The 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation Success

7 04 2010

Always an avid reader of the Financial Times, (one of the few decent news sources in an otherwise barren information landscape here in the US)  I came across a great commentary/review by the FT’s always fabulous Lucy Kellaway on the “Money-Honey’s” (CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo) recent book “The Ten Laws of Enduring Success”.

Lucy does amusingly short work of debunking the 10 laws that Maria came up with, and proposes a few laws of her own instead.

Lucy’s Laws were so much better formulated (in my opinion) that it got me thinking about the “Laws” of successful Innovation programs – not least of which because I think the first couple would be the same as the ones Lucy came up with.

So, here are my 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation Success:

1) Be Lucky – no matter how many different ways you squeeze it, Innovation is about luck.With your typical long term program “failing” 75% of the time, there can be no doubt that it takes a certain amount of luck to be successful – especially over the longer term.

You are in essence, shooting into the dark with most innovation programs – trying products and processes that haven’t been tried before in your company, your industry, or sometimes even the world.

That’s not to say you can’t improve your chances of getting lucky though. Unlike with the Las Vegas casinos, no one will kick you out of the game for learning the innovation equivalent of card counting techniques. Indeed, in this game, cheating of any form is encouraged; and banding together in casino-busting style innovation teams with other individuals and companies is heavily rewarded.

By setting up and executing robust innovation strategies and processes you are in essence increasing the predictability of the Lucky Breaks you get – And in Innovation, Luckier is most definitely Better.

2)  Be Ambitious – There’s an old saying: “Fortune Favors the Brave” – and nowhere else is that truer than in the Innovation game. To score big, you have to aim big.  If you only look for incremental ideas, then that’s all you’ll get.

During my time at Imaginatik, we used to make the bold claim of being able to consistently achieve “a 10x ROI on your investment”.  How did we make sure that happened? By making sure that the problems being targeted by the client’s innovation strategy were big enough to achieve at least that. And you know what? It worked.

3)  Stay Focused – Running an Innovation program at a big company is kind of like a subscription to a “Shiny-New-Toy-Of-The-Month” Club.  It’s easy to get distracted by the current toy sent to you. It’s easy to forget to go to the mailbox for the following month’s toy because you’re having too much fun with this month’s toy still. And after a while, it’s easy to forget the reason you shelled out so much money to get the subscription in the first place.

To that end, maintaining a laser-like focus on what you’re trying to achieve is imperative for an innovation program.  Your Innovation strategy needs to be revisited constantly and attacked with the same brutality for embracing change as you’re demanding from the organization with the innovations that you are introducing.  Your strategy needs to be a fluid structure with one constant– “How can I best drive significant business results and organic growth for my organization?” – and you should make sure that your processes and actions are targeted at achieving that goal.

4)  Embrace Everyone – not in a “creepy guy who keeps looking at me funny” way – but rather in a “let’s talk to, and get input from, as many different people as possible” in your quest to solve your corporations problems.

Innovation, more so than any other business discipline is leading the way in the upcoming socialized business revolution. That revolution will herald a new era where a company’s potential knowledge-base of solutions is no longer limited to the company walls, nor even close collaborators, but will instead embrace a global audience of potential participants.

To do this, you’ll need to begin to develop new skill sets that will involve learning how to identify which communities of people provide you with specific types of input; learning to set up and drive Social Teams to turn subsets of those communities into useable and active groups that will help you achieve your goals; and learning how to make those groups self sustainable so as to make sure they’re constantly available to you as a resource.

That’s it – 4 simple laws for ensuring that you not only become successful, but also stay successful. Keep these 4 on a post-it on your desk, on a poster on your wall, or as the screensaver on your laptop – whatever works for you – just do them!

Do you have any other Laws to Enduring Innovation Success?


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8 responses

8 04 2010
Heinz Essmann

Hi. Very interesting post!

Regarding point (1), “Be(ing) Lucky”, companies need to try many things (failing possibly 75%) but not too many that you are spread too thin. Its a difficult balance to achieve – and thats why I see Innovation Portfolio Management as vital. Failing fast and failing smart (i.e. learning and absorbing those lessons) also helps! I don’t think you can ever increase the predictably of a single initiative through this, but the predictability of your portfolio does improve (although it will never be fully predictable, even if you had an infinite portfolio – due to “Black Swan” events).

Being ambitious, staying focussed and embracing everyone (as you put it) will however increase the odds of a single initiative (and obviously your portfolio of initiatives).

Thanks for the post!

13 04 2010
@speakology

let’s add a subset to Be Lucky compliments of sam parker of givemore.com:
1. prepare. work hard to be ready for the opportunities that are important to you. research. practice. perfect.
2. be awake. pay attention to the people, events, and things around you. evaluate logically and trust your gut instinct.
3. take action. put yourself out there. explore. be vulnerable. make contact with people. take risks.
4. expect positive results. optimism improves your chances. if (when) you fail, embrace the lesson and continue on, smarter

13 04 2010
Entrepreneurship in a Nutshell: Aim High, Baby | Innovate Arkansas

[...] outlining his “4 Laws of Enduring Innovation,” the Complete Innovator charges entrepreneurs to be ambitious.  (And, he includes the awesome photo [...]

15 05 2010
David Constantine

1. Vet your ideas – Be sure you’re talking to everybody and anybody about what you’re working on.
2. Find some help – Utilize the resources around you to get help for your business.

http://www.masschallenge.org
We’re currently accepting entries for the world’s largest business competition.

15 05 2010
Jonathan Vehar

Love these four laws! Nice way to boil it all down to the essence although I’d add one more: Make sure you’re humble enough to walk the talk — If you and other leaders aren’t REALLY listening to the ideas of others because you think you know it all, then that lack of humility and integrity will cause the whole thing will fall apart faster than a philandering politician’s campaign when he’s caught in the act.

18 05 2010
Boris Pluskowski

Many thanks all for the comments and additions so far – love them! Keep them coming!

and Jonathan – surely you meant to say that it would “fall apart faster than a politician’s spontaneous hike on the Appalachian Trail”?…. :)

1 06 2010
Silvia Zamboni

Interesting post! Seneca, a Roman Stoic philosopher, wrote: “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and I think he was right.
I agree with your 4 rules, but I think the the first one needs a (corporate and individual) preparation in term of propensity to experiment and risk, balanced by a portfolio in which not all the innovation will have a 10x ROI. Embrace everyone being focused, could be my review of the last two together, because the huge amount of information that we can collect today has to be analyzed and read throught the lenses of your business opportunities, maintaning your focus especially on your dynamic core competences.
Collaborate with the right partner (and the right way of sharing your confidential information) could be related to the last rule. How to build up a partnership or even a strong collaboration is another big chapter!

3 06 2010
Brendan

Interesting post!

An additional law for enduring success may focus on imitation barriers. Inevitably imitators attempt to grab a piece of the market share and become competition following successful innovation. This is particularly true because it is not a static achievement, but a dynamic process.

However, some of the comments focus on innovation as a random/experimental process. Blue Ocean Strategy (www.strategizeblue.com), something to consider, views innovation as a systematic process rather than trial and error.

Touching on my previous point, the sustainability and renewal of strategy is important to successful innovation endurance. I look forward to your future posts!

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