Innovation Weak Points – Where Are Yours?

innovation weak pointsIn many cases it is our starting point that is a major weakness. Have we got our Innovation Strategy right? At what point do we commit energy and resources to bringing a new idea to market? Often the test is whether the new idea has potential for creating value for the organisation. Unless you have started a business from scratch, providing resources for your new idea may remove resources (people, money, materials) from other areas of your business. The question you must ask is not just ‘will it work?’ but ‘can we get it to work without any damage being done to our current business?’. Our Innovation Strategy is thus firmly tied to our long term objectives. Have you identified your innovation weak points?

Do you go with all of your new ideas if they look like they will work? How do you select which ones to work with? Selecting idea needs to be ruthless carried out. Ask yourself the following:

  • Does it work?
  • Is this aligned with our objectives and company values?
  • Can this be scaled up or transferred to a different cultural setting?
  • Does this help or hinder our other activities

In short our inventors must develop some business capabilities!

New ideas are complex. They are often generated to solve a problem but to get an idea to market may provide further challenges. A new drug may cure a disease but it may have side effects, be expensive or difficult to package or have a short shelf life. To create value you need to show how your new idea will create value for your customer perhaps through time, cost or efficiency savings. You cannot simply say, ‘Here is the new wonder drug’ and expect hospitals to be placing orders immediately.

How high do you set the bar when testing your ideas? Do you use objective or subjective tests? It is better to have a mixture of both and ensure that all of the criteria that you identify are met. Another way of testing is to use existing customers. They are often flattered when you think they are worthy of trialling your very latest innovation! But, not everyone does this!

A huge potential problem area is the window in time where your idea or prototype is turned into reality. Your development team throw the idea over the wall into production and think ‘job done’. Until you are selling gizmos buy the lorry load, everybody should still be contributing although the balance will change. You will need more human resources than you thought and also more cash. There is also a danger of stagnation as your new product or service falls into the gap between development and production. A highly motivated and charismatic leader is needed to ensure to see things through.

Do you have everything you need to get your new idea into the market? Have you considered external partners, especially if this might improve your success rate? Even if you have, how ready are you in terms of a) people b) protecting intellectual property? Sometimes the ‘missing ingredient’ needs to come from elsewhere.

Even when you have considered all of the above, have you spent time looking at the culture of innovation within our organisation? If innovation is a separate entity rather than embedded completely within the business, how do you cope with this? Do employees rotate through the innovation function and if not does this create tension? How is the learning from the development process captured and then disseminated? Just ask yourself, does the way we do things round here help our hinder our innovation efforts? You will be surprised at the impact that small changes can have.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Business Creativity and Innovation – why aren’t more companies taking it seriously?

Business Creativity and Innovation – why aren’t more companies taking it seriously? Let’s face it, most of the economies around the world have been in deep trouble for a couple of years and the problems do not look like they are going to end soon. We have politicians talking about radical reforms, new beginnings and innovative policies and then at the bottom of the chain there is us, the businesses both large and small that the politicians are betting on to help dig us out of the mess.

A lot of companies are making the right noises and I have contact with many who state that they wish to run ‘innovation workshops’, kick off an ‘innovation programme’ or make their business more creative. They all seem to appreciate that taking some action will improve many HR issues such as intrinsic motivation, communications, and decision making to name a few. These businesses all claim to be looking to the future, to determine what the products and services of the future will look like and meet that challenge.

So senior managers, and above, are tackling strategic issues and seeking for the most effective tools to get the job done. Why is it then that when presented by a number of solid proposals that they do not go ahead? Mysteriously something comes up at the last minute, people cannot make the workshop, the cost is too high or best of all something more important has come up! What can be more important than the future of your company?

The worst offenders seem to be large multinational companies with a degree of financial inertia (maybe some cash in the bank and the ability to sit it out and see the competition wither) who elect to ride out the storm rather than steering around it. These companies need to be showing us the way and leading global recovery or else we are just going to be left with a handful of dinosaurs in sectors such as oil and gas, power generation and airlines.

So, my plea is, if the future really matters to your business then take Business Creativity and Innovation seriously and give it the time and funds that it deserves or you may not have a future.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Creativity – is nothing changing?

For the past few years I have had a survey on the front page of my website. I ask one simple question ‘What is the MAJOR factor that hinders creativity within your organisation? The options available are strategic barriers, organisational culture, corporate culture, process/structure, learning capacity, leadership/management. The answers lead me to ask myself ‘Is nothing changing?’

Apart from the early days when the sample size was not large enough, the results have changed very little. At the time of writing the results are as follows:

  • Strategic barriers 6.36%
  • Organisational culture 28.18%
  • Corporate culture 13.64%
  • Process/structure 12.73%
  • Learning capacity 4.55%
  • Leadership/management 34.55%

In my view, the two interesting points are the extremes. Very few people were highlighting strategic barriers (filtering, mindsets, risk profile etc) or the ability for their organisations to learn when these are potentially huge issues for an organisation embracing Creativity and/or Innovation. Also, since we have seen a global recession and financial crises, I would have expected these percentage figures to change as a result of ‘digging in’ during a crisis or through loss of capacity due to downsizing.

