The 4 Laws of Enduring Innovation Success

7 04 2010

[tweetmeme]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?[tweetmeme]






Innovation meets Adolescence (Part 2)

7 10 2008

 

So what are the signs of the continuing development of enterprise use and adoption of innovation tools and techniques? 

We already covered in a previous post (see “Death of the Chief Innovation Officer”) the first of these signs – that of the increasing presence of dedicated innovation roles.  People dedicated to ensuring the company is innovating effectively, sustainably, and in the direction the company needs to go in – ensuring that a constant stream of new sources of competitive advantage and shareholder wealth are being discovered. 

Innovation has also achieved cross functional awareness – and whilst in the past Innovation would’ve been the sole domain of R&D or Marketing – we now see innovation happening in multiple parts of the company and even in between companies.  Companies are expecting innovation everywhere and looking across multiple Innovation Dimensions (read my previous paper on Innovation Dimensions which goes into this in more detail)  in search of differentiating factors which will set them apart from their competitors. 

In the past, companies would be pleasantly surprised if they achieved new sources of value. The price points for trying innovation was low, and the expectations were similarly low (I remember one FMCG company I worked with back in 2002 whose idea of a success story was pointing to the new names for the conference rooms that their employees had collaboratively devised). The same can definitely not be said for today’s innovative enterprise. 

Companies are also moving quickly up an innovation target maturity curve, each time tackling more complex projects that have an increasingly high potential impact on the business (see Innovation Complexity Curve post for more). As usual , it is the industries that face a quicker pace of change that are leading the charge up this curve as their need for innovation is equally strong. 

All of this points to an enterprise landscape where innovation is seen as a critical element of business strategy. This is no longer an experimental venture, but a strategic CEO supervised initiative. It has senior process leadership and senior project sponsors for each individual project run. There are now explicit goals and metrics tied to the bottom line welfare of the company. Failure is no longer an option – and the failure to create new forms of value for the company is a matter for very serious concern – not least of which because it is now a much more costly failure to endure. As a result experienced innovation heads are becoming increasingly valuable and companies are also increasingly looking for external advice and guidance from consultants and vendors who can lead them by the hand to demonstrated success.  

So there you have it – my observations on where the innovation industry is at this point in time – if I’ve forgotten to address any elements, or you just want to throw me a curve ball – by all means leave a comment and I’ll try my best to address it – Happy Innovating! 





Innovation meets Adolescence (Part 1)

30 09 2008

 

Following on from my previous post on the Death of the Chief Innovation Officer (and the forthcoming rise of the VP, Innovation!), I’ve had several people now ask me about the rest of the contents of that presentation I gave on the “State of Innovation” – where is Innovation today?  

I personally believe that Innovation is continuing to mature – if we looked at the track of the adoption curve for Innovation as a sustainable business process, my feeling is that it looks somewhat like this:

 

Back in 2001 when I first got involved with Innovation and Idea Management – we were most definitely selling to the Innovators out there. They behaved in typical Innovator fashion – looking for shiny objects, reading up research to get the latest and greatest in whatever business tools are out there, very little sensitivity to risk, and generally regarded as mavericks within their companies. 

What we’ve gone through in the last 7 years is the maturation of that market – and with that a change in not only who’s doing innovation, but also how they’re doing it, and what they’re looking for.  It’s also signaled large scale changes in the market and how innovation is perceived and marketed by vendors.  

Let’s look at the most obvious indicator – the market landscape: In 2001, there were really only a few very small vendors out there – they were highly fragmented and tended to focus on niche elements of the innovation arena. I remember speaking to an industry analyst from Forrester at the time who told me that despite the fact that they loved our product “if you don’t have competitors, you don’t have a market”.   We were missionary sellers to a market that didn’t know what we had or how to use it – and when they did use it, they tended to focus on using it to replace the old school system of paper based suggestion boxes and Excel spreadsheets.  It was hard to find someone who could understand the potential in what vendors were trying to sell them – and even harder to find someone willing to look at committing the time, energy and resources into making it sustainable. Only serial entrepreneurs and mad men would dare enter the market at this point (and yes, we were both ;p ) .

