Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Creating Innovation "pull"

As I work with a number of senior executives, it's clear that they want their organizations to become more innovative. Some of them talk about the importance of innovation so much that I think it becomes a distraction, especially since innovation is usually poorly defined and abstract. Also, in some cases innovation becomes the strategy rather than an enabler to achieve other goals or strategies like organic growth or strategic differentiation.

So, in many companies, the strategy for encouraging innovation is what I'd call innovation "push" - the senior leadership will push innovation into the business. What I'd like to recommend, and what I think you'll find is common in most successful innovation firms, is what we call innovation "pull". Rather than talk about the importance of innovation, what I'd like to see more firms do is simply place a requirement for growth or differentiation in each line of business, business function, product team or other organizational unit. For example, we could tell each line of business that we expect it to grow X% next year, and that each line of business should indicate what innovative products, services, business models or tactics it will apply to drive that growth. Or, stealing a move from 3M or P&G, we could set an expectation that X% of all sales must come from products released in the last 18 months. The key is to move away from advocacy to real plans and measurements.

This creates pull - because now the businesses or product groups have to identify innovative products or services, and have to demonstrate the results of their innovation efforts. Building innovative programs or initiatives into the plan for the year, or for several years, and then demonstrating the actions and outcomes and being measured and rewarded for those efforts is what will create innovative thinking and efforts in the company.

When the teams are expected to innovate, and measured on innovation, and rewarded based on their work and efforts, then there's much less need to push innovation - you've created the incentives for innovation to take hold and succeed - now you'll need to provide the resources, processes and people to make innovation successful.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 2:26 PM


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Blogger Flor said...

Great Post, I've just started my own blog on motivation, inspirationd and innovation. The whole idea is what you have just rounded up in a few paragraphs. I think instead of pushing innovation, it's a matter of motivating your people and ispiring them to search for more. Innovation should come on it's own. I don't believe in planned innovation, innovation happens, you might have mechanisnms to help, but it comes on its own and ussually from the lower part of the company. ALl you have to do is listen!

6:55 AM  
Blogger Germanglo said...

very interesting post!
I agree with your comments about giving responsibilty for growth towards each individual line of business! It is also when it comes to psychology necesary that each individual unit gains responsibilty for their work enabling them to work more effectively and realistic rather then getting pushed towards unreachable targets by the seniour management!
Nevertheless, I would elaborate on the innovational pull more! Isn't the meaning of innovational pull more getting the ideas from your clients and partners and then inventing something which automatically has demand for!
Rather then pushing products by expecting the market to buy and love it!?

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