The Employee Engagement Network

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Michael Schrage for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

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That's right. 2011. These six ideas emerged in 2010 as powerful "innovation invitations" and seem sure to intensify in power and influence. They'll increasingly be a source of, and resource for, innovation differentiation in 2011, if not for your organization, then for the firm you most dread competing against.

[Here are the first three. To read the complete article, please click here.]

1. Contestification

Whether Google Demo Slam or Sprint's App Competition, digital media has become an innovation battleground for customers, clients, prospective partners, and young talent. Frito-Lay has already made competition the cornerstone of its Super Bowl advertising, and Toyota, desperate to remind people what a wonderful corporate citizen it can be, invites aspiring innovators to suggest how the firm's technology can be used for good in unexpected ways.

Crowdsourced contestification is becoming institutionalized as a way firms can grow their own innovation nations. If you're not running an innovative innovation contest to invite participation and build brand, then you're reacting to your competitor's competition. Will your contest be competitive with their contest? Who's running it? Who's judging it? Who's winning it?

2. Keep Touching Me and I'll Screen!

Anyone who has an iPhone, iPad, or Kindle knows that media are no longer created merely to be viewed — content is designed to be touched, tapped, stroked, fingered, fondled, and pinched. Interfaces have gone tactile and haptic. The keyboard isn't dead or dying, but it's lost pride of place in defining onscreen interaction. Where professionals once wrote memos to be read, 2011 begins an era in which documents are written with touch both in mind and on fingertips. Designing documents to be a sensual physical experience and not just a visually cognitive one demands different aesthetics and sensibilities. This nascent transition will be as profoundly important for future interpersonal communications — and branding — as the transition from radio to television. Having the right touch to get the right touch will become a desirable communications competence.

3. WWWabs

If you explore their websites, you'll find American Express, Google, Intuit and scores of others have "labs" — not-quite-ready-for-prime-time alpha and beta versions of apps to explore and test. These innovation playgrounds vary wildly in quality, creativity and breadth. A few of these test-tube innovation babies are quirkily weird; others have the glimmer of interactive genius. These WWWabs will undoubtedly be reshaped by the seemingly irresistible rise of Facebook as an advertising and promotional vehicle. Indeed, Facebook's role as a third-party innovation platform is still a work in process. However, the economics of experimentation for both customer-facing and internal WWWabs is undeniably favorable. It's easy to marry a WWWabsite with a contest, for example. More important, WWWabs symbolize the substantial shift in one of the dying innovation anachronisms of the post-industrial era. That is, the importance of "research & development" to business innovation. WWWaboratories are about the real future of virtual value creation.

Instead of R&D, what matters is E&S — Experiment & Scale. WWWabs go mainstream worldwide next year.

This is my call for the top six ideas to watch next year. Which two of these six themes will matter most next year? What would make it on to your list of top ideas in 2011?

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Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business, is the author of Serious Play
and the forthcoming Getting Beyond Ideas.

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