Professor Raphael H Cohen reveals the secret to success
Nowadays, in the era of start-ups, new media and technological crossovers, innovation can be difficult to delineate. The best way to exemplify it is, as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. And this completely corresponds to Raphael H Cohen’s approach to innovation. Mr Cohen is not by chance defined a ‘business angel’ in the field. As a professor, lecturer, author, and entrepreneur he has come up with the IpOp Model, an approach to innovation and corporate entrepreneurship that helps companies in their innovation management.
Professor Raphael H Cohen was one of the keynote speakers at the reputable Geneva Corporate Innovation Forum. Each year, the event aims to provide new thinking concepts for corporate directors and technology officers who wish to learn and discuss with peers the latest and best practices for managing innovation within their respective organisations. Mr Cohen’s speech proved to be very influential during the conference for corporations seeking to keep up with times and anticipating trends. In this exclusive interview Raphael H Cohen shares his experience and vision on the process of innovating hop over to this site.
How do you define innovation per se?
Innovation is introducing something new, in a gratifying manner, so that somebody gets a benefit, and it doesn’t have to be necessarily an invention. Invention is bringing something new all over the world. But for instance, when EasyJet was brought to Europe it already existed in the US, and yet it was innovative in… Europe. So innovation concerns a new process, a new marketing idea, a new product, a new service. Innovation can also be the adaptation of an existing idea.
How did you come up with the IpOp Model for entrepreneurs?
We launched a survey asking decision makers how they choose projects and found out that, in average, decision makers use six criteria. But according to my research we need eleven. The central one is that if you look at a project or initiative there are many unknowns behind it. When the reader looks at a business case or business plan he doesn’t know what the assumptions are behind it; what is for sure and what is not verified.
The more assumptions you have the less reliable the information is and innovators have the tendency of hiding the unknowns. But in actual fact the number of these unknowns will qualify the reliability of the information that is being presented. So the IpOp model is forcing people to be more lucid and more realistic on their own analysis of what they know and of what they assume. And that makes a huge difference for the decision maker to have this catalogued – black on white – rather than hidden in spreadsheet assumptions.
This approach would seem to exclude the notion of gut feeling…
Not really actually. There have been studies showing that intuition, therefore gut feeling, is determined by the quality and quantity of the information that is given to our brain. During the night the non-conscious mind processes this information. People who received less information before sleeping gave worse results than those who received more information and sleep.
You may need to sleep to make the decision, but you cannot sleep to create…
You are absolutely right. To create you must have the desire to innovate. But if I compare the situation to ten or fifteen years ago, people were much more comfortable maintaining the status quo, whereas today everyone has understood that everything is changing. I’m teaching several banks the innovation processes and I see the level of receptiveness has dramatically increased. Same thing in hospitals or any other industry.
We live in a century of innovation, but do you believe there are elements that may stop innovation?
There are personal characteristics and there are external factors. As for the personal ones people are afraid of failure, and this has to do with their self-confidence and their ability to bounce back if they fail (their resilience). They are afraid their reputation will be damaged. So by giving them tools that will analyse and increase their self-confidence people are much less afraid. You cannot be an innovator without the extra work. To refer to statistics, interestingly enough, 30 percent of the projects that are being launched are interrupted before completion. And only 12 percent of the projects are completed on time and on budget. There often is a weak selection of projects in the early stage, because those that were stopped should never have been launched, and this is a huge waste of resources that all companies are confronted with. Therefore, if there were a more rigorous decision making process as shown by the IpOp Model those resources would be used in a more efficient manner. This is why the IpOp Model is used by Airbus, Nestlé, Bühler, startups, and even the French Post.
This is something you also addressed in the context of the Geneva Corporate Innovation Forum: the individuals’ qualifications for being an innovator. From your standpoint how do you set the qualities of an innovator?
I think that if you look at the population there are three categories of people. There are those who will be innovators whether you want it or not, then at the other end of the spectrum you have those who will never be, and then you have this huge chunk which involves 80, maybe 90 percent of the population that is in between those two extremes. My experience is that one third of those, at least, can be activated to become proactive innovators. If you teach them a robust process and you show them the road path, it gives them the ability to connect things that apparently are unrelated. The second important factor is to have a high level of curiosity: observing everything. The third parameter, which I think is critical, is to have a network of very diverse people around you because when you innovate you need to access information, and the only way you can obtain that quickly is if you have a good pre-existing network.
What is the next best practice in innovation management?
ISO is developing a set of new standards for innovation (50500 series). I think that very few people know that there will be standards to help them manage innovation, particularly how to partner between a small start-up and large company, to speak the same language and understand each other. They both come from completely different backgrounds, they each have their own systems and way of looking at innovation. What ISO will propose, with the upcoming standard 50503, is an elective framework of how they can cooperate and make sure that they address all the key issues. This will be the Esperanto of joint innovation projects.
Article by Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi