The inaugural Seattle Innovation Symposium was held at the University of Washington on September 12-14, 2005. Approximately 100 attendees, consisting of university professors (from Computer Science, Information and Business Schools), their PhD students, and company innovators, came together to work in 25 teams sifting through promising innovations, and business scenarios that have potential to result in new billion dollar market segments. Ten innovation/technologies were identified as the most promising, along with ideas about possible business scenarios for creating the organizations required to implement the innovations. Work continues in various forms on further developing and defining the innovations and business scenarios.
The 2006 Seattle Innovation Symposium is being build on the foundation of the 2005 Symposium in a number of ways. First, the 2006 Symposium will re-invite the multi-disciplined core innovation research network group that came together in the 2005 symposium. This network of 100 participants was extremely productive in seeding discussions about innovations, emerging technologies, and creative business scenarios.
Second, the 2006 symposium will also use the participative team process methodology, which starts with small team discussions, building up successively to larger teams, and finally focusing discussion at the plenary level. This methodology proved productive, and very powerful in distilling a lot of good ideas into a few very promising ideas.
Third, the 2006 symposium will continue with bring seasoned and emerging multi-disciplined researchers together with practicing company innovators to work on the issues of “sustainable innovation.”
Our 2006 Seattle Innovation Symposium is designed to now focus our research resources on creating the artifacts necessary to build the body of knowledge on sustainable innovation. We plan to assemble the core network together (plus some additional invitees) to sift through original video-based case studies of innovation from simple to very complex processes. Newly developed video case studies will range from studies of “expert innovator” artists to a lean manufacturing plant producing integrated components for the aerospace industry to an extremely complex project of building the Boeing 787. This range of simple to complex innovation environments is illustrated in the following continuum.
Professor Rob Austin and his research team have developed an interview methodology to videotape and document in a video case study an “expert innovator” artist creating art artifacts. The artist is video taped actually creating an artifact while being interviewed by a research assistant.
Symposium Title: 2006 Seattle Innovation Symposium/Research Series
Symposium Date: September 11, 12, and 13, 2006
Symposium Location: University of Washington
Target Audience: Leading IT university researchers, IT executives and professionals, managers, and selected dissertation-stage PhD students
Targeted Symposium Series Sponsors: National Science Foundation, Universities, Private Companies
Symposium Objectives: The 2006 UW Seattle Innovation Symposium is the second in a series launched in 2005, supported by an NSF grant, private sponsors, and UW faculty chair endowment funds, with the objectives of (1) building and maintaining a vibrant network of researchers focused on advancing the body of knowledge on “sustainable innovation,” and (2) creating artifacts such as case studies and published papers to broadly share research on sustainable innovation with other researchers and company innovators.
The 2006 symposium will enable the network of professors, PhD students, and company innovators to assemble at the University of Washington and participate in the study of original video case studies ranging from the simple processes of artists creating creative artifacts to the complex processes of work teams innovating to improve productivity in a high tech lean manufacturing plant.
The 2006 Symposium initiative will build on the accomplishments of the 2005 Symposium initiative by continuing to involve the network of innovators who participated in the 2005 symposium. Also, we will again employ the proven small team methodology, rolling up to larger teams, and finally, into a plenary group of 50. Deliverables will include both written and video-based case studies along with commentaries from the symposium process.
Statement of the Intellectual Merit: The UW Seattle Innovation Symposium continues to build a critical mass of leading researchers (multi-disciplined, academics, PhD students studying innovation, and company innovators/entrepreneurs) to: (1) share intellectual assets and experiences in identifying the innovations and innovation practices that have potential to create new products and services, and (2) explore organizational structures and practices on how promising innovations can be more quickly exploited and integrated to create high levels of “sustainable innovation” in economic activities.
Statement of the broader impacts: The broader impact of the symposium will be to create a multi-disciplined network of academic and company innovators that can continue to work collaboratively on the individual research projects required to extend the knowledge base on innovation to shorten the time that it takes for new innovations to make a positive impact on the economy.
The first of the Seattle Innovation Symposium Series will commence on the evening of Monday, 11 September 2006, and run through all day Wednesday, 12 September and conclude on Wednesday, 13 September 2006 at 5:00pm. Symposium check-in/registration is from 7:30-8:20 on Monday, 11 September.
