE REASONABLE MAN ADAPTS TO THE WORLD; THE UNREASONABLE ONE PERSISTS IN TRYING TO ADAPT THE WORLD TO HIMSELF. THEREFORE, ALL PROGRESS DEPENDS ON THE UNREASONABLE MAN.” When your company is trying to force customers to adapt to it, customers will seek out, find, and adapt to alternatives. The organizations that make it easier for customers to adapt the world to themselves are the ones that will achieve success. Imagine this situation: Orders are stacking up at your company so quickly that the three people you have in fulfillment are overwhelmed. To remedy this problem you start limiting marketing to reduce demand. Sounds like self-sabotage, right? Naturally this would lead to a loss of market share and soon you’d find yourself out of business. Who would be so stupid? Well, you’d be surprised at how many people within your own organization are making decisions like this on a daily basis.

Take Seattle for example. On Monday the Seattle City Council addressed their struggle to regulate the growing number of on-demand transportation options in the city. These new types of businesses do not fit within Seattle’s archaic regulations – for example, which cabs can be flagged off the street, which cabs must be pre-arranged, which cabs can pick up at the airport, (which are NOT the same cabs that can take people TO the airport).

The council voted to limit the number of taxis that can operate under each service (Uber, Lyft, Sidecar, etc.), blocking the way of progress in the transportation service market in order to preserve the outdated taxi-service business model.

The city defends their decision based on economic issues and an inability to regulate (i.e. collect taxes), stating on their web site, “the number of customers is growing as are questions about potential risks from insufficiently insured drivers, uninspected vehicles and inexperienced drivers. At the same time, entrants threaten economics of existing Taxi, For-Hire and Limo drivers and owners, which can be seen as a significant social justice issue as many drivers depend on their income to support their families.’

This backward thinking smacks of complacency. While Greg Gottesman’s piece “To Protect Legitimate Interests, Seattle Should Cap All Forms of Innovation Immediately,” jokingly suggested putting a cap on the number of emails people can send in order to maintain business for the U.S. Postal Service, the council’s decision set a threatening precedent that’s alarming to many, including the the tech industry.

While you may shake your head and dismiss this as a case of small-minded politicians making short-sighted decisions, look around your organization and you may recognize cases where the fastest and most efficient way for your people to handle change was to stifle it. You may even recognize actions you’ve taken in the past that, while they pleased those clinging to the status quo, dismissed a window of opportunity. Of course, what’s not said is that these types of decisions are a glaring indicator of complacency – that nothing needs to change – and ultimately enough of these decisions creates a ripe opportunity for a smaller, more nimble, and more innovative company to come on the scene and eat your lunch.

Here are three mistakes many leaders don’t even know they’re making, that lead them down this road:

  • Avoiding innovation in order to push profitability = failure. Take Kodak. They’ve been pointed to as the poster-company for what happens when you fail to embrace change in your market. People within Kodak tried to draw company leaders’ attention to the world of digital cameras evolving outside the company. Company leaders decided that the financial outlook of the world of digital cameras wasn’t nearly as attractive as the world of continued film sales. They bet it all that nothing would change, and it was a costly bet. We all know how that story ended. Companies must be willing to “bring the outside in” in order to see threats on the horizon and avoid inevitable disaster.Complacency, or remaining satisfied with the status quo, is a glaring sign of danger.
  • Attempting to “manage” threats illustrates that you’re still in denial. In Seattle, putting a cap on the number of taxis that can run under the Lyft pink mustache will make it easier for the city to regulate taxis and collect their taxes, but the growth in this industry is fueled by demand. With so many people wanting to use the service, and with the city so backward in their ability to regulate and collect taxes, ultimately it may cost the city more to enforce their regulations than they’re making in this business. Their strategy only prolongs the archaic regulatory structure, and slows growth of a new economy that serves the people faster, better, and for less money.
  • Failing to address threats makes the company vulnerable to those threats. After years of denial that the Internet was going to kill their industry, the music distribution business is near rock bottom. A decade ago these companies ruled the music industry, but they failed to recognize the very real threat of music piracy and the willingness of the mass population to embrace the ease and relatively minimal risk of pirating music. Refusing to address that threat cost them dearly. Spotify, a not-so-new streaming music service that is poised to become the future lifeblood of the music industry recognized that in order for music distribution to become profitable again, it must become easier than pirating the songs online. This service provides free (but limited) fast, streaming access to millions of popular songs (with help from the now desperate music industry), and unlimited access for a fee.

