The innovation management industry is highly fragmented today, which makes it confusing to understand which methods apply to which scenarios, and what the difference is between those doing crowdsourcing, and those doing enterprise programs designed to facilitate business transformation.
All too often strategy is not influencing the behaviours and outcomes around innovation, it is simply allowing them to be left to chance. Innovation is being ‘pushed down’ the organization for others to interpret and offer their answers. This lack of alignment and top leadership engagement is one of the main causes why many organizations seem to just simply ‘limp’ along in their innovation activity.
Innovation stands in service to strategic goals such as growing market share, differentiation and disrupting adjacent markets, serving the consistent changing and demanding customer needs by spotting these and then exploiting them rapidly and effectively.
Creating clear goals and linking/aligning innovation to those more agile strategies is a vital role for CEO’s and senior executives. Senior executives must establish the manner in which innovation fits within the strategic context established by goals, vision and strategies. They cannot abdicate this role. Change is hard, so is innovation.
It’s been nearly twenty years since the publication of The Innovator’s Dilemma, the go-to book for the disruptive generation. The Economist named it as one of the six most important business books of all time. However, the term ‘disruptive innovation’ has been hijacked and used in all sorts of ways which certainly do not fit the original theory put out by Christensen. It’s worth looking again at what the theory actually entails, particularly for those that haven't read the original work; then look at some criticisms and whether the term 'disruptive innovation' should remain inherently linked to Christensen’s original idea.
We cannot get away from the reality that in most of our organizations we have a disconnect going on around innovation. Research shows a lack of engagement in non-managers, claiming that 7 out of 10 of employees are not understanding how they can make a worthwhile contribution. The cynicism around innovation has turned it into nothing more than a buzzword for many. Even at the top there is a growing gap of translating and aligning innovation that many of the middle to senior managers struggle with articulating where innovation and strategy fit within the wider corporate goals. Innovation lacks a clear identifying mechanism for all to ‘pull towards’.
“Startup success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught.”
The Lean Startup was published in 2011, yet its impact has been enormous. Companies are still getting to grips with the ideas set out in the book, most of which were not new in the first place. The value of those ideas and methods are perhaps even more valuable to large established organizations than to the startups which bear the books name. Author Eric Ries even defines a startup broadly as any "human institution designed to create a new product or service under conditions of extreme uncertainty." Let’s take a look at how the methodology helps us to innovate and create value for the customer.
There are several good case studies out there on how large organizations have implemented a corporate innovation strategy, one of those is Building a Growth Factory, by the team at Innosight. In their short ebook (96 pages), they describe how P&G and Citi discovered concerns over their ability to increase innovation, and did something about it. What then follows are a set of good practices, reminders, and self-assessing questions, which roll-up into a kind of framework / self assessment for creating sustainable innovation.
Innovation tends to focus around product performance - new products, new updates, new features. That’s why companies often think of R&D investment as the ingredient for innovation. But there’s plenty of innovation to be had in the areas that surround the product. By looking at successful innovators, we can see that they are adept at finding breakthroughs in these surrounding areas. The Ten Types of Innovation is a methodology that is particularly useful at helping us think more broadly, let’s take a look at how it works.