Possibly a Significant Shift in the Innovation Consulting World?

huron-acquires-innosightIt always catches you by surprise when one of the leading players within the innovation space makes a change. In this case, Innosight has been acquired by Huron, a fellow professional services firm, one that has the vast majority of their business in the United States. Huron focuses specifically on Healthcare, Education, and Life Sciences and has been to-date far more operationally driven in its delivery solutions.

Being fairly curious you search for the fit and its meaning to both parties as Innosight has been continually shaping their offering to focus more on the strategic positioning of innovation over the past few years as the market has been undergoing a significant change in client demands and innovation solutions. I wanted to work through all of what this might mean and some more.

The transaction overview is ” Huron will purchase Innosight Holdings, LLC for $100 million upon closing, consisting of $90 million in cash and $10 million in Huron common stock, plus contingent consideration of up to $35 million if specific financial performance targets are met over a four-year period”

This time last year we saw another acquiring of a pure innovation firm Continue reading

In the blink of an eye, it gets something bigger

Fahrenheit212 anhd CapgeminiSo in the past week or so we have seen the announcement that Capgemini has acquired Fahrenheit 212, at present for an undisclosed sum, now that one was a real surprise.

I have a friend when he is presented with something that stops him and makes him really have to think he would say “intriguing”. This joining forces is one of those ‘intriguing” moments for me.

Capgemini have been leading much within the transformation process around technology with all things digital, they have been pioneering and offering some significant advice around transitions. It seems they are ‘pulling’ in the innovation promise with this acquisition to add to their solution offerings.

I wrote about their Applied Innovation Exchange announcement recently and how I felt it was thin, a more “a tenuous toe in the water” and I finished the post with “I hear you Capgemini on the intent…but “there is a real need to put some ‘red meat’ on the bone here,” and that is what they seem to be doing in a “blink of an eye,” with this Fahrenheit 212 acquisition, or at least allow the tissues to be grafted on and take hold, so it can challenge where and how innovation transforms the business process.

David meets and marries a Goliath.

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Is this really breaking the traditional model on Innovation?

Cap Gemini AIEI came across the recent launch of Capgemini’s Applied Innovation Exchange today, it left me puzzled. Firstly the latest part of their hub network opened up in San Fransisco in mid January, yet I’m wondering why this is the first time I have come across this?.

Putting that aside the website, the current point of reference, leaves me puzzled, a little unclear on its ‘compelling’ proposition. I think I get it but it simply strikes me as a launch as ‘thin,’ on really spelling it out for me, or surely the very clients, in its value and potential. It actually seems a very minimum viable product.  I just had to go in search of a better understanding.

The concept of having any “applied innovation exchange” coming from Capgemini should be promising, as somewhere to go, as they are a leading technology consulting practice. It ‘seems’ to be offering a connecting platform, well-established ecosystem advantages but it seems so understated here.

Why? It seems so tenuous, a toe in the water. I would have expected a much bigger bang here. The website told me just enough but I think it should have delivered more.

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Delving into a complex world: helping to keep pace

Complex World 1“The world has never been as complex, dynamic and uncertain as it is today and the pace of change will only increase.”

We hear this consistently, our continual problem is trying to make sense of it for ourselves, we know all around us seems to constantly increase in its complexity but how are we keeping pace or at least trying too? I can’t check out of the human race just yet, can you afford too? If not then read on.

For me, I try to attempt to keep up to date by investing increasing time in acquiring a better understanding, a deeper knowledge of all the interconnected parts. As part of my job, advising others on all things swirling around innovation, I invest significant time in researching, learning and applying what I feel is important to others to understand or at least to raise their awareness.

Even if we are “time starved” we simply must try and keep moving along in this understanding and hopefully once in a while keeping ahead of the curve, or think we are!

There is one rich source of knowledge that comes from many of the larger consulting firms.

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The Challenges Being Faced by Innovation Consultants

Ignoring different voicesFrom my perspective I’ve been looking at a real challenge today, that many consultants offering innovation services are not providing real sustaining consulting value to clients, only ad-hoc services.

Unless this changes it will continue to erode the clients’ confidence in these service providers and they will be seeking increasing internal solutions to tackle their problems. I think if this trend continues it will be a mistaken course.

Consultants are not addressing many of the changes occurring and ignoring opportunities to adapt to different circumstances, they are simply not putting up a strong case of their engagement  by redesigning their business models or opening themselves up to different forms of collaboration.

In many ways, the consulting industry specializing in innovation is its own worst enemy.

It is highly fragmented, often highly specialized in certain innovation practices, and with much of the advice comes from a cottage industry of independent practitioners, caught up in executing and little time for advancing their own knowledge.

There is this sense that consultants are resolutely staying very internally driven, self-promoting, still trying to convey the story of innovation mastery, when clearly this is lacking in rapidly changing market and technology conditions and due to this staying ahead of the knowledge curve are actually failing the client.

Many consulting firms have spent the last decade trying to make themselves more efficient, going from craft work to selling one solution as a mass production to many, to yield ever-increasing fees, so as to gain a re-occurring return on a one-off invested solution. Innovation solutions simply need to be crafted to each set of circumstances mostly, in my opinion and that conflicts with this repeating model.

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New report: Improving returns on your innovation investment

I highly value the studies that are undertaken by the larger consulting firms. They have the C-level access and geographical reach to give us some critical insights into the progress of innovation.

Recently Arthur D Little provided their latest innovation excellence study, its 8th Global Innovation Excellence Study, into what companies can do to achieve a better return on their investment in innovation management. The report can be downloaded or viewed here and outlines in their opinion what really works in terms of managing the innovation process.