It is not a surprise that over 34% of respondents blame Leadership and Management. Whether or not senior figures really are to blame, they are always likely to be a scapegoat. Once again I would have expected the results to change in troubled times. The biggest surprise of all is the number of people who selected organisational culture as the major factor that hinders creativity.

Organisational culture is organic and is largely down to the employees. Even when a company is strict rather than benevolent, organisational culture tends to triumph. Have we not all heard of people banding together in the face of adversity? People are not saying that the culture is bad, just that it hinders creativity! Puzzling, so what does this mean? Without asking more searching questions (find out about our Innovation toolkit to get this information) we can’t really say why these results are not changing when we expect them to, although one possibility is that the reasons behind the figures have changed.

Finally, as well as being blamed directly, senior managers are also indirectly responsible for culture and structure. If your company had figures such as this and had troubles with creativity and innovation related issues then I would definitely want to do some digging. The chances are, a change of personnel is required somewhere!!

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Who are your competitors?

It might seem a silly question, but do your know who your competitors are? If you are in retail you might list some shops on your high street or name your local supermarket chain. These provide some competition in that they sell goods and services that compete with yours. The trouble is you may have more competition than you think.

What exactly are you competing for? If you are a shop then you are competing for the money (or credit card) in some one’s pocket. What else can they spend their finite resources on? If you are a pub then your customers could do any of the following:

  • buy drink from the local supermarket
  • go to the local bowling alley
  • visit the local chip shop or pizza takeaway
  • go to the gym

So the money can go to a number of places which may also be time or season dependent. The gym option may be number one just after Christmas or before the holiday season.

So you should think about:

  • who else might be competing for the money in your customers pockets
  • what factors might affect the spending patterns of customers
  • what exactly are selling to your customers (and why)
  • do you know everything about your customers
  • can you sell anything different to your customers

This may lead you to other discussions regarding the direction of your business and where you intend it to be in the future (strategy in consultant speak). This may not have been on your ‘to do’ list for today but it just might help you ride out the recession.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin

Outcome Driven Innovation – problem or not?

Outcome Driven Innovation (ODI) clearly works for a number of organisations (usually larger organisations) and not for others. Why could this be? Personally I also have a number of issues with the methodology but this is not an attempt to pull ODI apart, rather to simply point out some issues and let others make up their minds as to what is best for them.

Innovation is, or should be, a hugely flexible process that works within a comprehensive framework but which is not overly specified. It may be further complicated by the (necessary) requirement that all areas of a business (and hence all of the people) become involved. If this does not happen then all we have is a glorified R&D department.

The specification of ODI seems to me at first sight to be very prescriptive but that is just an opinion. There is however, a danger that any business embracing ODI which has not fully bought into the philosophy of Innovation, could still be governed by left brained groupthink and could embark on a process of specifying and documenting everything. This could result in a) no action at all and the incorrect conclusion that Innovation does not work b) a rigid process that is in fact more akin to something resulting from Business Process Reengineering (BPR).

Another possible issue is the fact that one of the initial steps if to formulate an Innovation strategy when in fact the process will normally help create the strategy. Also, capturing customer inputs and looking at the broader marketplace will also help formulate the Innovation strategy.

From the outside, ODI looks like a tool driven methodology where you simply turn the handle on the sausage machine and things pop out. This is not Innovation, it is more like Taylor’s scientific management. And another claim is that it has been developed over time, not a crime in itself but where is the (double loop) learning that means the methodology itself can be updated and grow as needs (and the market) change.

Finally, everything appears Marketing driven which is why many of us embraced Innovation in the first place. As they say, the devil is in the detail so readers should research ODI and then draw their own conclusions. After all, you should use the methodology/framework that is right for you, not just use something that is popular or recommended by a friend because it uses the word ‘Innovation’.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedinFacebooktwittergoogle_pluslinkedin
My Innovation Handbook is FREE for you!
Simply enter your full name and email address in order to receive a copy of my Innovation Handbook. You will also be subscribed to my monthly newsletter. You can amend or cancel your subscription at any time by clicking on the links in the newsletter.
Thank you for subscribing
If you have signed up in order to get a FREE book or report then you will shortly receive an email giving you the URL of the page for downloading the PDF file. If you do not receive such an email within a few minutes then please get in touch and a copy will be emailed to you directly.
Need a simple guide to Innovation?
Enter your details below to grab a copy of my Innovation Handbook and receive regular news and tips on Business Creativity & Innovation.
Thank you, please check your Inbox
You will shortly receive an email giving you the URL of the page for downloading the PDF file. If you do not receive such an email within a few minutes then please get in touch and a copy will be emailed to you directly.