The symposium will be held on the University of Washington campus. This location was selected because the symposium is developed and offered in collaboration with various departments on campus such as the Business School, Information School, Computer Science, Engineering, and Law School. There are various hotels nearby campus where the participants can take a short walk to attend the symposium.
Approximately 50 corporate leaders, academicians, and doctoral students involved in creating and understanding emerging technologies and innovation processes will be invited. The academic study of innovation and Information Technology has broadened to include new areas of academic study including: Information Schools, Computer Science, Business Schools, Public Policy, Law Schools, Engineering Schools, and the Social Sciences.
We will re-invite approximately 10-20 promising doctoral students (many of the same doctoral students that participated in the 2005 Innovation Symposium) beginning their thesis research to this symposium. Our objective will be to constructively influence the innovation national research agenda towards better understanding and management of the discovery/innovation process.
National Science Foundation, Universities, Private Companies
The objectives of the inaugural conference of the Seattle Innovation Conference Series are:
Professor Michael Eisenberg, Dean Emeritus, Information School, University of Washington
Professor Rob Austin, Harvard Business School
Ed Lazowska, Bill and Melinda Gates Professor of Computer Science, University of Washington
Richard Nolan, Philip M. Condit, Boeing Company Professor of Business Administration, University of Washington, and The William Barclay Harding Professor Emeritus, Harvard Business School
Professor Mark Cotteller, Marquette University
Professor David Croson, Southern Methodist University
Dr. George Westerman, CISR Research Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“People say the Internet happened quickly. They’re crazy. It took forever”.
- Bob Taylor, Internet and Xerox PARC pioneer
It’s common for business people to point to the 1990sspecifically, to the 1995 Netscape IPOas the “beginning of the Internet.” This claim is unsupported by fact. The Internet was “born” in 1968, more than 25 years earlier. Internet pioneers, such as Bob Taylor, in interviews express frustration at how slowly business came to realize the importance of a collection of technologies that we now consider extremely valuable. Internet pioneers worked hard to prove the value of the new technologies, but business took a very long time to “get it.”
During the past three years, Professor Rob Austin (Harvard Business School) and Richard Nolan (University of Washington Business School) have studied the evolution of the Internet interviewing Internet pioneers and innovators in a research effort aimed at answering the question:
Important corollary questions that motivate the research include:
(See Austin/Nolan HBS Working Paper, On Identifying and Tracking the Next “Killer App: Reflections on an Effort in Progress”, June 2004).
The Conference topic builds on the exploratory work of Austin/Nolan and other efforts to understand and accelerate the entry and transfer of new computing paradigms into the global business community. Multi-disciplinary researchers at the University of Washington in the areas of Computer Science, Information Sciences, Business, and Law have been informally discussing the issues and puzzles of productive IT assimilation into the economy for some time. These researchers have extended the dialogues with many of the companies in the Seattle area like Microsoft, amazon.com, Starbucks, drugstore.com, and Real Networks that have performed well in capturing the value of new technologies.
In addition, we note that there has been a great deal of work in building IT architectures focused on the individual versus the technology. This work includes single secure sign on to the web, identity-based computing, web services, and other similar initiatives, all of which are undoubtedly important. RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) technologies are allowing small computers with telecommunications to be embedded into various things like products, cases, pallets, and parts of cars and airplanes so that information on the thing can be acted upon through other computers. RFID technology is also used to secure children and pets, allowing parents and owners to know where their child or dog is at all times. However, it is a preliminary conclusion that the most important future applications will not arise from a focus on advantages to individuals that we can foresee and design. Instead, it will arise from advantages to many entities (individuals, organizations, markets) that are not currently foreseen, but which will emerge when information about contexts is made available to people as they do their work.
Awareness of context has potentially profound implications. When employees or customers “always knowing where they are” in a complex environment, they will use technology in unexpected ways, possibly to great business benefit. Leading companies in the retail industry (e.g., Wal-Mart) are already aggressively pushing the potential of technology to make an order of magnitude improvement in their vast global logistic systems for procuring and getting products to their retail outlets. Other retailers (Sears, for example) are using technology to understand the way that customers shop their stores. We anticipate that second generation uses that emerge from awareness of context might form a qualitative leap even over the significant advantages currently being proposed.
