About Mark Turrell
Mark Turrell is the CEO and co-founder of Imaginatik. Mark works with hundreds of companies around the world on innovation and innovation process management. His clients include Pfizer, Kraft, Nestle, Cadbury Schweppes, Georgia-Pacific, Hallmark, Chevron, Dow Chemical, Bayer and Henkel.
Mark is also a director of Imaginatik Research, a group within Imaginatik dedicated to fundamental research in the area of corporate innovation. He publishes many research reports, writes articles and is a frequent speaker at conferences around the world.
Mark graduated in Business Studies from Cass Business School (London), with a specialization in marketing. He conducted post-graduate studies at the ESCP (Paris), following the newly created EMB program, specializing in International Business & Finance, and then at the TU-Berlin where he studied Production, Controlling & Logistics.
Mark started working on his doctorate in the Information Management department of Cass Business School. The subject was “The Diffusion of Enterprise-Wide Collaborative Applications inside Organizations: Focus on Management & Employees“. At the same time, Mark worked at Intel Europe in IT, applying his doctoral research work in a real-world situation.
Research was conducted in over 200 companies in Europe and the US, and involved qualitiative (i.e. interviews), and quantitative (i.e. analysis of server logs) research. The study was exhaustive – so much so that instead of completing the Ph.D., Mark decided instead to publish the thesis as a book and turn instead to business. The book, “Deployment and Beyond: An Executive Guide to Groupware” (1995), was self-published with around 1,500 copies sold.
Around this time, Mark left Intel IT and briefly worked at General Motors on a joint team with EDS. The experience of big company life had left a marked impression on Turrell – he knew enough about big companies to work with them, but too much to work in them.
Imaginatik was founded in 1994 by Mark Turrell and Dr. Yvonne Lindow. The company was founded around a kitchen table in Turnpike Lane (North London – off the Picadilly Line). The goal of the company was to help companies take advantage of collaboration software, focusing on people and management issues rather than technology.
We started working on collaboration and groupware projects with clients including Shell, Nestle, IBM, and Philips. We had leading edge research (through the doctorates), and were fortunate to work with the best clients with the most demanding problems.
In 1996 we shifted emphasis to look more deeply into the then-emergent area of Knowledge Management – tapping into the brainpower and experience of employees to solve business problems. We applied Knowledge Management techniques to specific problems, such as collecting case study references from sales people to support ‘Solution-Selling’ in software companies, managing the non-financial executive reporting systems, and developing effective competitive intelligence systems.
In 1998 we shifted focus once again. We realized that Knowledge Management would rapidly fragment, and that companies would start making naive technology-only decisions, rather than incorporate the deep people and management issues we had uncovered through research – and now through practice. We therefore looked for ‘the next big thing’ – something that would be at least 18 months out there to give us chance to build up expertise and intellectual property.
That area was innovation – the process of handling new things that deliver value. At the time we had been working with Pillsbury and IBM on KM projects and they were very clear about their goals: to drive organic growth through internal and external expertise, insights and creative ideas. This got us on the track of Idea Management. At that time, state-of-the-art for Idea Management (IdM) was the humble suggestion box – a rather daft approach since debunked (See Imaginatik white paper). We therefore had to invent new people-centric business processes to make the method work.
In addition, Imaginatik had to change as a firm. At the time we were more a consulting firm, making money by advising customers on what to do. 1998 was the year of the big decision – to effectively drop consulting as the core business and to become a packaged software vendor. This was a huge decision, and most of the firm’s best people left at that time (it is a diffferent world – and fortunately most of them came back again a few years later). The result though was that Imaginatik developed a world class software and technology group who was able to come up with amazing software based on the deep insights we had gleaned over the years.
Tracking up to 2005, the company has twenty employees, with offices in the US, UK, Germany and Spain. We have over 100 customers (all brand-name firms), who are really using the software. Our success stories have been written up in Fortune, InformationWeek, CFO, and FastCompany. We are the only vendor in our industry to win analyst awards for the quality of our software work (KM World & Basex awards). And we are having fun – the projects we work on are incredibly stimulating – we are changing the world through new innovation processes.
And what’s next? Keep your eyes posted – there are lots of exciting things to come!
Mark was born in Toronto, Canada. His parents are South African. He has lived most his life in England, as well as large stints in Paris, Berlin, Boston, San Francisco, Johannesburg and the French Alps. He is married and has one son.
Mark likes reading, especially business topics (although also interesting fiction and business history books). He actually enjoys travel and likes to city visits.