Future Innovation demands a different approach

Innovation requires a fresh approachI certainly believe we are in need of a fresh approach to innovation. We are facing unprecedented challenges, sluggish growth and increasing competition from unexpected sources.

We need to increasingly deliver better end results; as more distinctive, bolder and creative, delivering greater value to our customers’ needs. Can we change our thinking to achieve this?

Let me offer some of my thoughts on why we need to reinvent our innovation management.

The power of technology, software and the use of the cloud is combining in new powerful ways. We are looking for greater data capture and analytics and this is offering us a very different set of options than in the past. The framing of the innovation potential has to be altered. Altered in different products. services and business models. But will it?

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Shining a powerful innovation light into the Corporate Boardrooms

Strategy Palette Used for Innovation RenewalSo after a fairly ‘dark’ period for me, of absorbing and reflecting on a series of reports, each indicating that innovation and its management understanding is not as deeply understood in the boardroom as it should be, you need to respond.

This seems an appropriate time to begin to rethink and explain innovation, partly in this need to fight these “immune systems” in fresh ways and partly to redrawn, re-frame and renew the value of innovation; in how it can help organizations going forward in very volatile times.

So let’s shine some light on new ways or even recognized paths for innovation to re-enter the thinking within our corporate boardrooms, in different ways that might resonate more in these more ‘dynamic’ times.

I like this organizing framework shown above, it can  allow us to gain a revised understanding of how innovation can be mobilized in different ways, to give value in dealing with these different forces to help move you towards a growing level of renewal.

So I want to begin a series of posts around positioning innovation frameworks, tools or approaches that build the boardroom “innovation toolkit” to deal in both the predictive and unpredictive environments. The suggestions that will be offered are designed to help tackle the disruptive forces swirling around the business that are rising, increasing the uncertainties to future invest. It is attempting to address the concerns on how to organize the “forces of innovation” to combat them, to raise the confidence level in the boardroom to ’embrace’ innovation far more than seemingly the case today. Continue reading

No Company deserves to survive with apathy in its future

The grim reaper of innovationI have always found April a difficult month. It seems to be the defining month for transition between winter and summer. It can fool us on the first day (April fools day) and its weather for us in Europe does exactly the same, usually all month long, confusing us.

One where it is offering up a healthy mix of rain, stronger sun, a little flurry of snow and some heavy wind too.

It can constantly confuse us as it can rapidly alter within the same 24 hours to often keep the heating on, when it should be switched off and visa-versa. It can be an uncomfortable month of adjusting constantly, second guessing of what might be ahead.

On the innovation front I have been experiencing the same feeling of adjusting to uncomfortable days.

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Why we often can’t self-disrupt

In the past few days I enjoyed listening to a webinar by Clayton Christensen and Max Wessel for the Forum for Growth and Innovation, a Harvard Business School research centre initiative.  The Forum for Growth and Innovation seeks to develop “breakthrough theories to help businesses become more successful innovators and create new, robust sources of growth”.  The webinar was all around surviving disruption but discussed also “looking beyond the horizons”.

The Theory of Disruptive Innovation

To offer a quote from the Forums own website (www.thefgi.net.):  “Disruptive innovation describes a process by which a product or service takes root initially in simple applications at the bottom of a market and then relentlessly moves ‘up market’, eventually displacing established competitors”.

“An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill. Characteristics of disruptive businesses, at least in their initial stages, can include: lower gross margins, smaller target markets, and simpler products and services that may not appear as attractive as existing solutions when compared against traditional performance metrics”.

The webinar raised in my mind many unanswered questions.

Central to the thinking for disruptive innovation is to address the jobs-to-be-done. Another nice piece that describes Clayton Christensen’s work in this area of JTBD is here. This seemingly simple idea has profound implications for re-framing industries.

Well in many of my unanswered questions there are some JTBD aspects clearly to this as well. Still that is another story for another day.

One question I had was this:

“Why do we have internal difficulties to self-disrupt?”

In most cases organizations are not able to self-disrupt and this is largely covered by this veritable list of constraints. So I set about thinking what these could be, here is my rather ‘stark’ list, can you think of any more?

  • Organizations often are far too close to existing markets to recognize that they are actually shifting; they ignore or miss the signs in many ways.
  • They get so fixed on their own perceptions they don’t see change coming – often until it is too late and have lost that intuitive, entrepreneurial touch within the mix.
  • They have invested too much, they hang on, often reducing prices, pushing more volume into the markets, crank out even more “extras” to try and off set change.
  • Organizations are full of rigidities, rules, procedures, processes and personalities and often no one is prepared to put their hand up to challenge the present paradigm.
  • The reinforcing values are just plain tough to change, you need dynamite to shift these
  • The people within organizations love the comfort of the nest they have built around themselves, who wants to bail out and expose themselves?
  • The processes become over burdening, hard to change, far too complex to change without significant commitment and top management support
  • Cultures are wonderful things but the dark side is they can stifle and constrain far more than promote and let free.
  • Leadership is locked into the strategy, tied into compensation on delivery on the existing, not on the preferred, far more radical, risky alternatives
  • Organizations, especially large ones are less than nimble, they fail to adapt and respond quickly enough – they prefer to double-down’ with more of the same but faster, leaner and more determined than ever, missing the real dangers occurring under their noses
  • Today, we are putting more and more of our organizations into boxes, they are becoming highly structured and specialized to maximise effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Markets are more global, faster, fiercer to compete in, often organizations are reluctant to explore and experiment with new business models, or push into adjacencies for fear.
  • Lastly it does not matter how hard many organizations try, they lack real intelligence in market and customer needs, hence why the jobs-to-be-done is one essential component.

While all these stay in place, or not recognized as inhibitors to your own disruption capabilities, it is not surprising it is in the end those up and coming usurpers, the nimble and unencumbered, that thrive and begin to disrupt. You simply struggle when you leave it to late- your organization needs to resolve many of the above issues before it is ever capable of responding.

Look more in than out – that is where your danger often lies

Sometimes we are spending all those significant efforts scanning the horizon for the next big disruptive ‘thing’ but in the end it is the internal difficulties that ensure it is ignored until it is too little, too late. Work on the warning signs daily.

“Perpetuating history”, as Clayton Christensen would certainly say, “simply opens the doors to disruptive innovation”. We need to really recognize ALL the symptoms on why we can’t internally self-disrupt. Surviving disruption is something we all need to take the survival course on, so we all can recognize and deal with its introduction and constant threat to total disorder and multiple impact points upon our business. Watch out, disruption is all around us.