“If you go from Moscow to Budapest, you think you are in Paris. And if you go from Paris to Budapest, you think you are in Moscow,” as Gyorgy Ligeti very sharply noticed, perfectly describes the location of the XXVI ISPIM Conference in Budapest. ISPIM, short for International Society for Professional Innovation Management, organized this worldwide event once a year. A place to be for everyone involved in Innovation Management, both practitioners and scholars.

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It was my first time at the conference, had the opportunity to meet lots of friends from around the globe on the one hand and meet a wide variety of new people in the field. The conference is a nice combination of scientific presentations – on the edge research in the field of innovation management, 233 presentations in total -, workshops – often organized by practitioners -, keynote sessions and a very well-done social program.

With the aim of sharing what you have missed and giving you the opportunity to learn what we have learned, I will now provide you with 5 key insights I gained from the ISPIM conference. I think I can state that these insights are currently trending within the field of Innovation Management.

1. Idea Management

While this topic, as a stream within Innovation Management theory, has been studied long before, it seems to get new life during recent years. In the past Idea Management could just have been another name for Innovation Management, but nowadays it starts focusing more on the (fuzzy) front end of innovation and questions how to generate, capture and select ideas that can then turn into interesting business cases. A few articles discuss the impact of this topic. For instance, Olga Kokshagina proposed that idea absorption is an issue: “Still, the absorption of isolated novel ideas in OI initiatives remains as an issue. […] We find that the intermediary platform can incorporate functions to automatize the absorptive capacity and facilitate further diffusion of ideas.” Or within the world of startups, where capturing ideas can be difficult: “Start-ups are suffering from white spots bringing their business idea to a successful market entry.” (Hubert Preisinger). Some of the presentations also discussed the wide variety of tools dealing with ‘idea management’. One of them Peter Robbins, who argues that design thinking can help: “They used ethnographic research; involved customers, tour operators, historians, community activists and artists, and used them to develop a portfolio of novel ideas implementation,” and TaeWan Kim who explained so-called idea camps in Korea: “In this paper, we introduced the methodology for implementing creative ideas to products or services within two or three years by presenting the idea camp case in Korea.”

While there is still a lack of a definition of Idea Management, we’ll probably run into more elaborated literature reviews and structured research on this topic in the near future.

2. Games: strategy simulation games and gamification

While serious games are already capturing business (and education) for a few years, the topic has still been underdeveloped in research. During the conference we had to opportunity to actually play a few games, such as the Foresights Cards – a card game about taking strategic decision making – and the Innovation Management Game – a business simulation game about the paradoxes of Innovation Management. Moreover, there were a few presentations about case studies on the use of serious games in a business environment. Roalt Aalmoes discussed that “serious games have the potential to become a serious tool to facilitate change processes. This research contributes to our understanding of serious gaming for change in two ways. First, it shows how serious games can be used to support change processes. Second, it provides insights how stakeholders can be made aware of introducing technological innovations using a serious game.”. Moreover, a “Multidisciplinary approach on developing innovative ideas was mixed with gamification elements, and flow experience can help break down barriers towards economics in non-business students and open their mind to such innovation,” according to Maria Bodone Harsanyi. Edward Faber proposed a model for analysing edutainment applications: “By following action research principles this study develops a comprehensive framework that enables more systematical data collection on the design and impact of edutainment applications, in particular serious games and gamification, from learning and learner’s points of view.”

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While serious games are widely studies, their implication for innovation management (and education in innovation management) has been underdeveloped in research. There is a need of much more quantitative research on this topic, because it will definitely create a disruption in innovation management.

3. User Involvement

A long-time favorite in Innovation Management, the involvement of users in the innovation process is again growing interest among innovation professionals. This year a wide variety of tools and paradigms for user involvement have been discussed. One of them being “innovation mining”: “Innovation mining is a modern social media analysis technology specifically focusing on innovation related topics. Whereas common social media monitoring techniques are mainly used to gather insights about brand perception or media impact, innovation mining aims to match technologies and product attributes with relevant user-centred applications,” according Michael Bartl. Or the so-called Living Labs method: “Within recent years it has become more important to involve end-users during innovation development processes. One approach in which end-users are involved intensively is the Living Lab approach, in which end-users are studied in their natural, real-life context,” as proposed by Annabel Georges. The Award-winning paper of Seppo Leminen also discusses Living Labs: “This paper examines the tensions, and paradoxes related to open innovation taking place in living labs. […] This study focuses on three main classes of tensions that characterize open innovation in living labs: management, users, and the way of working. Another approach that seemed very interesting is the innovation lab: “The promise of collaboration has for long been holding the attention of the academics, practitioners and policy makers alike as open innovation, user-led innovation or open source have steadily gained in prominence. Yet, meeting the grand challenges of tomorrow will require a far more extreme approach – one that enables true interaction to encourage radical innovation, crossing the previously uncrossable boundaries and leveraging technologies to tap into collaborative, rather than just collective, creativity. We propose to investigate ‘innovation labs’, an emergent form of collaborative innovation aiming to do just that.” (Anne-Laure Mention). One more presentation I’d like to mention, is about co-innovation: “To explicate customers’ behaviours and competence in co-innovation, this research will employ ‘user-innovators’ as the main body of knowledge and examine them in all stages of NPD process.” (Mai Khanh Tran).

While this topic is high flying within innovation management, one question from the public towards the presenting scholars triggered me: “Did you yourself actually used tools of user involvement in your research.” A question that still is unanswered, saying it all: disappointingly, many scholars still don’t approach (enough) their final customers in their research. A few of them mentioned that the academic world is their main target group (which it isn’t), but none of them actually collaborated (which is not the same as interviewing) practitioners, companies, users and civilians in their research.

4. Crisis-driven Innovation

This topic was brought up by only one scholar during the conference: John Bessant, famous saxophone player in the ISPIM-band and publisher of many innovation books. As noted in his abstract: “Crises, whether natural or man-made, require rapid problem solving if agencies and aid workers are to avoid the huge negative impacts of such disasters. That makes consideration of how innovation takes place in this sector an urgent challenge. Our paper summarizes the nature of the challenge and reviews experience so far in humanitarian innovation (HI). There is a second issue which we also explore. Arguably crisis conditions provide a ‘laboratory’ for exploring alternative approaches and generating novel innovation trajectories which might diffuse more widely – the concept of ‘reverse innovation’.”

A very interesting topic which I’d definitely like to hear more about in the future.

5. Networking

In Chesbrough’s 2006 book, Simard and West proposed the model of wide vs. deep ties. For Open Innovation it has long been argued that wide ties are very important. They create a source pool for knowledge and new ideas. Not surprisingly, this is probably the most important aspect of the ISPIM conference: the social program. The opening drink, the pauses, the lunch breaks, the walks through Budapest, the luxury diner at the Opera, the drink before – and after – the diner, the classical music, the bars, the boat trip, the drinks before – and after – the boat trip, the ISPIM-band, the wedding proposal during the boat trip, it all contributes to creating a lot of new wide ties. Connections that make the conference an awesome thing to be at and that will be of much more importance in the future than we could ever imagine.

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Thanks to the organisers, Iain Bitran, Steffen Conn, David Farell and the many workshop leaders for this wonderful event.