We seem to pass over distinctive innovation, why?

I see so many suggestions on the types of innovation, actually I’ve offered a few myself, just go and take a look at http://cirf.pbworks.com for a different slant on this . For me, one ‘type’ of innovation that seems always to be often passed over is distinctive innovation in discussions. Why is that?

Most people work away in the trenches of incremental improvements and these outputs make up the vast substance of innovation activity.  Many working in these trenches of innovation on a daily basis would love to be part of a breakthrough but tend to find this is always ring-fenced for a few others to work upon. All they can often do is gaze over the fence or quietly accept this divide simply goes on.

I believe many who work within innovation simply do not share in this delineation of innovation activity, as it divides talent into separate teams, often pitting scarce innovation resource against each other, often in many unseen ways.  This divide of activities is often a real pity but perhaps another story for another day we can explore.

Disruptive innovation is seen, partly by the way it has its effect on us and our lives. Many of us are always happy to discuss disruptive as long as it does not have an impact on ourselves, on the receiving end. As long as we are the ones doing the disrupting, or just wanting to show off the status as being early adopters or within the early majority of the innovation adoption curve, then we love disruption. Otherwise it is a very uncomfortable space many are not prepared to travel too. Continue reading

Risk aversion is just making us all feel ordinary

It really depresses me when you hear the remark “actually, in all honesty, we have no appetite for innovation, we are so risk averse.”  Actually it is heard a fair amount if you ask about risk and innovation. This is often never stated in earshot of others within the same organization, it comes in a sudden burst of honesty, perhaps over drinks, and always outside their ‘normal’ working environment.  Sometimes you have a rare exception, especially if you have been called in to help, when someone has just been appointed into the position to simply “do something about innovation, we are dying as an organization”

We all need meaning but we don’t like the risks associated with it

I was reading an excellent article by Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer on “How leaders kill meaning at work” and they offer the insight about the lack of recognition that everyone within any organization requires as the single most important need,that  is the feeling they are making progress in meaningful work. Managers often undermine the meaningfulness of work to us as individuals; it is too often dismissed or not thought as relevant to the work at hand.

In the article they suggest four traps to avoid and one of them ‘Mediocrity signals’ triggered this blog.  The organization they used as the example within this trap drove new-product innovation into the ground as the top management was so focused on cost savings they no longer were a leader in innovation, they simply became followers. One comment made by an employee was “mediocre work for a mediocre company”, yet it was not previously like that. Risk aversion had become dominating and the organizations leadership was signalling “they were really more comfortable being ordinary”.

How do we arrive at this point of being just ordinary?

Continue reading

Striking the balance for exploitation across different innovation horizons

Nobody said innovation was easy and I was reminded of that recently. Innovation can certainly be, without doubt, fairly complicated in larger organizations. What must not be forgotten is that we must manage the innovation activities across all the three horizons of innovation and that adds even more complexity.

What is ensured from this complexity is that you can expect innovation does get very entangled in balancing out the resources that are available and needed, to handle all the conflicting, competing demands placed within the innovation system. For the innovation teams involved in the multiple tasks, getting this balance right and also trying to justify further support to keep all the activities progressing on time, is tough. We need to exploit and we need to explore and those often require different mind-sets or structures.

Each of the innovation horizons can demand different management’s attention for allocation, response and focus.  Horizon one represents the company’s core businesses today, horizon two includes the rising stars of the company that will, over time, become new core businesses, whereas horizon three consists of nascent business ideas and opportunities that could be future growth engines. This link takes you to a series of discussions on the three horizons http://tinyurl.com/d97bkhh for a deeper explanation.

Dual needs are often conflicting Continue reading

The Case for Re-engineering Your Innovation Process (part two)

There are a host of reasons ‘renewal’ might be needed to be explored as part of a more radical redesign of your innovation system. 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, far more agile.

Looking to be capable in incremental innovation is simply not enough, we need to be at the same time achieving more distinctive and breakthrough innovation. This is the higher demand point that is expected from the innovation system within organizations,  and regretfully this is not happening as much as it should.

There are many pressing needs why organizations have to ‘shape up’ and make some adjustments to their innovation activities. One of these is simply don’t ignore the need for looking to explore a re-engineering of the innovation process. It can really make a lasting difference to the fortunes of the organization.

Herein this second part of the case for re-engineering are some thoughts to offer and support this call for a more in-depth look at redesigning your innovation process. Continue reading

The Case for Re-engineering Your Innovation Process (part one)

Real innovation is slowly grinding to a halt in many organizations. If the top leadership are not totally engaged in driving innovation it struggles, it grows in complexity; it gets bogged down in the internal politics of self-preservation and delivers only a ‘watered down’ end result, seen far too often to be a lasting sustaining solution, which it is plainly not. When are we going to recognize that innovation, as we have it organized within many organizations today, is failing to deliver on its promise of providing the growth expected and so often talked about by the CEO?

Larger organizations, let’s face it,  are so caught up in the incremental trap. Risk mitigation rules at every level of the management of innovation, as it ‘churns’ slowly through the complex innovation process, built up over the years. If an organization is totally happy with spending all its knowledge and internal resource on providing incremental products to its customers and gets away with it, then fair enough but does it have to be so? Continue reading

Establish a different global thinking for your innovation.

When you read through a paper on transformative innovation by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) at www.executiveboard.com that offers in its conclusion: “Innovation teams have been reorganized, de-layered, downsized, and (increasingly) dispersed, weakening the underlying structure of many companies ’innovation efforts” you do stop and reflect.

Then you read in one of the latest McKinsey Quarterly’s articles about “the global company’s challenge” (http://tinyurl.com/8yvwsrv) suggesting many issues are needed to be faced within large global organizations, you get even more of a confirmation that all is not well for innovation.

Innovation’s future seems to need some wholesale changes to take place and those innovation leaders are facing multiple dilemmas and choices that can’t be ignored for much longer.

The issue is “are the leaders of these organizations up to the challenges?” Continue reading

The dark side of the innovation moon

Ever wondered what is on the other side of the moon when you look up towards it? Do we really need to look beyond our own horizons in our daily lives? Should we question beyond our existing horizons in how we go about innovating, to explore, to push ourselves into the unknown?

What about the other side, the darker, unknown side of the moon. Are you ever curious of what lies behind what we can see? I certainly am. Continue reading

Hacking away in the undergrowth, moving towards innovation

So you have your trusty machete, sharp, well-balanced and honed to cut through all the undergrowth that presently ‘pins you in’ and move towards the innovation land. You plan to beat a path to the promised land where you have heard it is full of milk and honey from the occasional traveller that was passing through and telling you wonderful stories.

So you begin: you chop, you clear, your slash and you burn. At the end of the day you feel proud of what you have cleared, you put your machete away for another day. Tomorrow you will again attack the undergrowth that holds you back from innovation, the promised land.

Sadly when you awake in the morning, you wake up with an aching back, tired muscles and a realization that for all your hard work, you seem to have made such little progress. You look around and you feel a little inadequate with all that hard work you had thought you had put in, yet it seems so little in achievement. You certainly spent a lot of energy but seemingly for such a little return or so it seems, one little cleared patch still in the same forest you have lived in for years.

You face a critical decision. Do I go on, with yet another day, upon seemingly day of equally hard work, of back-breaking endeavour in the belief that this ‘promised land’ is going to be worth all this effort, or do I return to my present existence that has got me to this point so far? Continue reading