Ideation or prioritization? Imagine you had a choice of being really good at one, but not the other. You could be a master at creating ideas, or you could excel at selecting winning ideas, but not both. Which would you choose?
Two things intrigue me about this trade-off. First, companies spend too much time and energy prioritizing ideas and not enough on creating ideas. Second, the innovation space seems to demand a completely different set of tools and techniques for selecting ideas than the tools and techniques used for making other business decisions. In reality, there is no difference. The tools used to make everyday business decisions should be the same ones used to prioritize ideas.
marketing or R&D? It's a trick question, of course. But it's a useful question for Fortune 100 companies to consider. Has your company made a conscious choice of how it "allocates" this leadership role?
Allocating innovation to one group over the other will yield a different business result. The approaches to innovation by marketing are dramatically different than approaches to innovation by R&D, so the outputs will be dramatically different. The question becomes: which group will outperform the other? Technical-driven innovation or marketing-driven innovation?
Companies are enamored with chasing "white space opportunities." White space is the nickname for new, undiscovered growth segments. It spins the notion that opportunity lies just ahead of us. Telling colleagues you are working on white space opportunities suggests you are doing really important stuff. It is the ultimate growth endeavor, the risk worth taking. White space will save the day. I'm not so sure. I have two problems with white space. It is neither white, nor a space.
Forrester Research, Inc. has released a new publication titled "The CMO's Guide to Driving Innovation." Cindy Commander, analyst at Forrester, has outlined best practices for chief marketing officers to drive innovation across the organization. As part of the research, she interviewed senior marketers from BMW, Equifax, GE, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, LeapFrog, and Samsung Electronics America. In addition she spoke with consultants from Innovaro, InnovationLabs, and PRTM. For companies seeking insights about innovation methods and programs, this report is essential.
Parents teach their children many things: morals, etiquette, religion, sports, cleanliness, walking, cooking, riding a bicycle, reading, writing, math, discipline, safety, driving a car...the list goes on and on. What if you could give your child the life-long ability to innovate? What a gift indeed. This issue surfaced recently after a string of emails with one of our blog readers who is interested in teaching her child how to innovate (thanks, Trish!). Can children learn a corporate innovation method at such an early age?
Learning a corporate innovation method begins with formal training, and there is no better place to do that than in graduate businesss school. I am looking foward to meeting the 37 students enrolled in my MBA course at the University of Cincinnati this month. The course, "Applied Marketing Innovation," is a full credit "special topics" course. It is a fusion of Systematic Inventive Thinking and The Big Picture marketing framework. The Syllabus can be downloaded, but here are some details about it:
This course focuses on how to create value and growth through innovation in new and existing markets. Students will learn the skills of innovation and how to apply those skills within the context of a marketing strategy framework. Students will apply innovation methods across the entire marketing management continuum including strategy, segmentation, targeting, positioning, and the 4P’s. The course will be taught using interactive workshop methods and techniques throughout. Students will first experience these facilitation techniques while learning innovation. They will then learn and practice these techniques so that they can apply them routinely throughout their graduate experience and beyond.
Once you have a systematic and routine way to innovate, you are confronted with a new problem - how to decide how much innovation is enough. For many, this is odd an question. If innovation is essential for survival and growth, most people would want all the innovation they can get. But that is oversimplifying. Too much innovation can overload the system, confuse the organization, and lead to ideation fatigue. So how much is enough?
Innovating takes teamwork. Properly selected teams using a facilitated systematic method will outperform ad hoc teams using divergent, less structured methods such as brainstorming. How do you create the "dream team" for an innovation project? There are three key factors: team roles, diversity, and processes.
Innovating is hard work. Perhaps the most difficult aspect is dealing with the anxiety that comes with following a systematic process. The process forces innovators to start with uncomfortable, abstract concepts that seem silly and worthless. These are called preinventive concepts because they occur right before the moment of innovating. Successful innovators learn how to deal with ambiguity and control the anxiety at this critical moment of invention. But there is a catch: some of us are better at it than others. Fortunately, there is a way to determine if you are more or less anxiety-ridden from these effects.
Finding adjacent market spaces is an attractive way to grow. Adjacent markets are not too far away from your core business in terms of channels, technology, price point, brand, etc. Adjacent means: lying near, neighboring, having a common border, touchable. Although chasing adjacencies can be distracting, it is a much easier to sell internally. Adjacencies seem more achievable than far out, ethereal white space opportunities.
Adjacent markets are even more appealing when you apply a systematic innovation method to it. Giving yourself the gift of novelty in a new market space right next to your own seems like the best of both worlds. The trick is finding the right adjacencies.