To drive growth through innovation, you must embrace the following five innovation principles into your own unique approach:
Principle 1: Innovation Must Be Approached as a Discipline
To practice innovation as a discipline means first and foremost that you distinguish between creativity (coming up with ideas) and innovation (bringing them to top- and bottom-line results for the company).
Companies sometimes seek to promote creativity, by, for example, sending their people to facilitated brainstorming sessions. In a cover article in Inc. Magazine several years ago, a reporter was allowed to participate in one such session at a leading ideation center, and write about the methods used. The article detailed how a team of managers from a mid-sized food company facing flat sales growth was led through various proprietary lateral thinking exercises and came away with 75 high potential ideas. But three years later, we were told that not a single idea became a product that made if into the marketplace. Blaming the firm’s “corporate structure and management,” the spokesperson lamented that “It’s hard to get ideas through an organization.”
Such sessions are incredibly fun and often produce lots of new possibilities and plenty of excitement. But nothing happens because innovation, or inventing the future as it’s sometimes called, is not a discipline, and ideas, no matter how good, get pummeled by the pressures of the present.
Principle 2: Innovation Must Be Approached Comprehensively
Innovation can’t be confined to one department or an elite group of star performers. It cannot be assigned to a skunkworks far afield from the main organization and insulated from the company’s bureaucracy. It must permeate the company, and it must encompass new I products, services, processes, strategies, business models, distribution channels, and markets. It must become part of the DNA of the entire organization.
A comprehensive approach to innovation means that it becomes the responsibility and way of operating of business units and functional departments, whether purchasing, operations, finance, or human resources, just as much as it is for new product development or marketing.
Principle 3: Innovation Must Include an Organized, Systematic, and Continual Search for New Opportunities
Back in the early 1990s, AT&T’s top brass allowed a small unit of its planning department to call itself the Opportunity Discovery Department—ODD, for short. This band of maverick thinkers gave itself the task of shaking up the giant company’s thinking. One day in 1995, members of the unit donned sandwich boards that read: “What if long distance were free?”
While the question was dismissed as “ridiculous and irrelevant” at the time, five years later the firm’s long-distance revenue was declining so rapidly that the company sought to sell off its long-distance unit at fire sale prices. Clearly, today’s seemingly irrelevant question could quickly become tomorrow’s threat—or opportunity.
Principle 4: Innovation Must Involve Everyone in the Organization
In most organizations today, new ideas are almost always directed from the top down, rather than from the bottom up. Not only do most organizations not expect their people to innovate; they don’t really expect them to think. Nearly two-thirds of the managers and workers surveyed by Kepner-Tregoe, a leading training and consulting firm, said their companies don’t use even half their brainpower. More than 70 percent compared their organizations to a “slow moving truck,” blaming the condition on a failure to involve employees in decisions and a lack of training or rewards.
Beyond a seldom-used suggestion system for cost-saving ideas, most companies have no way to stimulate or harvest the good ideas of their people. Not so at companies that are designed for continuous, all-enterprise innovation. The assumption that lower-ranked managers and rank and file employees cannot come up with powerful, growth-producing, breakthrough ideas is viewed in these firms as a paradigm unfitted to 21st century reality.
Principle 5: Innovation Must Be Customer-Centered
Innovation-adept firms live and breathe the customer. They know that the customer is fickle, whimsical, and always difficult to predict, but they don’t let that stop them from trying. They also know that creating value for the customer is the only route to success, and that while you can fool some customers all the time, and all customers some of the time, ultimately, the reputation and acceptance of “new and improved” products, services, and service offerings had better deliver.
Because today’s customer is more sophisticated, with more information available at the touch of a keyboard to compare and contrast an ever-increasing array of value propositions, the discipline of innovation means learning to listen to customers and potential customers in new ways. And it means inviting the voice of the customer to permeate the design and implementation of new concepts, if those ideas are ultimately going to drive growth.
Source of Reference:Robert B Tucker, Driving Growth Through Innovation, Berrett-Koehler Publishers.