The SEB Innovation Forum is a biennial two day company event gathering 250 people from all kinds of functions and places. Prototypes, secret projects, and conferences. Albert Meige was invited to deliver a speech on “open innovation in a digital world”. He got a standing ovation but may or may not have used a trick for that. Here are some bits from his Q&A:

Q1 What is the role of Intellectual Property in innovation and where is this role heading?

A1 Historically IP had a downstream role: building protective walls around a product. The current trend in leading companies is upstream involvement. The old approach is all about decreasing risk. The upstream approach incentivizes the success of the project. You can’t have both at the same time.

Q2 What determines the type of reward for an external expert?

A2 Rewards are either money or knowledge. The more upstream the question, the more knowledge-based the rewards. Technical expertise applied to a narrow problem is rewarded with money. Framing strategic questions requires working with experts and learning new things.

Q3 How can silos be connected beyond the prototype stage?

A3 To take silo-busting to the next level, you need commando teams, set up in labs beyond the purview of HR and Procurement. This is the only way you can speed up the process of testing and proving the business and usage case for the product.

Q4 What is the role of philosophy and of the ‘Why?’ question in innovation?

A4 The ‘Why’ question is seldom asked, however it is the key to putting out successful products. A product reduced to its specifications does not compel the potential buyer. But a product that is the outward reflection of your core beliefs is a product you want to support. We have a philosopher on our team to help us cope with this. The ‘Why’ question is what connects the dots of our own self.

Q5 What can we do better at SEB?

A5 Seb definitely has an inferiority complex. And that’s a good thing. Be number 2. That way you stay sharp and ready. By doing all kinds of super-pragmatic things that work, SEB shows it has kept the “be #2 spirit”, and that’s how you beat complacency.
We’ll be going deeper on some of these points in the near future.