Are We Crushing Real Innovation?

Well, this morning I came across an article in the UK’s Guardian newspaper, entitled “America has become so anti-innovation – it’s economic suicide written by Ben Tarnoff, a writer on technology and politics, living in San Fransisco.

This article did disturb me, it triggered a number of validations in my own mind. Once you get past the opening rant about the infamous Juicero juicer, that has now been used as an illustration of how investors funded something that automates something that you can do faster by hand.

The article opens up the doors to questioning much that is going on under the Silicon Valley umbrella. The juicer got funding of $120m from a number of blue-chip VC’s but it was not this that actually disturbs me, it was this “ant-innovation” tag the writer was attaching to (North) America.

The article goes deeper in questioning where we are in our innovation thinking. We do have a real innovation growth dilemma that we can’t lay at the door of Silicon Valley alone, it is part of the Western world’s current sickness. It has lost that ability to take a positive risk in so much, ‘kicking the can down the road’ for others to resolve, be these societal, educational, health, infrastructural or institutional reforming and so much more. All really important innovation opportunities. Continue reading

Is all investment about the future?

Buy back questionI was reading an article by Doug Collins on the “three wishes for the innovation practitioner for 2015” where he points out “2014 was the year for share buybacks and dividends“.

An article from Bloomberg reports that companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index are “poised to spend $914 billion on share buybacks and dividends this year, or about 95 percent of earnings.”

95% of earnings – Doug rightly says “wow” and offers a thoughtful set of observations

“Every organization that enjoys free cash flow makes a decision on where to allocate that resource. If the opportunity available to the organization meets or exceeds the hurdle rate—the desired, expected rate of return—then, in theory, they invest in that opportunity. If not, then no: the organization returns the cash to the investors. Of course, earnings come after investments the organization makes in innovation—research & development expenses, for example. Many do invest a lot in R&D”

He then remarks “And yet…..and yet” ….

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Seeking out and combining the higher-value impact points for innovation.

ImpactTwo years can feel like a long time. Exactly two years ago I wrote a post called “Making the appropriate impact” discussing my nine different impact points for innovation.

I wrote at the time we can have surprisingly strong influence on impact, as we are in a highly connected world. It is through our organizing and influencing abilities we can all partly determine our innovation future.

I suggested we have nine impact points to consider:

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Beyond the previous boundaries of innovation

Innovation is increasingly moving beyond the previous boundaries of just being left to each organizations scientists or marketing departments, those days are seemingly long gone. Today and in the future, innovation is about open, inclusive, full of exploration and harmonization to extract the best results.

We seem to have really grasped and recognized the combination-effect that comes from the myriad of different linkages that is propelling innovation activity and bringing increasing confidence within the boardroom.

According to a recent PwC report, optimism has dramatically been raised around innovation, so much so the vast majority within the survey of 1,757 c-suite or executives respondents believe their aggressive growth plans will be driven by organic growth (93%) and not by previous means of M&A activity. They are talking more radical and breakthrough innovation. BCG in its 2013 report on most innovative companies is equally far more bullish on innovation. Continue reading

PwC’s report on breakthrough innovation and growth

I’ve been reading through the PwC report “Breakthrough innovation and growth”, a survey of 1,757 C-suite and executive respondents, on their thoughts on innovation. The top line news is how companies are seeing innovation transforming their businesses and their need to take a more sophisticated approach to innovation, so as to achieve the growth plans they are setting for the next five years.

PwC are suggesting there is an innovation transformation under-way: “Companies are changing the way they innovate“. They further state that “innovation is becoming a competitive necessity, if it’s not, then executives need to be asking themselves what they could do to improve their innovation process.”

All I am providing here are my initial takeaways from a report I would recommend does provide really good value in working through. It seems innovation is becoming far more the central driver of the organization’s agenda than in the past, where geographical expansion along with mergers and acquisitions were more dominating. Continue reading