How do you measure innovation?

I’m writing this post for two reasons.

First, you may have received in the last day or two an email from me, asking you to participate in a survey about innovation @ SWIFT (if you are a SWIFT employee) or about Innotribe (if you are in the financial community). After this was sent I received calls and mails asking whether it was really from me and not spam – I can confirm it is really from me, and that indeed it’s only one question. And please, do help us by spending the 2 minutes required to fill it in. Much appreciated ūüôā

Second, to tell you about why we (the Innovation team @ SWIFT) are doing this. And it’s quite a big subject, one which you may contribute to shape in the future.

As the Head of Innovation @ SWIFT, I discuss quite often the following topics with the executives of my company and our community:

1. how do you measure the innovation rate of our company and/or the financial community ?

2. ¬†how do you measure the impact of an innovation team? And let me make sure you understand this correctly – I recon the objective of an innovation team is not to innovate within the close limits of that team, but rather to foster and enable innovation in the company and the community. This certainly is the objective of the innovation team @ SWIFT (some of you will remember that I always start my speeches by saying that “My team does not wake up every morning with ideas. Many people do, and it’s the job of my team to spot these people and remove barriers they may face”).

Here’s the basic thought process we go through.

First step of the reasoning: ¬†as the innovation team is the facilitator for innovative ideas, the key performance indicators (yes yes the KPI word ūüėČ ) of the team cannot be associated to the ultimate results of the products/services resulting from the original ideas (new revenues, new clients, new business models). In the end, it is the company and the community that has to bring these new products and services to the market, not the innovation team.

Everybody agrees so far.

The second step follows logically: if we cannot measure the ¬†ultimate impact in terms of bottom line revenues, then we need to assess how the innovation team increases the capacity of the company and the community to –

1. create the internal and external networks of people who are influencers and shapers of the future directions for innovation,

2. generate new ideas,

3. formulate concretely and specifically the ideas,

4. assess the validity and commercial appeal of the ideas.

This gets much more concrete and we start discussing the tools that the innovation team brings to the table in these areas and the associated KPIs. In the innovation team @ SWIFT, these things are mapped to –

1. internal and external contacts we have outside of the “traditional” circuits,

2. Innotribe internal and external idea generation facilitated events (active prospecting)  and (passive prospecting),

3. Budgets and resources to shape ideas in terms of proof-of-concepts and prototypes,

4. Budgets ands resources to shape R&D or incubation projects to bring ideas to the point where their commercial viability can be tested with pilot clients.

At this point, everybody still agrees, albeit as you can imagine there is a healthy amount of discussions about the stretch targets of the KPI indicators. And actually some KPIs get agreed as stakes in the ground.

The third step of the thought process is when someone says: the KPIs are all good and fine, but are we really measuring the progress of the innovation culture in the company and the community? It’s a wake up call, because soon we realize that we are only scratching the surface.

The truth is not only in the numbers, it’s also in what people perceive at the end of the day. And we all know perception is the truth.

Thus, we come back to the survey with which I have started this blog post: the ultimate measure of my team’s success is finally what you – employee of a member bank, corporate, market infrastructure, partner, journalist, outsider, staff – think about our efforts.

So we are reaching out to you, to establish a baseline of where we stand in our efforts, and focus our future ones.

It’s a very deep, honest and, I’ll say it, humble approach. Please be deep and honest in your responses. And also, get your comment of any kind posted, the team is really looking for a discussion on all above!

Kosta (@copernicc)

Innotribe, back to school in Stanford university

In my last post I told you about how Petervan (@petervan), Mela (@mela_atanassova) and I were the #Innotribe representatives at #IIW12 (Internet Identity Workshop #12) in California, on 3-5 May 2011. In that week, we also went back to school and had immense fun with professor Andreas Weigend and his Social Data Lab students at Stanford University. We were also joined by Venessa (@venessamiemis), our friend and part of many Innotribe adventures.

Introducing Andreas. He is a very, Very, VERY energetic, passionate, inspiring, fun guy. He used to be chief scientist at where he was part of building what they are now. We got in touch with him while doing research for our upcoming Innotribe@Sibos 2011. He has a healthy german accent and he likes varied and quality food, as I do, so we immediately connected. And, he is very very sharp.

I teach the course The Social Data Revolution: Data Mining and Electronic Commerce at Stanford University, and the executive MBA course The Digital Networked Economy at Tsinghua University and INSEAD.My courses focus on how the data people generate by interacting with each other and with the world can be used for better decisions about how to spend attention, money and social capital. I bring my broad industry experience into the classroom, exploring real-world scenarios and solving real business problems

So, we went to Stanford for an afternoon, first to just listen in to the class of Andreas, and then to run an Innotribe Lab with his class.

First, about the campus itself – we were blessed with a perfect sunny weather and the campus looked amazing!

So, we all first went to listen to Andreas’ class – we sat down with about 40-50 students. For this particular class, Andreas had invited an alumni, less than 30 old, telling the class about his latest startup. If I understood correctly, he was at his startup #4 already….¬†Yes, this is California indeed…

After that, we ran a lab with the students. The idea was to see what is at the intersection of banks and social data/media.The format was the “usual” (if there is anything usual about it … ūüėČ ) Innotribe lab – highly interactive, small groups, full of energy – all this scribed beautifully by Mela.

I must say, I was a bit afraid… What were all these young people going to thing about us, representatives of the banking community that these people don’t much care about. Well, kudos to them, they engaged with us and totally wholeheartedly!!!