This is written on the Stockholm office wall of Daniel Ek, co-founder of Spotify:



When your company is trying to force customers to adapt to it, customers will seek out, find, and adapt to alternatives. The organizations that make it easier for customers to adapt the world to themselves are the ones that will achieve success.

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


Forget Innovation, Who Is Your Chief Disruption Officer?

Arrow disruption
Patrick Hanlon, Forbes, 3/20/2014 

Today disintermediation—the interuptive outflanking by a completely different force—has become business as usual.

I am sitting in the back seat of a taxicab in New York City. The traffic is Midtown, stuck bumper to bumper.

“Everything is turned upside down!” the cabbie shouts, pumping his arm up and down in the air. “Five years ago it was not like this!” he cries.

The taxi driver is not talking about Midtown Manhattan traffic. He is from Alexandria. Not the Alexandria we know on the Washington Beltway, but the Alexandria in Egypt, named after Alexander the Great.

He is talking about politics. He is talking about how his family’s life there had been turned upside down. He is talking about being hit on the blind side.

You don’t see what’s coming. Sometimes that’s because you can’t see what you’re seeing. Sometimes it’s just because you haven’t seen it before. And because you haven’t seen it (or because no one has explained to you what you have seen) you don’t know what it is. Our brain, after all, only identifies what it already has seen, understood, categorized.

Moving across the continent to the Left Coast, taxi companies in San Francisco have recently suffered a disruption. Not on the geopolitical scale of Alexandria. But a displacement, nonetheless.

Taxicabs have traditionally been hard to come by in San Francisco. Taxi hubs are random and late-night riders can be left standing, eventually realizing they’ve been stood up. It was not unusual for riders waiting for a cab to call the dispatcher and find out their car had never been called in the first place. Riders missed meetings, they missed dates, they missed flights. They were frustrated.

Taxi companies threw up their hands. Oops.

But some riders didn’t get mad, they spotted a gap in the marketplace. They turned the ‘oops’ moment into an opportunity.

Along came Uber. A technological overlay on the San Francisco taxi company scene that put consumers in control. As you may know, rather than random prowling, riders and drivers find each other thanks to smartphone geolocation tracking. The competition for cab company owners was suddenly not another cab company but, as Marc Andreessen declared on CNET, “Uber is software eats taxis.”

It is evolution, it is innovation, it is disintermediation. It is disruption.

In England, a major news company is paying billions to purchase smart, brash, independent start-ups—and tasking them with deliberately competing against (with intent obliterate) their in-house competitors.

What happens to the car insurance industry when you have driverless cars?

Smart phones today can use software that ‘projects’ 3D images. So a geologist at a remote site (whether in Wyoming or Tibet) can send a core sample back to the lab at HQ for associates to study. Ultimately, similar technology could enable us to ‘send’ a ring from a jewelry shop we’ve discovered in Paris to a daughter in Palo Alto to see if she likes it. Maybe she can even try it on to see if it fits.

The words “Chief Disruption Officer” are not a title we’ve seen yet, but it might be coming our way.

Social, political, personal, and marketing disruption is sometimes inevitable. Stuff happens. Importantly, disruption is a step beyond mere innovation.

As a friend remarks, “Innovation sounds like ideas. Disruption sounds like action.”

“Innovation is an important way to ensure a company stays ahead of its rivals,” declared Samsung Group chairman Lee Kun-hee in his message to company top executives at the beginning of the year. “Continuous technological and business-model breakthroughs are needed to avoid falling prey to copycats,” Lee said. “Old strategies, hardware-oriented processes and corporate cultures should be boldly thrown away,” he ordered.

Says James McQuivey, author of the new book Digital Disruption,  “Embrace the disruptor’s mindset, and adopt the practices and processes that make disruption possible. It’s a company-wide step. It’s a big step, even a giant leap, but it’s one you have to make.”

Is disruption better than innovation? Innovation often seems to be about line extensions, or new packaging. Adding more of the same (only different) is not disruptive.