By 2004, several more vendors had shown up on the scene – the market became more identifiable, people began to string applications together to make more robust products that the client could understand, and I had that same analyst now tell me that “consolidation will happen in this marketplace – I know of a company who is going to buy you soon”.  At this point there started to be people who “got it” on a more regular basis – although they still tended to be predominately mavericks or “movers and shakers” in the company who were out to make an impact and saw an opportunity to do something no one else had.  Of course, this led to a boom and bust period for corporate innovation programs as these maverick leaders would make a big impact in the business world and then have to face the consequences  – namely they would either:

a) Get Promoted
b) Get given more areas of responsibility in order to kibosh their rebel rousing ways
c) Get hired by someone else in their industry who wanted the magic formula
d) Retire (because another frequent profile of sponsor were near-retirees looking to make a last ditch impact and had nothing to lose

The market today is very different yet again – with a multitude of small vendors starting to flood the markets but ultimately the main market sticking to the few bigger vendors who serve defined markets but have multiple unique selling points to differentiate themselves as they try to find what the mass market that’s coming ahead really wants and needs. Financing is becoming easier because institutions are beginning to actually understand what is meant by the various terms that are used in the marketplace, and what the business proposition is.  Enterprises as a whole are starting to understand – and nowadays, if they aren’t actively approaching the vendor market in some way, it doesn’t take them long to figure out how it can be useful to them.  The market is rich with options – both from the software world and from the consulting world – big and small – local and global – there’s a vendor who can satisfy the market’s needs.  Prices are high, but so are the rewards for sustainable innovators – and the current recession is only going to strengthen the innovation agenda (see my entry on this topic for more on recessions and innovation). 

My personal feeling is that we’re about to begin tapping into the Early Majority stage of the adoption curve now having crossed the Innovator’s Chasm (the make or break point for any concept or product where you have to bridge the gap between the Early Adopters and the beginning of the mass market that is represented by the two majority groups) at the beginning of 2007. 

Of course the most interesting changes are happening at the enterprise level – and there are several major trends that are also pointing to this upcoming maturation in the enterprise application of innovation tools and techniques.  But that’s a story for another posting… 🙂 





Death of the Chief Innovation Officer?

17 09 2008

I recently did a presentation to a large nationwide insurance company around “the state of innovation” today. it was an interesting opportunity to reflect upon some of the major changes that I’ve been noticing going on over the last year. 

As this was a pretty senior audience, it was no surprise that one of the items that caught their attention was the state of innovation leadership and how innovation is staffed and led in the modern enterprise. 

One of the biggest changes I think is the death of the Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) role. As unusual as it sounds for someone like me to be proclaiming that – I have good reason for my assertion – other than the evidence of numerous high profile CIOs leaving their employment over the last year or so. 

In reality – it’s not that companies don’t have the need for the CIO role – but rather that I think innovation has become such a critical part to most company’s future that it has been rolled into a much more important role – that of the CEO.  Try finding one CEO statement on any financial report that doesn’t mention innovation nowadays – and I absolutely applaud that approach.  Innovation has the capacity to make big – no HUGE – changes to a company. Take Nokia – innovation has taken it from being a forestry company, to a rubber products company, to a telecoms behemoth – without complete executive support for the type of changes required to innovate, it simply wouldn’t have happened. Innovation has to be about helping the organization achieve a direction and goal that it WANTS to achieve – and ultimately there is only one person in the organization that has the ultimate responsibility for that – the CEO.  

That’s not to say that organizations can get away without some sort of senior leadership – far from it – that leadership is as important, if not more important, than ever before – but it now is coming from a position that is junior to whomever leads the major change directions within the organization – in some orgs that comes under a Chief Strategy Officer, in Consumer Products companies that is typically the Chief Marketing Officer, in  Pharmas and other research intensive companies it falls most likely under the R&D department – and in some cases it’s a position that reports directly to the CEO. 

This new role – most frequently then an SVP / VP of Innovation – is the guardian of innovation within the company – ensuring processes are devised, targeted and executed to enable the org’s strategic goals to be achieved. They are the ultimate problem solving expert in the company – helping to not only define the problems that must be overcome, but then also to define the methodology by which they can be solved and ensuring that the organization’s resources are made available to do so. They are the champions of change, the focusing lens of innovation, and ultimately the secret to a successful program. 

The CIO is dead! Long Live the VP, Innovation! 








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