Patterns of Growth- how innovation spreads and grows

Patterns of growth- how innovation spreads and grows is taken from a report by Nesta, called “In & Out of Sync”. I like this very much for all innovation understanding but here the emphasis is placed on social innovation.

Although patterns of growth vary in detail, they highlight four necessary conditions for putting innovative products, services and (different) models into practice sustainably and on a large scale:

  1. Pull’ in the form of effective demand, which comes from the acknowledgement of a need within society, and from the recognition of that need by organisations (or consumers) with the financial capacity to address it;
  2. Push’ in the form of effective supply, which comes from: first, the generation of innovative ideas (by creative individuals and teams, potential beneficiaries and users, often inspired by anger, suffering or compassion); second, the development of those ideas into demonstrably workable forms; and third, their communication and dissemination;
  3. Effective strategies that connect ‘pull’ to ‘push’, and find the right organisational forms to put the innovation into practice and;
  4. Learning and adaptation to ensure that the innovation achieves social impact, and continues to do so as the environment around it changes.

When these elements are all in sync, innovations achieve ‘resonance’ with their environment and come to appear natural, even obvious.

However, many promising innovations have foundered because critical elements were missing or ‘out of sync’. There might be wide recognition of a need – but not on the part of organisations with power and money. There might be plenty of innovative ideas, but a failure to communicate them widely or to develop them adequately. Or there might be no organisations with the capacity to implement promising innovations effectively.

If any one of these factors is deficient, the potential of the innovation will not be realised.

I just simply like this and thought I share it with you.

Source referral :In and out of sync- NESTA report. (http://www.nesta.org.uk)

Understanding innovation – the W L Gore way.

Once in a while you have to stop and reflect. Why do I keep banging away at innovation, along with countless others? Often I feel we are preaching to the converted, or the ones forced to listen just in case they miss something and are suddenly banished to hell, a non-innovating organization. A place where no one will ever listen to them and this would have been the message to free the shackles and bring them back to innovation salvation.

So here I am standing in the innovation pulpit giving the weekly sermon on innovation beliefs and principles, offering this weekly reading on the (next) ten steps to avoid in that particular sin which we all know you are certainly committing! Sometimes at the end of the sermon (or article), someone comes up and leaves an offering (comment) that sustains us a little more during the week, as we go about our business, in my case consulting, advising and researching on innovation. What a hard life we seemingly lead!

So it is one of those rare occasions you recall something truly inspirational and this is what happened to me in going back to one of the best examples of true innovation practiced and preached, the “W L Gore way”

Continue reading

Innovation as the means for Economic Evolution

It is suggested that economic growth is an outcome of the innovation trajectory we set. Today managing innovation is complex; often success is measured and valued by the creative destruction of others. The ability to ‘evolve’ is very determinant on the knowledge base, either within a given economy or within a ‘federation’ to bring together as something new, offering more value than what is on offer today.

The combining of the dynamics within innovations parts

Innovation is highly dynamic in its constant change but also in its needs of constant co-ordination of its parts.

I’ve been writing a lot recently on different issues that need thinking through for regaining a more sustaining innovation growth engine. Here I wanted to think out loud, about National issues that become more drags and not accelerators to innovation,  and then try to identify some of the reasons, and then finish with a personal reflection on the US versus European and some suggested actions needed for improving their innovation activity.

Often we forget to put our own innovation efforts into context, so I’d like to go up to the helicopter view here, maybe it helps us to relate better to some of the external barriers that need equal resolution, as we do often come up against these as we try to innovate within borders. Innovation cannot be contained, it needs harnessing but allowed to ‘move’ where it needs to go. Continue reading

Hard times need a plan, based on what-survival?

I was looking through some ‘sage’ advice from McKinsey on managing in a crisis, in really hard times, and one really got me thinking, so I thought I’d share this.

“Use the hard times to concentrate on and strengthen your competitive advantage. If you are confused about this concept, hard times will clarify it.

Competitive advantage has two branches, both growing from the same root. You have a competitive advantage when you take business away from another company at a profit and when your cash costs of doing business are low enough that you survive in hard times.”

This challenged my thinking of competitive advantage but then again hard times certainly do questions all our thinking. I always felt it was the uniqueness within, in what you offered, that separates you from your competition. This alters that perspecitve.

It seems this piece of advice boils down to the hard dollar gained by showing advantage within the market place- where it really counts, in fighting for every sale by being able to make a profit or simply cover your costs to simply keep going.

Isn’t innovation simply stripped away here-lost, forgotten, ignored, abandoned? Just thrown overboard along with any branding and this seems so stark or am I missing something here? What happens when markets come back? Maybe you have survived and you pick up the pieces. Do you agree this is where competitive advantage lies?