Is Greek yogurt a disruptor in the yogurt industry? No, it’s an innovation. However, the yogurt category itself has disrupted other categories. Think of the breakfast cereal and egg industry, or the lunch soup industry.

Perhaps here is the place to remind ourselves that the art of war has changed. The era of mass opposing armies facing each other on the field of combat has passed.

Today’s war consists of splintered teams of guerillas battling one another in piecemeal assaults. Then dissipated like fog. The same is true in the marketplace. General Motors did not simply face Toyota, VW or Ford. They slowly dissolved under the separate forces of over 300 other brands (and a diehard resolve by GM to ignore their consumer).

Today’s customer, however, refuses to be ignored. And the vaulting presence of the Internet allows their voice to not only be heard, but solved for.

Dozens, if not hundreds, of companies have sprouted like weeds, filling gaps in the flowery meadows of consumer demand. Often, traditional marketers haven’t even considered these small patches of ground as opportunities. Disappointed by your hotel room but don’t want to become the problem traveler? There’s Want to go to a sample sale but can’t be in Manhattan? There’s,,,, and more. Need a room in Paris? Go to Don’t want to be weighed down by books? Read your Kindle. Don’t want to own a car? There’s Zipcar, metro bikes, in addition to public transport. Options that didn’t exist or were not even a part of the traditional landscape have become preferred methods where consumers suddenly are putting their money down.

There are larger issues, too. In a terrific new book called The World We Made, author Jonathon Porritt foresees a world in which we realize that three cars sitting idly by in the single-family garage is a waste of resources. Mindful neighbor groups learn to carshare their Priuses, reducing consumption. Instead of twelve cars on the cul-de-sac, according to the world Porritt has made, there will be three.

In fact, surveys show that Millennials find it difficult to pay for the sizable wad of car payments, gas, car insurance, student loans, and rent. And Millennials counting on Mom and Dad to help them out may find themselves increasingly out of luck. Bundle those thoughts together and you create a maelstrom of marketing effects.


Another thing about being disruptive, is to know it when you see it.

As Mark Shayler points out is his book DO/DISRUPT, Kodak invented digital film technology but, because it cannibalized their film business, failed to take the lead.

For similar reasons Sony (creator of the Walkman) missed MP3 players.

Coke, Pepsi, Tropicana—even Gatorade—missed energy drinks.

Disruption comes not without its discontents.  The transportation company Uber has been sued in Chicago, Washington, D.C., New York City. In Paris, an Uber driver was attacked by rival cabbies near Charles-de-Gaulle Airport, as a protest against the transportation startup.

But Uber prompted (or became part of) a bump in new thinking about transportation alternatives using automobiles as a platform. And Lyft and SideCar emerged.

Which serves us most? Innovation or disruption? As John Mayer sings, “Me and my friends, we all disagree.”

Of course scenario planning—in which subject matter experts imagine events and countermeasures—has been understood since the 1950s. The difference is that the Russians never attacked, the seas never rose, and to every extent possible, we survived.

Today, hurricanes and tsunamis are annual features, markets rise and fall like tides, technology has divided our attention span into nanoseconds, the real estate market has pancaked, and in places like Golden Valley and Eden Prairie real income for the middle class has not increased in 20 years, stability is quaking, and virtually every part of our lives has been disintermediated by forces seemingly unimaginable just last week.


The 20th century notion that a private individual could become millionaires by creating something in their kitchen or garage (as exemplified by Mrs. Fields cookies and Apple and Nike and Henry Ford before them) or by luck and circumstance (exampled by Frisbee and Post-It Notes) was in itself a disruptive notion. You did not have to be a millionaire to become one. You could change markets from your living room, you could change the world from your couch.


Last year, Jim Lecinski at Google published a treatise that declared P&G’s “final moment of truth” in the shopping aisle has been replaced by the “zero moment of truth”.


In his classic book Rome, art critic Robert Hughes relates how emboldened Christian Romans ransacked temples and smashed pagan statues. The large statue of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius that stands at the top of the Capitoline Hill, was preserved only because the Christians mistook his noble visage for the pope Constantine. Proof that even during great upheavals and disruption, some things survive.


One of the early Dada obsessions was the concept of “unforeseeability”, when moments were so freshly invented, they had no history except their own presence. Your brain does not see it, because in order to provide recognition and clarity the brain first has to be trained to recognize what is evident or possible.

How we learn to respond to these acts—which are becoming less random and absurdly unpredictable, often marks whether or not we survive (or how we can coexist) in an already crowded marketplace. New media platforms are tugging away at dollars once automatically allocated to traditional broadcast television. Two weeks ago, Instagram and Omnicom signed a deal that handed $50 million over to social media. Such deals have been happening slowly over the last five years in experimental pokes, but now will accelerate as the so-called agnostic media dollars slip into YouTube channels, Facebook, Twitter, Kiip and every new kid on the block.

Question. If cab companies in San Francisco had thought of removing pain points for the consumer (or simply not been so sloppy), might they have continued business as usual for another 20 years? Perhaps.

But today disintermediation—the interuptive outflanking by a completely different force—has become business as usual.

Life continues at its normal pace day after day. Then—suddenly, it does not. A cabbie in Alexandria, Egypt suddenly has to uproot his entire family and secure them in a Queens flat. His family may have lived in Egypt for a dozen times a dozen generations. Nevermore.

Horses existed as transportation for humans for thousands of years. Legions of harness makers, blacksmiths, farriers, carriage makers, and other occupations enjoyed uninterrupted employment for centuries. Nothing else seemed possible. (Put another way, anything else seemed impossible.

Then came the steam engine, the train, the automobile, and the flying machine.

Whether or not we create a Chief Disruption Officer is for anyone to decide. But questions about planning for the inevitability of the unforeseen in today’s marketplace seems mandatory.

What would the dinosaurs do?

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


“Diverge Before You Converge”: Tips for Creative Brainstorming


The most effective brainstorming processes draw from both individual thinking and group discussion, with individuals coming together only after independent idea generation.

February 17, 2014

Can companies be more disciplined about creativity?

Many of us think of creativity as something that’s free-form. Certainly in the arts, there’s a stereotype of the musician or painter who is driven by an almost frenzied inspiration when he or she is most productive.

But businesses ask employees to come up with creative ideas all the time. And in the business realm, generating new ideas is only one piece of the puzzle. The other piece is thinking through how ideas can be put to action.

In their article The Discipline of Creativity, in the Winter 2014 issue of MIT Sloan Management Review, Joseph V. Sinfield, Tim Gustafson and Brian Hindo write …“diverge before you converge.” What exactly do they mean by that?

“In confronting creative challenges, it makes sense to consider as many ideas as possible,” the authors write. “However, unless you’re careful, traditional brainstorming sessions can be risky: One powerful voice can overwhelm the others and cause the group to settle on early suggestions prematurely.”

To take full advantage of the divergent viewpoints, the authors suggest that instead of beginning with a group discussion, which can inhibit introverts or people who are shy about sharing, the facilitator first ask participants to write down as many ideas as they can individually.

“In our experience, the technique has two benefits,” the authors write. First, it gives introverts a chance to really be heard and to “maximize their contribution.” Second, “having lots of ideas on paper before the discussion begins prevents the group from rallying around any specific solution too soon.”

This process of “diverging before converging” is tremendously useful for mixing individual thinking and group discussion. The authors cite a recent study led by Karan Girotra, assistant professor of technology and operations management at INSEAD, which found that teams using this hybrid approach were nearly three times as productive as group brainstorming teams, measured by the number of ideas they generated.

“As for idea quality,” the authors say, “the ideas of the hybrid teams were rated by independent outsiders as more valuable and attractive to potential users than the groups’ ideas.”

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


Lego Fans Developing New Models Spawns Ghostbusters Car

Source: ©2014 The LEGO Group via Bloomberg

With the help of Internet and social media, crowdsourcing is helping companies from McDonald’s Corp. to Samsung Electronics Co. boost innovation by tapping the knowledge and experience of customers to create new products. 

By Katarina Gustafsson  Mar 19, 2014

Brent Waller spent his childhood crafting plastic-brick versions of characters from TV shows and movies like “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” and “Batman.” At age 35, the Australian Lego fan has gotten so good at playing with the toys that the company will start selling his models.

