Where is innovation happening?
Well, we did - to a point. These firms are constantly generating new marketing slogans, advertisements, and product designs. Yet not one of them seems interested in processes or software to support innovation. In fact, the "creative" types in these organizations that we've worked with have indicated that they view it as "beneath" them to suggest that they'd want or use such tools and processes. The problem you encounter in some of these firms is the cultural aspect. These firms already consider themselves "innovative" - why would they need cultural or process change? What can an outsider tell us about innovation?
A good counter example has been the amazing reception we've received in industries where you'd never think that any innovation was occurring. In fact, in some of the most down and dirty, commodity businesses imaginable, innovation is taking off and those firms are clamoring for help with their culture, processes and systems. I guess it's a recognition that they know what they don't know, and are willing to ask for help.
One of the best examples to me that innovation is entering the mainstream consciousness is the fact that Ford is running a series of advertisements stressing its differentiation around innovation. When a Big Three car company gets on the innovation bandwagon, you can rest assured that innovation is entering mainstream thought. Now the question is - will they be an innovation company that merely talks about innovation without processes or tools, or will they, like many companies fighting for differentiation, change their culture, their tools and their processes to really implement innovation?
Real investments in innovation are being made in what may seem very unlikely places. I've seen more focus on innovation in industries that most folks would consider commodities, or even ones that might not remain long in western countries, since their labor and manufacturing costs are so high. The rationale most of these firms have for innovation is the need to 1) continue to find the best way to design, make and deploy their products and 2) find the next new product or service before their competitors do.
That's where innovation matters and that's where I want to be.