Perhaps this is ‘creative destruction’ and ‘innovation productivity’ in its rawest form? See my recent article on ‘seeking innovation productivity through creative destruction’ on this.

Any thoughts?

Making the first crucial steps towards innovation renewal

Firstly you have to start out with why you feel a freshening up should be required, should this be radical, distinctive or incremental. What do you actually want to achieve that takes you closer to your aspirations, not just immediate goals? Can the way you conduct innovation today meet that strategic challenge? Does it ‘advance’ on your current position?

There are a host of reasons ‘renewal’ might be needed. Today, when markets are especially tough, looking long and hard at what you have and jettisoning what you don’t need becomes essential to reposition yourself as leaner and more flexible. There are many pressing needs why you have to ‘shape up’. Don’t ignore the need for renewal.

Meeting competition in today’s market or positioning for the ‘forces’ swirling around global competition as it constantly changes the fortune for many does not simply arrive announced. You need to be prepared, to be alert, and to be agile and fit. We have to create our right environment and now is the time to question many of the ‘established’ approaches. We need to challenge them with fresher, more up-to-date thinking based on the multiple changes taking place around us constantly as much in our markets is certainly becoming more ‘fluid’, so renewal needs to be thought through irrespective. Continue reading

Seeking Innovation Productivity through Creative Destruction.

The whole issue of innovation productivity is getting more and more one of the key arguments for re-gaining economic growth. The problem becomes the real impact of ‘creative destruction’ that can often go with this.

I recently wrote in a blog (http://bit.ly/mXZjC3 ) called ‘the Risks of Dampening down Innovation Productivity” that with contracting economic performance, innovation performance suffers as well. I’d like to look at a few of the hidden or even darker sides to this, not because it is simply a Monday blues sort of thing, but there are growing implications if we don’t clarify why ongoing innovation investment is really needed and what it can often cost on society.

The tough economic times we are presently facing

We are faced with some tough times; markets are contracting, business performance is struggling to maintain its previous levels, there is increasing argument we are heading for a double dip recession, although I feel we are already in this. Jobs are tough to hold onto and even harder to find. Continue reading

The rugged final frontier of innovation – Execution.

I always smile when people talk about the ‘fuzzy’ front end of innovation, ‘fuzzy’ tells a story. I think we should name the back end of innovation as ‘rugged’ to tell an equally important story. This is the end where the ‘last five yards’ separate the winners from the losers. The race before then has been made up of often huge quantities of stamina, fortitude, planning, exploration and getting into that necessary innovation rhythm to get yourself within sight of the finishing line, the point when the product, service or business model has one final gasp and passes over that internal finishing line.

The critical passing-through and launch phase where the finished concept goes through that clear defining moment, out into judgement day, where we enter that hostile environment, the market place, sometimes to loud cheers, sometimes to defining silence.

Welcome to the real world of judgement where those experienced enough in frontier-ship  knows the terrain they are passing over, certainly not for the first time and can manage this again to have a further final successful outcome- better sales!

Hitching your wagons and moving out for the first time.

Discovering any innovation is hard work. What we all want to do is provide something new, an advancement on something that is already there, or it is simply not really innovation. We search hard for making those breakthrough moments when you hit on that undiscovered ‘unmet need’ and the market place just loves it.

Getting to this point you need to recognise all the core needs of making this journey. You need plenty of innovation capabilities to overcome many hitches in the journey of market place acceptance. Here are four:

  • Innovation execution is not a smooth process, you often have no control over making your innovation activity a steady process, it is full of surprises. It is how you manage these will determine winners from losers.
  • Innovation is serendipitous, full of fortunate discoveries, often you stumble across something that takes it further forward. Often you cannot even replicate that moment. Other times it is simply elusive until by accident and through patience you get there. You resolve the obstacle, you overcome the objection, you move on.
  • Often innovation is often less than spectacular. You get to the moment of rolling drums and voila, whipping back the covers you cry “there you have it!” You offer something less than spectacular, it is so boringly such  a ‘duh’ moment, you are ready to crawl back under the rock.
  • Your innovation execution lacks momentum. Even with lots of initial enthusiasm and best intentions, suddenly all that necessary energy dissipates and falls away. What started as a bang ended with a whimper and a desperate need to finish this off and move onto the next thing.

Why is this?

What separates successful execution innovators from the rest of the pack?

Innovation needs to be a clear discipline; there really is no getting away from it. Innovation needs to be integrated from idea to execution, to full end market delivery. It often boils down to discrete and manageable tasks well managed, well orchestrated and planned, well supported with all the best resources available to make a success of innovations implementation.

Execution, that final all-important phase needs leadership. Leadership sets the tone and communication what is important and is always ready and able to help the implementation team succeed as best they can. These leaders need three traits- 1) a bias for action irrespective of the problem, 2) knowledge and contacts in the market place themselves to gauge quickly issues and roadblocks,3) they incentivise  the execution team for providing break through solutions and moving them forward quickly.