They offer some good pointers and understanding of what differentiates top innovators within and across industries. It also suggests that it provides new insights into what companies can do to achieve a better return on their investment in innovation management. I think it does fall a little short on a depth to support and validate these claims in my opinion, but it does still provides sound insight.

They specifically attempt to focus on understanding what differentiates top innovators from other companies in different industries. Drawing on over 650 responses, the study sheds new light on the basic key question: what innovation management techniques are most important in achieving a better return on innovation investment? The results they suggest are important for any company that wishes to stay competitive.

Overall the report highlights six key insights:

1. There is strong evidence that excellence in innovation management based on Arthur D. Little’s model leads to higher innovation performance.

It is such a pity they lead off with this ‘claim’ adopting their best practices helps to achieve innovation success. I would strongly argue adopting any good, coherent framework will contribute to improving performance, providing you give this the dedicated focus, resources and top management commitment. I think they have put the “cart before the horse” by leading with this.

2. Top quartile innovation performers obtain on average 13% points more profit from new products and services than average performers, and 30% shorter time-to-break-even, although the gap is narrowing.

They argue the gap in best and worst performers has narrowed in recent years and past under-performers can and do catch up and maintaining a lead in innovation performance is getting harder. I’d have liked to have this observation explained or validated some more.

3. Innovation performance achieved has decreased on average since 2010, yet satisfaction with this level of performance has nearly doubled

This is the really  interesting point for me.

Comparing 2010 and 2012 results, they found a significant overall decrease of up to 25% in innovation performance across a range of industries and suggest this may be driven by the tough market conditions of recent years which have forced companies to focus on short term performance, as well as issues specific to certain industries.

In contrast, they found that overall satisfaction with innovation performance increased significantly from 25% to 42%, although the majority of respondents are still dissatisfied. They conclude on this point that this might also reflect recognition that innovation success is getting harder to achieve.

4. There is a clear correlation between capability in innovation measurement and innovation success, yet less than 20% of companies believe they have a good innovation measurement capability.

What they found as more surprising is that less than 20% of companies believe they are better than average in innovation measurement capabilities and indicates the level of dissatisfaction with their efforts to measure innovation performance.

They offer the view this underlines both the inherent difficulty of effective measurement of innovation, and the significant potential for companies to improve their capabilities in this area.

5. Certain innovation management practices have a particularly strong impact on innovation performance

Top innovation performers invest relatively more in radical improvements to products, services and business models, as opposed to incremental improvements. They suggest there are four basic practices but the key, for me, is the one of mobilizing the whole organization to develop new ideas. I would argue mobilization across all that innovation covers is critical, not just new ideas but ideas to commercialization.

6. Top innovators do much better in adopting best practices in accelerating growth

The study found that top innovators are better at identifying unmet needs, fostering an entrepreneurial culture and leveraging existing key competencies.

Another really important point for me that is often understated.

They pick up on it is the organizations ability to overcome important internal challenges such as getting top-management support, enabling fast decision-making and establishing productive cross-functional relationships that gives them innovation leadership.

The conclusion of the study.

The study concludes with the two important insights: there is a strong correlation between adoption of new business growth practices and achieving innovation success and top innovators are more effective at dealing with internal barriers.

I think the study gives encouragement that having a focused, disciplined approach to innovation does make a difference. By tackling the internal barriers successfully will change innovation performance. It is not a ground breaking study but it does offer some helpful focal points to improve organizations performance.

The real disappointment for me?

I still feel disappointed they started off with promoting their own model as blatantly as the reference point to success. I am not a lover of  generalizing around “best practice”. I’m of the school arguing for “emerging practice or novel practice”.

I also wonder if they have not fallen into this old trap of perhaps practice leader’s self-justification for this study, hard as it might seem as a comment. This tends to be for me the older consulting practice approach of self-promotion that I believe actually constrains your perceived value to clients. Today a more detached view seems to offer greater consulting judgement even in best practice observations.

I quote from www.sourceforconsulting.com in a recent article “Consulting firms need to re-think their approach to thought leadership from scratch.  Less money should be frittered away by people writing whatever they want and more invested in centrally co-ordinated thought leadership.  Some seriously innovative thinking needs to go into developing a game-changing approach to content or publication”

I would apply this observation also to this Arthur D Little study. To quote again from the above www.sourceforconsulting.com article “Research is a good example: liberally distributing the results of an expensive survey in your publications used to be a differentiator but even the smallest firms do this now; primary research has to be either very clever or very big to stand out”

My final thoughts

I think the Arthur D Little innovation practice does make a really sound contribution to innovation practices without doubt. I think they can do a whole lot more actually.  I really do think translating their observations from benchmarking and best practice observations can be significantly lifted up in being real value differentiators by extending their existing toolkit at www.adl.com/InnovationExcellence into something more dynamic as a “must go to” source.

They need this deeper thinking through of thought leadership, aligning their innovation practice and the growing knowledge coming into them to provide a distinctive set of offerings . There are surely,  far more imaginative ways to offer us all more value from their studies, from their engagement and practice involvement than simply leading with “strong evidence suggests our model leads to higher innovation performance” and you read on with that growing feeling they are simply working backwards to this opening validation, as you read more of the report.

I think they can do better, they have the capability but not yet the right application and end goal. Innovation and its management needs broader engagement by the larger consultants.

There is a real leading innovation practice space to fill and this goes way beyond existing approaches made by the bigger consultancy firms or the ones exclusively focusing on innovation. A large diverse innovation practice can fill this space but it needs so much more. Will anyone step up to the plate I wonder, it needs it.