In the manufacturing industry, companies like Boeing, which have to keep track of the performance of the millions of parts that go into an airplane for the life of the airplane, are working with customers to use information technology to accomplish this formidable task. In the process, they are betting the commercial success of the new Boeing 787 jet liner on the effective exploitation and application of the leading technologies associated with IT-enabled extended awareness of context. The all-composite fuselage and wings will directly incorporate the senor technologies and neural network architectures in order to monitor fatigue points, and act upon them. The senor information will enable Boeing to considerably reduce the risks of material failure, and reduce the time it takes to more fully understand the characteristics of the material as used in major aircraft construction. This is an example of the implementation of an important new business practice of real-time “sensing and responding.”
Like so many other sea change technologies, computer-based awareness of context will probably take years and several technical generations to fully understand and exploit. Its initial impact can be thought of as analogous to the experience of many people when they first put on a hearing aid. They hear all the sounds, which are, at first, more confusing than helpful. Our brains sort out what we hear or see in a way that is relevant to us; the other sounds and sights are sorted out as “noise” and ignored. The brain learns to do this over time. We think a similar process is likely as we learn about our new IT-enabled awareness of our extended context.
The creation of ideas stemming from new technologies needs to be nurtured, and facilitated with a better understanding of serendipity characteristic of innovation, and the potholed road of innovation whereby the ideas are transferred into significant economic impact. We believe that with better understanding of the IT idea generation and innovation process, companies will be able to take action earlier to prepare for the assimilation of the technologies in a manner to realize real productive gains earlier. This is the intent of the Seattle Innovation Conference.
The video case development methodology will be based on Professor Austin and his research team’s patterned interview approach where video taping of actual processes carried out by “expert innovators”. Case studies will be created for study in three arenas:
Multi-disciplinary researchers at the University of Washington in the areas of Computer Science, Information Sciences, Business, and Law have been focused on better understanding the issues and puzzles of productive IT assimilation into the economy for some time. These researchers have extended the dialogues with many of the companies in the Seattle area like Microsoft, amazon.com, Starbucks, drugstore.com, and Real Networks that have performed well in capturing the value of new technologies. Nevertheless, while the Seattle region has more than their share of successful software companies, the overall survival of innovative start-up companies is still far less than it should be. A better understanding of the issue of “sustainable innovation” is important to improving survivability of start-ups, and building the businesses to levels that make a significant impact on the economy.
The creation of ideas stemming from new technologies needs to be nurtured, and facilitated with a better understanding of serendipity characteristic of innovation, and the potholed road of innovation whereby the ideas are transferred into significant economic impact. We believe that with better understanding of the IT idea generation and innovation process, companies will be able to take action earlier to prepare for the assimilation of the technologies in a manner to realize real productive gains earlier. This is the intent of the Seattle Innovation Symposium Series.
Symposium activities will take place with participants grouped at three different levels. During Plenary Sessions and subsequent Moderated Panel Discussions, symposium attendees will participate as a single group. For other activities, symposium participants (assume 50) will be divided into five teams and further subdivided into two squads per team, resulting in 10 squads of five participants each (Figure 1). Included in each squad will be one doctoral student who will act as its “scribe”. In return for funding and participation in the symposium, the doctoral student will be committed to producing a five-page summary (over a reasonable time period) of the squad’s discussion and activities for integration into the proceedings of the symposium.
2006 Draft Symposium Program
The preliminary program is as follows:
Draft Agenda for Seattle Innovation Symposium
September 11, 12 & 13, 1006
University of Washington
Day One – Shared study of video-based research studies on innovation processes
Day Two – Insight consolidation, discussion and restatement of sustainable innovation framework
In addition to the symposium proceedings, the PI’s will be working with UW Television to capture various parts of the symposium for possible use on Educational Television, and in-classroom use.
Figure 1: Participant Pool, Team, and Squad Breakout Structure
The conference is slated to unfold over a two-day period, commencing with a series of plenary sessions on the first day, and concluding with summary reporting from squad and team level activities. A goal of the conference is to structure the two days such that participants receive a strong grounding in the “perspective” of the meetings, followed by an opportunity to apply their considerable talents to contributing their ideas.
 See Haeckel, S. H., and R. L. Nolan. "Managing by Wire." Harvard Business Review 71, no. 5 (September-October 1993): 122-132. (A34-93)
Reprinted in Harvard Business Review on the Business Value of IT (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999), pp. 131-159..