How many times though does leadership seem to slip away at the moment of execution? They feel the hard ‘yards’ have already been covered, the innovation is ready to go and they commit a series of execution sins.

They extract critical resources at the wrong time and work them back into the organization far too early. The research group have moved on, the product manager has been re-assigned, the research didn’t cover that last concept change to check its value in the market, the final packaging design was subjected to last minute economies and runs the risk of compromising the final delivery of the product. This sin list could run on and on, you know these as they constantly happen.

The leadership had the pedal pressed to the floor so hard to get the product ready for launch, they just took their foot of this pedal at the crucial moment and the product goes ‘sliding’ out the door and simply crashes into that first formidable barrier, customer rejection and you were not ready for it. So much becomes “at risk” if you have not given the right execution focus.

Leadership needs to be immersed in the deployment zone

Leadership needs to be as much in their ‘deployment zone’ as the team assigned the job. They set and live the expectations, they define the critical deliverables, establish accountability and resolve the conflicts quickly, they install metrics that are execution specific, they actively seek commitments from the team, share in achieving them from their customers and they share the good and bad parts of the progress back into the organization. They communicate accurately and frequently, keeping on top of issues, breaking down problems, reaching back into the organization for help when help is needed. They offer true leadership, from the front.

Execution through this commitment has become mission critical and all need to see this. It becomes, over time, the force for perpetual execution. Inertia is not spoken of-ever!

The sustaining execution machine

Four attributes that need constantly developing well at the execution stage

  • Agility – that ability to simply move quickly and be adaptable. To grasp the problem, to move on it and constantly explore all the different angles that will resolve the issue and keep execution plans on track.
  • Seek healthy debate – asking, probing, and showing a constant interest in what is going on, what resolved any issues, simply having that cultural bias of ‘qualified’ risk taking and openness, discussing and learning so you are building up always knowledge and experience.
  • Effective communication– ensuring there are the mechanisms in place to ‘flag’, to help, to reach out and ask for help. Use communication not to hide issues but to seek out from others ways to break down the barriers.
  • Provide appropriate resources – the need to provide the same energy and resource commitment, skills and experience that went into the discovery and development of innovation and ensuring equal ‘vested’ interest from all is there in achieving the concepts aims at the execution time; at the moment of customer experience. Gather the resources quickly, learn fast if it doesn’t and work to find solutions that can resolve it, so it does.

The five phases of execution adventure – just keep those wagons rolling!

The ‘innovation execution emotional wave’ makes it hard ground to travel.

I was reading recently about Gartner’s hype cycle, one article written by Graham Horton gave me a thought for this piece. The hype cycle was developed to visualise the media coverage of a new technology and it goes through five distinct phases.

Actually I really think one version of this applies, with adaptation (and due acknowledgement to them) for the ongoing journey we often face in execution of a product once it has entered the market place- that hostile terrain I spoke about. We go through a real ’emotional wave’ of innovation execution.

Innovation's execution emotional wave

  • Trigger:  in this case is our execution or launch. When the product is launched and comes up against customer comment, reaction and acceptance/ rejection
  • Inflated expectations: the over-enthusiasm and expectations of the innovation meet the reality of the market place.
  • Disillusionment: Either the innovation fails to make the changes it was expected so the company needs to begin a rapid re-think or the market response has been less than overwhelmed. Enthusiasm diminishes rapidly and action needs to be taken
  • Enlightenment: The innovation on hand begins to be understood, to be adopted, to be adapted and fits within the needs of the final consumer. Sometimes this comes from heavy advertising, repackaging, repositioning or simply listening to the issues and rapidly making the necessary adjustments to match needs
  • Productivity: The adjustments have been resolved, the peaks and troughs have been worked through, and it becomes appropriate to the customers’ needs. This might have needed second and third generation modification and upgrade but it does the job it was conceived to do.

Bringing the innovation execution wagon train home is hard.

I do think new products and services do go through this ‘emotional execution wave’. Execution is hard; it is not simply the ‘last five yards’ it goes well beyond the internal finishing line. Innovation does not stop when it goes out of the organizations doors, it actually only just begins, and it has to prove itself. To make innovation work, it is only when it is in the market place, judged by customers sufficiently enough to stump up their cash we have a successful innovation. To get there is often travelling over some rough, tough terrain and the more you are exposed, the more you learn. When you execute you need to deploy a significant skill set and dedicated resource to bring home the results.

Fuzzy front ends, huh! Markets have these tasty morsels for breakfast if they, firstly, have not listened to the market needs in the first place but more importantly, have not been executed correctly. The back end, execution, is certainly rugged terrain, that final frontier to travel that is for sure.