The latest BusinessWeek (BW) magazine (June 19 issue) includes a 32–page insert called Inside Innovation. It’s a new section that will be offered quarterly. I’m sure that I’ll be reading several new posts from my fellow Corante Innovation Hub bloggers on this new mini-mag, so I thought I’d get my thoughts down before they become influenced by the comments of others (I look forward to reading others’ thoughts after I write this).
A BW editor explains this new offering by saying that “innovation is ‘the new black.’” To those who have been wearing black for a while, this declaration of popularization might suggest that it’s time to find a different color. With a mainstream presence comes popular acceptance, however, so those who have had difficulty promoting innovation tools and processes in the past might now start finding greater acceptance of these concepts among corporate executives—not a bad development at all.
Let’s take a look at what’s inside Inside Innovation.
inshort is a Wired Gadgets-style array of interesting innovation tools&trends, such as cards to inspire creativity or innovation camps.
inproducts gives a short description of a cool car—eye candy that could be confused for an advertisement except for the fact that no one would buy print ad space for a $722,534 car.
intouch gives a hip print layout of a BW blog, including Recent Comments and Recent Posts. I’ve got to admit, printing a BW blog post in their magazine is certainly creative, but it feels akin to printing the results of a Google search.
inprofile tells us about the director of the IIT Institute of Design in Chicago. The story begins with interesting details about the program he's created but ends with PR-like information that doesn't quite belong in a business magazine on innovation. I was disappointed that I didn’t learn more about the school than the sketchy details on its curriculum or receive concrete examples of what its graduates are doing to bring design innovation into companies—the school does sound fascinating and innovative.
indepth is easily the most interesting article for me. It provides informative, albeit short, profiles of “five archtypal achievers from the in25, our list of forward-thinking leaders.” There is perhaps nothing new here that one hasn’t read in other online and print sources, but it has rich content for those looking for examples of how innovation happens in successful companies. Reading these case studies got me thinking about how I could incorporate their concepts, and that’s the best that you can ask of such an article. As a bonus, we are provided with 9 Notions of Innovation from Google’s innovation gatekeeper, Marissa Mayer, and photos of books on these innovators' shelves that presumably identify sources of inspiration, e.g., The Big Moo, Rules of the Red Rubber Ball, The Wisdom of Crowds. (Congrats to fellow Corant blogger Chuck Frey for having Innovation Tools listed as one of the five profiled achiever’s favorite blogs).
indata gives graphics on…data, e.g., 32% of the world’s languages are from Asia, and there are 874 million native Chinese speakers. Some of the graphical data is interesting, but some are difficult to interpret what their relation is to innovation.
inprogress provides an interesting short account of how Bank of America created their Keep the Change service, with the article sectioned by The Problem, The Research, Prototyping, and Marketing. I found it interesting that BofA developed this financial service with the help of an unnamed “innovation and design research firm in Palo Alto, Calif.” using IDEO’s approach of customer observation, a procedure typically associated with consumer product design.
indesign provides a Wired-style product rave that is essentially a full-page ad for the Xbox.
insight concludes Inside Innovation with five tips for introducing innovation into your company, provided by the founder of Jump Associates. Short and reasonable advice.
As you can tell, I found this mash-up between FastCompany and Wired Magazine to be below the typical standards of BusinessWeek. This is unfortunate, because it may reinforce the BW editor’s notion that innovation is a flavor of the week that is not to be taken as seriously as the rest of the BW content. I hope that BW continues with Inside Innovation but that their writers and editors give it the level of journalistic seriousness that is provided to the rest of the magazine's content.
Edit (6/15/06): Looks like I'm not the only one with these opinions.