Waller’s creation — which includes a miniature of the Cadillac ambulance from “Ghostbusters,” the 1984 comedy starring Bill Murray — will hit shelves in June and sell for $49.99 in the U.S. His set is one of six to come from a Lego crowdsourcing website where consumers can propose designs.

“It’s any Lego fan’s dream to have an official set they created,” said Waller, a video game developer in Brisbane.

With the help of Internet and social media, crowdsourcing is helping companies from McDonald’s Corp. to Samsung Electronics Co. boost innovation by tapping the knowledge and experience of customers to create new products. Lego A/S, the world’s second-biggest toymaker, has run its initiative since 2008 with help from a Japanese crowdsourcing website called Cuusoo System.

“Both children and adults these days are getting used to being, and expecting to be, more involved,” Chief Marketing Officer Mads Nipper said in a toy-stuffed meeting room at Lego’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark. Lego Cuusoo — roughly “my Lego wish” in Japanese — is aimed at finding ideas the company’s 180 designers might not have come up with on their own.

Source: ©2014 The LEGO Group via Bloomberg

Construction Toys

Lego last month announced its full-year sales gained 10 percent to 25 billion kroner ($4.7 billion), outpacing U.S. rivals Mattel Inc. (MAT) and Hasbro Inc. (HAS) In 2012, the Danish company had 6.3 percent of the global toy and game market and 63 percent of the market for construction toys, researcher Euromonitor International estimates.

Any Lego Cuusoo project that gets more than 10,000 votes is evaluated by designers, marketing specialists and business executives to ensure it meets requirements like playability, safety and fit with the Lego brand. The review and development of Waller’s “Ghostbusters” set took almost a year.

Users need to be 18 to submit a project and 13 to cast a vote on the website. Lego reviews projects three times a year, with the next session planned for May. So far this round, a plastic-brick bird, anApple Inc. (AAPL) store, and a train inspired by the writer Jules Verne have topped the 10,000-vote mark.

Popular submissions from earlier rounds that didn’t make it to stores include a set inspired by My Little Pony — a brand owned by Hasbro — and a project based on zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead,” which was deemed inappropriate for Lego’s 6-to-11-year-old target audience.

Mars Rover

Successful entries include a miniature version of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Mars rover Curiosity for $29.99, created by a NASA engineer who worked on the actual vehicle. A set based on the Minecraft video game got 10,000 votes in just 48 hours. Lego has followed up the first Minecraft set with two more and is working on others. The initial set sells for $34.99 in Lego’s online store, where purchases are limited to two per order due to what the site calls “overwhelming demand.”

“What makes an epic Lego Cuusoo product is when you take Lego and pair it with some other kind of community or some very strong idea,” said Peter Espersen, who oversees the company’s efforts to work with consumers on new designs.

Lego Cuusoo got off to a slow start as it was available only in Japan for the first three years and few people were familiar with the idea of crowdsourcing, Espersen said.

Batmobile, DeLorean

When Minecraft took off, he said, “it told us, oh my goodness; there is something here, something exciting.”

Waller, who grew up in a small town an hour’s drive west of Brisbane, submitted designs for houses, robots and Batman’s Batmobile before succeeding with his “Ghostbusters” idea. The set, produced by Lego under license from Sony Pictures, will coincide with the movie’s 30th anniversary.

“As a child I didn’t really have any action figures or anything like that,” he said. “So I would recreate whatever TV show or movie I was into at the time in Lego form.”

While fans have given mixed reviews to some previous crowdsourced sets, like the DeLorean sportscar-cum-time machine from the movie “Back to the Future,” the upcoming “Ghostbusters” creation has gotten good reviews from fellow Lego fans online.

The DeLorean “was horrible I never bothered with it,” user Shaun O’Brien wrote on Facebook on Feb. 16. The “Ghostbusters” set, by contrast, “I will get for sure. might even get 2 and make a bit bigger.”

‘Fairly Optimistic’

Fans whose models are used by Lego receive 1 percent of net revenue. While the company doesn’t disclose sales for individual sets, Espersen said he is “fairly optimistic” about Waller’s “Ghostbusters” set.

