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Dr. Ripi Singh is a freelance innovation coach at Inspiring Next, a U.S. delegate for the International Organization for Standardization on Innovation Management, and Chair of NDE 4.0 for The American Society of Nondestructive Testing. Ripi has been at the forefront of innovation, intently researching and studying new standards for innovation and the ways in which those standards will affect the global economy, national infrastructure safety, and economic development here in Connecticut.

MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price first connected with Ripi in 2016 (read: Innovation Advisory and Coaching Startup), when she learned about mission and future goals of his parent company Plus4Pi. Nan caught up with Ripi at the end of 2019 to talk about his work with ISO 56000 and current state of his venture Inspiring Next.

NAN PRICE: First off, what is ISO 56000?

RIPI SINGH: ISO 56000 is basically a series of standards for innovation management launched by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2014. The ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organization comprised of experts from multiple countries who agree on certain best practices. ISO 56000 in the innovation space has the same meaning as ISO 9000 in quality. When you conform to ISO 56000, your stakeholders, customers, suppliers, partners, and employees can trust that you’re following the best-in-class innovation management process and principles.

NAN: How can innovation be standardized?

RIPI: The entire innovation community asks that question. It’s a very good question and the right one to ask. The challenge is that innovation is not a defined thing.

Invention, creativity, and ideation are different than innovation. People come up with ideas all the time, but very few can convert their ideas into products or businesses. That’s the process of innovation. It’s figuring out: How to evaluate your idea? How to ensure your idea solves a problem? How can your idea generate value? How can you implement best practices? How do you connect with customers? How do you understand the market need? How do you appreciate the competitive landscape?

It’s not a total science. There’s an art to it. Coaching innovation is like coaching someone to learn to play piano. It can be done; it just takes a very long time. It’s the same with innovation coaching and innovation standardization. It’s takes longer than we think.

And, can every piece of innovation be standardized? No. That’s why ISO 56000 is not being made as a certifiable standard. It is a guidance document—and we prefer to use the term “conformance” rather than “certification.” In the future, if the community achieves a better understanding, it might become a certifiable standard.

NAN: So, what’s the purpose of it?

RIPI: The purpose is, a company can conform to ISO 56000. It means they’re following agreed-upon best practices for things like how to generate ideas, transition from ideation to monetization, manage intellectual property and strategic intelligence, and collaborate on innovation projects with external entities.

NAN: Let’s drill down. How will these new standards impact us internationally? How will they impact the United States? And, how will they impact Connecticut?

RIPI: Internationally, it means we’re all significantly learning from each other. When we create those best practices and they become standards people can understand and implement, I think every ecosystem will benefit.

The relevance of ISO 56000 today is important because we’re going through the fourth industrial revolution, which is very rapid evolution of technology. If we want to adopt it, we need to understand how things are happening. And, if there’s is a procedure telling us how to create new products and services fast enough, with low risk and low investment, it’s a very good thing. The innovation is happening so fast, if we can’t collaborate, understand, communicate, and use the same language, many companies will end up going out of business.

These standards for innovation management will help economies, companies, and specifically a lot of medium-size businesses. This standard isn’t for companies like Google, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft. It’s for medium enterprises. It is also a great tool for those managing government investments, like the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Connecticut Innovations, to de-risk their investments.

From a local perspective, will United Technologies Corporation or Pratt & Whitney incorporate the standards? Probably not. But, their suppliers—the medium-size companies that are working with larger companies as Tier 2 suppliers—will significantly benefit because they will have processes in place. They can claim they understand innovation and comply with international standards. That’s the real benefit ISO 56000 is going to bring.

As a state, if Connecticut can figure out how to leverage these standards and we can involve local companies, universities, and suppliers, we will help create a better ecosystem.

NAN: Is there a downside for those that don’t adopt the standards?

RIPI: Absolutely. There’s a cost and effort to adopting new standards but there’s also an implication to not adopting them. If other countries and neighboring states pick up the standards, they’ll be at a competitive advantage.

We’re all on a treadmill. We must run a certain speed to stay where we are, but when new ISO standards come out, they speed up the treadmill. We have a choice: We can either run faster or get off the treadmill, or else we will be thrown off.

NAN: We talked about how the ISO 56000 standards affect things on a larger scale. How do they affect you and your business?

RIPI: When I started my innovation practice in 2014, I wrote a protocol. Many elements of the ISO 56000 standards are similar to what I had written. So, the standards have validated what I’ve been working on and given me significant confidence that I was on the right path.

My involvement as delegate for ISO on Innovation Management means the content I’ve developed will be part of future ISO 56000 standards, which will come out in the next few years. For me, that’s the pinnacle of research on innovation.

From my business perspective, in Connecticut, I’m the only delegate participating in ISO 56000 discussions. So, there’s definitely an opportunity to engage and train the local workforce and leadership on ISO 56000. I can also help local companies with the ISO 56000 implementation. I want to be a part of that production cycle because it’s good for my business—and good for our local economy.

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