As one of the world's most successful companies, Google allows its engineers to spend 20 percent of their time working on their own personal ideas.
But would that work for a small company in Cincinnati? Or would it be wasteful?
An upcoming innovation conference will help local business people find the best ways to promote new, fresh ideas in their company. While many people think innovation is a mysterious or even mystical talent, the presenters have a more concrete message.
“Innovation is a skill, not a gift,” says University of Cincinnati marketing and innovation professor Drew Boyd. “It’s not something that you’re born with, and that surprises people.”
Boyd is co-writing a book about innovation with a professor at Columbia's business school who has been researching innovation through thousands of years of human history. He said a few specific patterns of innovation have been repeated over time.
“It’s just a process that can be learned like anything else, like playing a guitar or speaking a new language,” Boyd says.
Boyd, along with directors from Procter &d Gamble, SunnyD and GE Aviation, will be speaking at the “Energizing Innovation” conference on Nov. 17 in the METS center in Northern Kentucky. The event’s organizers said the one-day conference will teach best practices of innovation and how to foster a culture of innovation.
"A big piece of this conference is about culture, and opening the door to allow people to think creatively inside a company,” the event’s co-creator Will Krieger says. “And allowing them to share ideas without thinking that they're taking too big a risk in doing so.”
Eight speakers, most of whom are based in Cincinnati, will draw from their experiences with innovation.
David Linger, a technology director for GE Aviation, will discuss ways to leverage in-house research with on-line communities and how to track and evaluate innovation initiatives. Cindy Tripp, a marketing director for Procter & Gamble, will discuss “design thinking” skills like “deep human empathy” and “collective curiosity.” She will also share case studies demonstrating simple ways to bring innovation to an office.
Krieger says that, according to his own web research, Cincinnati has more fortune five hundred companies per million residents than any other city in America. That means the town is thick with opportunities, but local businesses need to open themselves to new ways of thinking in order to capitalize on them.
"Ultimately there needs to be more risk taking happening,” Krieger says. “You can stick to doing traditional things, but eventually you've got to innovate, and in order to do that you have to take risks."
The conference will be hosted by the local chapters of the American Marketing Association and the Product Development and Management Association. Registration information is available at energizinginnovation.com
By Henry Sweets