The set’s sales might not matter much, said Robert Porter, an analyst with Euromonitor in London. Crowdsourcing initiatives help companies better engage with consumers and keep loyal fans coming back, regardless of how much they actually boost revenue, he said.

“Even if ideas don’t take off,” Porter said, “it’s still very good for marketing, PR and building consumer engagement.”

~ Curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (


Why Some Innovative Leaders Get Exceptional Results


To  create a culture of innovation, leaders must first create a culture of collaboration. That means engaging and inspiring the creative talents of others, respecting employees’ ideas, and bringing new insights into group decisions. With collaboration, differences add up to more than the sum of the parts.

By Martin Zwilling, Forbes, 3/18/2014

How is it that only a few business leaders and entrepreneurs seem to drive exceptional results and disruptive innovation in this rapidly changing market economy (marketquake)? These few seem more adept at executing market and technology turns, not just incremental evolution. They consistently take bold steps to stay ahead of the curve, often contrary to conventional wisdom.

Steve Jobs of Apple may have been the most visible example of this ability to “see around the corner,” but others often mentioned include Richard Branson (Virgin Group), and Howard Schultz (Starbucks). Most of you could suggest one more, but not many.

Here is my summary and interpretation of the ten processes that he outlines as key to driving the disruptive innovations that entrepreneurs and startups all dream about:

  1. Establish the engine of leadership (trust). An IBM Global CEO study listed integrity and trust in the top three characteristics leaders must have in today’s changing business landscape. These are about being true, honest, and authentic with others, inside and outside the company. Without trust, no one will ever follow even the best innovators.
  2. Provoke with questions, not answers (inquiry). Peter Drucker once said “The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.” Exceptional outcomes don’t come from standard answers to pre-defined questions by conventional leaders.
  3. Mine the organization for expertise (exploration). Identify individuals within the organization who have led innovation over many years, as well as newer employees that share the same vision. Just as importantly, you have to deal quickly with innovation blockers, including bureaucrats, power mongers, and skeptics.
  4. Dream well – you may find yourself there (aspiration). Aspiring to greatness requires uncovering and exploring truths – including hidden truths – and sharing them with others. The most innovative leaders expect the best of everyone, and develop the guru in others. Emulating perceived heroes and role models can lead to realizing your own aspirations.
  5. Embrace new kinds of risk (edge). Finding the “edge” is similar to “finding flow,” being “in the zone,” or being “in the groove.” These are states conducive to heightened engagement, accelerated learning, and creativity. These states allow deep curiosity, exploration, and highly focused activity to occur, leading to disruptive innovation.
  6. Collaborate to innovate (connection). To create a culture of innovation, leaders must first create a culture of collaboration. That means engaging and inspiring the creative talents of others, respecting employees’ ideas, and bringing new insights into group decisions. With collaboration, differences add up to more than the sum of the parts.
  7. Borrow prior and current brilliance (mash-up). By constantly mashing up prior ideas, applications, and outcomes, powerful new combinations emerge that have value to customers. Find people who deviate positively from the norm, intentionally destabilizing the work environment, and foster moderate creative tension that can spark innovation.
  8. Get moving or accept the consequences (action). Action counts – not words – especially when that action is novel and unique. Once you are in motion, actually producing something, people will respond, contribute, collaborate, and spread the word, driving energy and awareness your way. Innovation does not come without action.
  9. Make it your own (signature). A signature innovative solution is born of the core identity of those who have joined in the innovation journey, executed with the unique personalities of participants. Signature innovation is not easily copied or pirated, because it comes out of a truly unique cultural identity within a team.
  10. Connect with “why” (purpose). In any endeavor, there must be a purpose behind it if we are to receive maximum enjoyment, fulfillment, and a deeper sense of our own role in its achievement. Many companies and leaders now reinforce and demonstrate a commitment to responsible behavior that goes way beyond profit and individual gain.

Exceptional innovation or “seeing around the corner” does not come from closing your eyes and jumping into the unknown. It comes from a focus on learning and following the processes proven by other great entrepreneurs and leaders. Even creativity alone is not enough to deliver real innovation, unless it is teamed with the tendency and tenacity to execute. How well are you executing on the drive to exceptional outcomes in your business?

~ curated by The Marketing Curator and TME Pass The Idea (