Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Relentless Innovation Introduction

I have written a new book entitled Relentless Innovation, of which I am, I think, suitably proud.  I hope many of you will rush out and get the book as a present for that special middle manager or senior executive in your life.  Because innovation is no longer a nice to have.  To compete in the emerging economy, you must become a Relentless Innovator.  Why?

There are several reasons that are examined in the book, but the simple answer is that there are three compounding factors, all interrelated:

  1. Increased global competition and easy access to markets.  Any firm, anywhere in the world can compete with you, due to rising technological competence, trading networks and lower trade barriers.  You don't need to worry just about your local competitors, but also regional, national and global competitors.  As global trade barriers fall and economies become more integrated, competition will only increase.
  2. The costs and barriers to enter virtually any market are falling, thanks in part to the Internet, which becomes a global sales channel, and the fact that we are acquiring more content, information and services rather than physical goods.  More money is available in developing countries to start new businesses, so watch for more new entrants attacking existing wealthy markets.
  3. These two factors mean that the pace of change is increasing dramatically, customer demands and expectations for new products and services is exceptionally high and product life cycles are shrinking.  If your innovation and new product development capacities are more lethargic or simply less capable than those of your competitors, you won't simply fall behind, your firm will simply lose relevance.
These factors point to the fact that innovation isn't a nice to have or an occasional initiative in reaction to a new threat in the marketplace.  No, innovation must become a consistent capability and core discipline in order to compete in an exceptionally fast moving and competitive marketplace.  There are companies, such as Google and P&G and 3M and Apple that understand this.  I call these firms the Relentless Innovators.  Your firm must learn what they know and adopt the methods, attitudes and perspectives of these Relentless Innovators if it hopes to stay relevant.  Your firm must become a Relentless Innovator.

There are two key factors that stymie innovation.  You know these factors and trust them.  These two factors create value for your business today.  They are called "business as usual" and "middle management".  Business as usual and middle management are the engines of productivity and short term financial profit.  They make sure business operates effectively and efficiently, with little variability and minimum risk or variance.  They enforce the rules and maintain order.  They are responsible for achieving your quarterly numbers and they are responsible for choking all the innovation out of your organization.  In subsequent posts I'll address why both are so important to efficiency and short term financial goals, and why their existing focus is so destructive to innovation.

In support of the ideas in the book I have developed a separate book website, and I have also begun to detail the key ideas in the book in a series of short PowerPoints which are shared on Slideshare.  I would encourage you to post your comments about the ideas I'm presenting and the recommendations I make at the book website or here on the blog posts about Relentless Innovation.  There is also a Facebook page about Relentless Innovation, and if the discussion warrants we can create a discussion group.

Whether you buy the book or not (I hope you will!) I encourage you to ask key questions about how your firm operates, and how it SHOULD operate.  Is there a powerful "business as usual" mentality?  Does that business as usual mentality stifle innovation?  Is innovation important to not just the success but the very survival of your business?  Who besides middle management supports and enables business as usual?  How do you begin to shift business as usual and incorporate innovation?  Can you create an "innovation business as usual?"  These questions are answered in the book, and I hope to have an online dialog/discussion with anyone who is interested in discussing the importance of consistent, sustained innovation.

Of course we'll be happy to help you think about the factors that must change in order to become a Relentless Innovator.  Changes to important attributes like the formal and informal rules that govern "business as usual" won't come easy, and helping middle managers rethink and rework their training, their focus and their compensation in order to achieve more innovation is time consuming but paramount.  There is no "right time" for innovation, and the work isn't simple, but may propel your firm into a completely different competitive capability that sustains it far after many firms that can't innovate fall away.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:10 AM


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