Here is a small experiment that I tried. I typed “innovation” at www.google.com.
Honestly, I did not expect the number of results that showed up.
It was only 57,00,00,000. It took 0.45 seconds.
I am not highlighting the speed of Google Search here! We will save it for another day ?.
In a world that is engulfed by technology, it is easy to dismiss these numbers with an air of disdain. To a large extent, as we go further into the technological realms, these figures lose their intrinsic value.
That is not the reason why I am here!
The world’s leading thinkers, strategists, ivy-league institutions and everyone out there is talking today about innovation – in products, services, processes, outcomes, et al.
If you look around, some of the most successful brands have thrived by a relentless focus on innovation.
While innovation has been a topic for a long time, focus on innovation became sharper after the events of 9/11 and subsequently the sub-prime crisis, when organizations’ survival was at risk.
Clayton M Christensen and Vijay Govindarajan, Harvard Business School Professors, and thought leaders on innovation continue to devote a lot of time and effort to research on:
• Dimensions of innovation
• Does innovation require a process?
• Why are some organizations good at it in the long run?
• Why most organizations spark for a short while and then disappear from memory?
Not surprisingly, Harvard Business Review continues to publish research articles on the culture, drivers, trends, etc., on innovation with predictable frequency in its prestigious monthly professional journal.
So, why are companies finding it difficult to innovate?
A deeper analysis leads us to a few questions.
1. Are ‘Big Ideas’ the prerogative of only a few select individuals and organizations?
2. Don’t enterprises have smart, intelligent, and creative people?
3. Does the top management not support creativity and innovation?
4. Is it the lack of ‘mechanisms/processes’ and ‘tools’ to foster newer thinking?
Let me deviate a bit to share an amusing incident.
It was one of the conferences where the theme was ‘innovation.’ The 3-day conference event had a Panel Discussion on one of the days. The Panel Discussion Anchor was an IIM Professor while the Panelists represented Top Management Executives from well-known brands. The audience had around 750 delegates representing different industries.
Before starting the Panel Discussion, the Anchor looked around and asked a question:
“Please raise your hands, if your organization has a separate Department for Innovation.”
Quite a lot of hands from the audience went up; a couple of them from the Panel also raised their hands.
The IIM Professor paused for a while and said, “You may put your hands down.”
There was silence for a minute as everyone waited to hear from the IIM Professor. The Professor with a loud baritone voice announced –
“These are the companies where Innovation will not work.”
There was stunned silence followed by a roar of laughter. No prizes for guessing who went silent and who laughed!
It is evident that certain aspects of a corporate organization have to be part of the DNA – Innovation, Quality, Security among other aspects. While experience shows Japanese firms excelling in quality as a way of life, Apple, Google, 3M, etc. excel in innovation as a way of life.
Most organizations have sparks of innovation across the organization. What most of them don’t have is a ‘process’ for innovation! Now, the words ‘process’ and ‘innovation’ may seem oxymoronic! By ‘process,’ we refer to an Integrated Structure for:
1. Driving the culture for new ideas
2. Pooling new ideas generated
3. Evaluating the veracity and efficacy of generated ideas
4. Grading ideas
5. Prioritizing ideas
6. Analyzing technical and financial feasibility
7. Approving ideas
8. Converting accepted ideas to clearly defined projects or programs
9. Planning and Executing Idea Projects
10. Monitoring & Controlling and Close projects
11. Reviewing Value Realization
12. Documenting Lessons Learned
While very few organizations have deployed the above processes, even fewer have done so in an integrated manner.
In today’s hyper-competitive environment, it is not just enough to have one or two odd sparks of innovation. It is critical to the very business survival that leaders start to take a holistic approach from idea conception to the launch of product/service and even beyond!
Is your organization thinking about an end-to-end and integrated Idea To Launch?