Innovation is a skill, not a gift. Top organizations drive growth by nurturing and investing in innovation as a competency. One way organizations make it real is by including innovation within formal competency models.
Professor Rodney Rogers of Portland State University defines a competency as a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations. It is the persistence of those behaviors that matter most and help your organization succeed. Competency models are a useful way to formalize that behavior and make it persistent. They help describe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance. They are a blueprint for the type of person needed for a specific job. And they help diagnose and evaluate employee performance. It takes a lot of work to develop one, but it's worth it.
How do you innovate a business model? You can create new products and services within the current business model to drive growth. Or you can create a new business model and open up a whole new world of possibilities for the firm. Either innovate within the current game, or change the game. But how?
For many companies, the catalog of products is the strongest statement of brand positioning a company can make. It is your arsenal of commercialization. So imagine you could peek into the future and see a copy of your company's product catalog five years from now. What would it look like? What if you could design it now? What would you put into it? These are the questions that confront you when you use a clever innovation tool called the Dream Catalog.
The Dream Catalog is a hypothetical company catalog from the future...well into the future, beyond just the next business cycle. It is far enough out into the future that it captures the innovative thinking and imagination of today's managers. It stretches a company's thinking about its future, and it provokes a healthy discussion about possible company direction. A good Dream Catalog causes tension.
Human Resource departments often find themselves tasked with creating a more innovative climate for their firms. That can make sense given that innovation is a people activity. It's a skill, not a gift, and it can be taught and learned like any other business skill. And it is usually team-based. My advice to HR leaders? Experience innovation close to home first. Use innovation tools on actual people or HR systems before venturing out to the broader organization. This has the effect of making true believers out of the HR team, it gives them a handy reference point for other departments to benchmark, and it yields creative new approaches to traditional HR processes.
Choosing an innovation consultant is challenging for two reasons: the client is not always clear what type of innovation they want, or they are not sure what type of innovation a consultant offers. Here are three factors to consider when choosing an innovation consultant: 1. TYPE of consultant, 2. METHOD used, and 3. ROLE of the consultant.
Optimal innovation occurs when there is an equal mix of men and women using a systematic process. I have always believed this through my observation of many innovation exercises. When a predominately male group tries to innovate, results are less impressive. When a predominately female group tries to innovate, results are less impressive. Put them together and the results are amazing.
The question is not who owns innovation, but rather who owns innovation competency development. I see more companies moving in this direction. Some place this within a process excellence group while others move it right into a functional department such as marketing or R&D. Still others have dedicated resources such as GE and Diageo, two members of the MSI Innovation Roundtable. Build innovation competency and the question of who owns innovation becomes moot.
"Divide and Conquer" is: a. classic military strategy, b. a computer algorithm design paradigm, c. a collaborative problem solving approach, d. an innovation tool, or e. ALL THE ABOVE
The answer, of course, is all the above. Division is one of the five templates of innovation in the Systematic Inventive Thinking method. The others are Subtraction, Task Unification, Multiplication, and Attribute Dependency. Templates were developed by recognizing the same consistent pattern over many products so that the pattern could be applied to create innovative new products. The method works by taking a product, concept, situation, service, process, or other seed construct, and breaking it into its basic component parts or attributes. The templates manipulate the components, one at a time, to create new-to-the-world constructs for which the innovator finds a valuable use. The notion of taking the solution and finding a problem that it can solve is called "function follows form" and is at the heart of the systematic inventive thinking process. It is innovation by working backwards.
Innovation, like most other things in business, gets caught in the trap of "how do we measure results." Innovation managers at Fortune 100 companies find themselves confronted with this question in their efforts to raise the innovation capabilities. In the end, measuring innovation doesn't matter. Measuring innovation methods is where the focus needs to be.
How do you tie innovation to strategy? Professor Christie Nordhielm from the University of Michigan has developed what I consider the best single contribution to marketing thought since the 4P's. Her Big Picture framework of the marketing management process provides the context for innovating across the entire business model. Applying systematic innovation tools to each aspect of her Big Picture model can yield amazing insights at both the strategic and tactical levels of the business. It is the intersection of these two ideas...Big Picture Strategy and Systematic Inventive Thinking...that will yield consistent, profitable results. Innovation follows strategy...not the other way around.
From my experience, there are two choices in how to fund innovation: invention or development. Invention means the actual genesis of the idea, usually through a concentrated effort or workshop using a proven method. Development is what you do with the ideas that have commercial merit. Both take time and money. The choice depends on whether you think spending the money to generate ideas will yield more than a pool of funds to invest the ideas that you already have.
I've come full circle on the notion of improvisation as a source of innovation. I just finished a three day improv training program at The Second City to try to find direct application to corporate growth. I found it.
The Marketing Science Institute has formed a new Innovation Roundtable to explore common issues and challenges in the world of corporate innovation. The roundtable representatives are from Johnson & Johnson, GE, P&G, Diageo, Eastman Kodak, AT&T, Kraft, Merck, Thompson Healthcare, Praxair, Aetna, and General Mills.
What about adoption of ideas of others inside your organization? Innovators faces a particularly challenging issue getting colleagues to accept their ideas. Tanya Menon from the University of Chicago describes the paradox of an external idea being viewed as "tempting" while the exact same idea, coming from an internal source, is considered "tainted."
When you innovate on a regular basis, you create another problem for yourself...how to evaluate new product ideas to see which ones to pursue. Evan Williams has outlined a useful set of criteria to do just that in his article: "Will it Fly? How to Evaluate a New Product Idea." He has even applied the criteria to some of his own creations like Blogger and Twitter.
People often ask when is the best time to innovate: early in the pipeline process, middle, or late. Teams tend to resist innovation late in the process when they are busy launching a new product. Teams tend to resist innovating in the middle of the NPD process because they are too busy developing the next generation product. Teams tend to resist innovating early in the process because they are too busy developing franchise strategy. So when is the best time to innovate? Anytime.
The key to becoming extremely effective at innovation is to learn all the tools and templates that help create an initial, undefined construct, or what innovation researchers call "the pre-inventive form." This ability to apply a template, then find a useful purpose for the for what comes out of that template is what allows one to innovate on demand. Templates "make" people innovate.
Innovation should be viewed as a skill, not as a gift reserved only for special or uniquely-talented people. Innovation can be learned as with any business skill such as finance, process excellence, or leadership.