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GE Innovation – Thinking Outside of the Box (or Should that be ‘Square’?)

- December 2, 2010 - 0 Comments

As I’m focusing more on Collaboration and Innovation and less on Supply Chain these days, I thought I’d share a story of ‘Ideation with you for my opening blog.  That’s because it’s usually one of the first steps in the product development lifecycle, and makes chronological sense when discussing innovation. In later blogs I’ll share some of the subsequent steps – you know: Selection, Prototyping, Validation, Development and finally, Launch. Different companies use different terms and different processes, but all good products start out with a good idea.

Let me take you back in time for a moment. When I was eight years old I noticed that the local UK comic magazine that I bought on a weekly basis was running competitions for readers to submit puzzles for other readers to solve. I was attracted to the Secret Service game that was one of the prize options, but what was my idea? How was I going to win if I didn’t have a good idea? Well, I decided that I’d submit a match puzzle – you know we actually had lots of matches in the 60’s! This puzzle isn’t hard (please remember I was eight years old) and looked something like the picture above. The question was “How do you make a square by adding just one more match and not moving the others?”

Anyway, fairly obvious that you make a square by placing a forth match adjoining the other three to make a square with the bases as in the next picture (click ‘read more’ when finished with this page to see how). Well, I had the pride of seeing my puzzle published and, more importantly for me, I actually won the Secret Service game! But that’s not the point…

…The point of this return to my childhood is that the idea wasn’t actually mine! I may have read it elsewhere in another magazine or comic, or maybe an uncle showed me the trick – after all everyone seemed to smoke in those days and matches abounded – or maybe the idea came from a friend or from the TV – who knows? It was so long ago I really can’t remember.

Today, more and more companies are realizing that they aren’t the only source of ideas, and they don’t necessarily need to acquire other companies to gain their intellectual property and ideation. Ideas can come from anywhere. Proctor and Gamble, for example, once known for taking years to develop products in house, is using its ‘Connect and Develop’ innovation model to reach outside the company. In 2000, 15% of products came from outside P&G. Today more than 50% of products have key idea elements that come from outside P&G, and product ideas can be discussed throughout, and outside of, the organization using Cisco Telepresence, for example. GE, too, has recognized that a team’s effectiveness in working together worldwide to share and develop ideas doesn’t have to stilted by vast geographic distances caused by globalization, or otherwise halted because folks can’t find or collaborate with other folks. GE’s use of Cisco Active Collaboration Rooms significantly reduces product development times, and allows global collaboration, as one example.

More and more companies are viewing Cisco as a Strategic Partner that can help build and sustain business architectures utilizing the ever broadening range of social software and collaboration tools available. Here’s a short video from P&G talking about how Cisco can help with ideas…


To find out more go to

Next post I’ll tell you how you can move only one of the four matches from the solution to the puzzle I described above and make a new square. Now that’s tough, even if you’re not an eight year old!


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