Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shifting from occasional to Relentless Innovation

Last week I was working with a client in the midwest, trying to help build the case for making a shift from the traditional, half-hearted, unfocused and short-lived innovation initiative to a concept of consistent innovation built on a framework of processes and trained people - what I referred to as Relentless Innovation in my new book.  Those discussions made it clear to me that while many firms may need to make a switch from sporadic or occasional innovation, we innovators needed to provide a roadmap.

Below I've identified six factors that must change, and have attempted to document the starting point for most organizations, and the potential future state or result.  Note that making any one of these changes is difficult, but making most if not all of them is required for success in innovation in the long term.

From:                                                              To:
Incremental                                     Incremental & Disruptive
Continuous improvement and small changes are important, but every firm should embrace the idea that innovation must encompass both incremental and disruptive innovation.  Even if your firm doesn't intend to disrupt its own market or another market, it should at least be aware of the potential disruptions in the marketplace and prepare to defend against them.

Reactive                                                       Proactive
In most firms innovation is spawned in reaction to an identified threat or a shift in market conditions.  That means innovation is used to react to situations, rather than position the firm to be the first to market or take proactive action.  As the pace of change accelerates, waiting to react to disruptions may not leave enough time to respond effectively.

Ad-Hoc                                                         Methodology
Most innovation work in many firms is based on a method or process defined for the specific project or initiative. Innovation is ad-hoc, with few defined methods or processes.  This is inefficient but acceptable when innovation is infrequent and the stakes are lower.  As innovation becomes more consistent and the stakes are larger, defined methodologies will become far more important.

Isolated                                                          Everywhere
Innovation today is often isolated in small pockets of the organization where a visionary manager encourages innovation with her team, while the rest of the organization continues on, supporting business as usual.  These isolated pockets don't infect the organization with innovation skill or passion, and leave little trace once their work is done.  As in the previous definition, innovation is inefficient, not scalable and not repeatable.  This must change.

Occasional                                                      Discipline
Innovation is an occasional initiative spawned out of a reaction to a market threat or identified opportunity.  Once an initiative is completed, little or no innovation is enacted.  Innovation must become a business discipline, constantly engaged throughout the entire organization.

Closed                                                              Open
Traditional idea sources simply don't produce enough ideas or don't have the best insights and perspectives.  Increasingly every organization must participate in open innovation, as the breadth of ideas increases and the speed to respond belongs exists in capabilities within, and outside the organization.

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:09 AM


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