Some conclusions –

  1. Banks will become digital. In other words, from the current status of safekeepers of currency, to safekeepers of digital assets.
  2. Digital assets are really social data: things that we share with other people, and that other people say about us. eBay reputations,LinkedIn profiles, Facebook profiles, etc
  3. Wish for banks to become more transparent and ethical: transparent as to how/where do they invest their (our) money
  4. Opportunity for banks to become social (actual or virtual) community hubs. This rang so many bells with me, remind me to write another blog about my old “village” banker some day.

And, at the end, so much enthusiasm and honesty from these students. They told us something that will remain in my heart: that they enjoyed having met us, representatives of the banking industry! I do wish they keep a nice, warm image of SWIFT.

Thank you again Andreas, Aldo, Alex, Ali, Jaso, Karthik, Pao, Sebastiaan, Ben, Alan, Becky, Fontaine, Michelle, Emma and many others.

Our paths will cross again.


Have you ever been to an unconference? You should!

Last week Petervan and I went to the 12th edition of the Internet Identity Workshop (#IIW hashtag on Twitter) in Mountain View, California.

The conference was part of a very intense trip centered on the topics of digital identity and social data. The goal was to progress our thinking and the incubation project on this subject, and prepare for Innotribe@Sibos in Toronto (where digital identity will be a key topic). ¬†We were also joined by¬†Mela¬†¬†who started preparing an important Innotribe event in October as part of a major conference in California (we can’t yet talk about it as the organizers are ironing out the last details before going public, but watch this space… It will be, to use a very californian expression, awesome!¬†¬†).

I’ll come back to the social data and the October conference in future blogs, let me focus here on the IIW conference.

1. Unconference

The first AHA moment for me was the format – a conference that is an “unconference”. What this means is that there is no pre-defined agenda, and the first thing that happens every day is the actual agenda setting for the day.

On day one, we started by the introductions. We all (in excess of 200 people) sat around in a circle, and the moderator asked each one of us for our name and a short introduction. It took a while, but it is a surprisingly effective way to understand who is in the room (and I can tell you there were quite some movers and shakers in there!), and to put some faces on the names. Well worth the time spent and much much better than a simple list of participants on a piece of paper.

Then we went on the agenda setting. ¬†Still in the circle, everyone could now propose a session topic and “pitch it” to attract people to it. There were numerous topics, and while this was going on, I figured that Petervan and I could be much more involved than simple participants, so (to Petervan’s great surprise¬†¬†) I raised my hand and proposed the following topic for the two of us to host:

“Is there a role for banks to be digital identity providers, and, if yes, is there money to be made in this business?”

The people around tended to display their appreciation to topics (hey, this is California!) so by the cheers and heads nodding we immediately knew we had the attention of many people.

After this is all done, the people who have proposed topics went to a big board that had all the time slots and rooms displayed, and, in an apparent chaos very similar to souks in Morrocan cities  , they found a time and place and stuck the description of their session on the board.

When the dust had settled, there you had it: an excellent agenda for the day! I was amazed! And this happened at the beginning each day. At the end of each day, people regrouped in the circle and shared the key points of the sessions.

2. The people

IIW, in its 12th edition, is clearly the place to be of you are interested in the social, legal and technical issues that arise with the identity, data and social layer of the internet. It is part of the IdentityCommons. I’ll be too long if I explained here the IdentityCommons, so I’ll let you read about it on their¬†wiki¬†. An interesting bunch and way to organise themselves.

The 12th edition had people from all horizons – from developers to policy makers, from newbies to very senior industry figures, from technologists to social sciences observers. Here is a sampling of the interesting people I met and some suggestions for you to follow on Twitter:

– Kaliya Hamlin (@identitywoman), aka “the identity woman”, named by journalists as one of the “most influentual women in tech”. Co-organiser of the event, expert in user-centric identity and end-user privacy advocate.
– Doc Searls (@dsearls), another co-organiser, one of the authors of “The Cluetrain Manifesto¬†” (recommended reading!), editor of the Linux Journal and open source advocate.
– Tony Fish (@tonyfish), author of “My Digital Footprint¬†” (another recommended reading) and venture capitalist.
РCraig Burton (@craigburton),  a visionary and clearly one of the most respected persons at IIW, creator of netware open systems (while at Novell), the internet service model and other things that we use every day on the internet.
– Drummond Reed (@drummondreed), CEO of
– Don Thibeau (@4Thibeau), executive director and chairman of the OpenID Foundation
– Andreas Weigend (@aweigend), was chief scientist at, now professor at Stanford and director of the social data lab.
-Mary Hodder (@MaryHodder), founder of Dabble, a video search and metadata company, writes at Napsterization about disruptive technologies
РGary L Thompson (@anewcloud), co-founder of Cloud, inc ( )
РVenessa Miemis (@venessamiemis), a well know blogger on technology and innovation ( ), and a regular at Innotribe events
– @Heathervescent, “edge-walker” and researcher in the field of digital identity.

3. Take-away

I’ve been way too long already in this blog (thanks for reading, if you made it to here¬†¬†), so, at the risk of reducing the richness of the conference considerably, I’ll focus one just this one AHA take-away:

Digital identity is not about authentication. Digital identity is about social data.

To illustrate, look at the picture below Рit s a representation of me, Kosta Peric, as produced by an application that scans the web in search of my name. The app is part of a research program at MIT, you can try it for yourself here .

What it shows in fact is a “digital persona”, a collection of social data about me. “Social data” means data that I have shared through various channels (twitter, linkedin, blog posts, etc).

Moving forward, digital identity will be about managing and protecting digital personas and the associated collection of social data.

This trend is summed up in what is now called VRM РVendor Relationship Management. You can read about it here .  To put it simply: VRM will be about controlling how vendors and merchants will access your data in electronic transactions.

How do you think this may be used by banks? By SWIFT?


(and BTW, Petervan’s and mine session at IIW was packed!¬†¬†)

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