continued its yearlong 100th anniversary celebration earlier this month in
Miami, but participants were not mulling over the past. They were looking ahead
to the future of innovation.


Practitioners joined
academics during a two-day event at Miami’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where they
explored strategies to enhance “customer-centric innovation.” The conversation
turned repeatedly to the ways technology can enable collaboration and harness
consumer insights — and lead to business breakthroughs.


The conference is
one of several global events the school is producing to coincide with its centennial. Throughout
the event, experts highlighted the latest interdisciplinary thinking, including
research from biopsychology, communication science and marketing. Topics ranged
from intellectual property management to cultivating “intrapreneurship” and
innovation “ecosystems.”


Much of the event
focused on how organizations can enlist customers to help drive innovation.


“Innovation is no
longer just for scientists,” said Pete Pizarro ’94, the conference’s alumni
co-chair, in his introductory remarks. Fresh thinking extends beyond a handful
of company engineers designing new products, he said, adding that deep customer
insights are playing a larger role and paving the way for “organizational


Morning keynote
speaker Carlos Dominguez then addressed more than 100 conference attendees.


Dominguez, senior
vice president in the office of the chairman and CEO at Cisco Systems Inc.,
delivered a dynamic presentation on the opportunities and challenges created by
rapid technological change. As the pace of communication increases —54 million
text messages are sent every two minutes, he said — leaders must be ready to
harness the latest tools.


“Video is the
game-changer for me,” Dominguez said. He went on to discuss the impact that
distance conferencing technology such as Cisco’s TelePresence promised to have
on how organizations do business. Dominguez said that TelePresence has allowed
him to remain close to his customers while dramatically reducing his travel
from four days a week to about one day a month.


He added that the
best is yet to come as video matures with tools such as on-the-fly language
translation and tagging, which will permit efficient searches of vast amounts
of digitized images.


Dominguez advised
anyone worried about the downturn to view the crisis as an opportunity to
innovate. “This is the time to do it,” he said. “Take the risk, take time to

Other conference
highlights included a panel discussion on leveraging partnerships with
customers to build innovation.


Practitioners joined
moderator James Conley, clinical professor of technology, to explore the latest
research into human thought. The panelists included Rafal Ohme, a business
psychologist and founder of LABoratory & Co., a consumer research firm that
uses neurological analysis to generate advertising insights. Ohme said his
company tries to “apply scientific findings to better understand customers,”
seeking to understand, for example, unconscious motivations. Rapid progress in
neuroscience, he said, has displaced what he called a romantic view of Homo
sapiens in favor of a “pragmatic” one that accounts for how human irrationality
and emotion influence decisions.


The human brain,
Ohme noted, is “extremely expensive” in metabolic terms, requiring significant
energy. As a result, “we think only when we have to,” he said.


While many marketers
still direct their efforts toward the conscious mind, panelist J. Duncan Berry
warned against dedicating “all our marketing efforts … to some 15 percent of
the consumer brain.” Berry is a principal at Applied Iconology Inc., a firm that
uses semiotics (the science of signs) to bridge rational and emotional
communications models. He said that conventional marketers risk “ignoring the
[unconscious, emotional and visual] highway to deep connections with


Other sessions
featured Kellogg School professors Shane Greenstein, Scott Stern and faculty
conference co-chair Mohanbir Sawhney sharing their research on creating and
managing “ecosystems” for innovation within the firm; the future of innovation
in a connected world; and building an innovative culture within established

The conference
concluded with Kellogg Dean Dipak C. Jain’s address on the future of marketing.


Jain told
participants that in addition to remaining close to customers, leaders would
have to develop other skills as well, including the ability to anticipate
change, manage ambiguity and adapt to new circumstances. He said marketers
would have to put these skills to use within a broader framework of product
innovation, process innovation and business model innovation. Of these, he
predicted that the ability to rethink one’s fundamental business in light of
new competition in a changing world would be most crucial for success.


“Think beyond
conventional notions,” Jain advised, and figure out how to offer truly valuable
solutions for customers.