What’s the best way to change something? There’s no easy answer to this question – but if we’re trying to design changes in the way our organisations work, we need to have a deep understanding of what’s going on in them.
Business model innovation is a critical management skill. It’s extremely hard to innovate without it as part of your overall toolkit. Whether you’re running a startup, or are in an existing business, you need to think about your business model.
Research has shown that the average corporate acquisition destroys value. And yet… …the firms that are outstanding at Mergers and Acquisitions use this skill as a significant point of strategic difference.
It’s always a bit dangerous to be “inspirational.” The problem is that inspiration doesn’t always lead to action – and that’s what we ultimately want. This is a lesson that Timothy Prestero and his organisation Design that Matters learned painfully.
Imagine that your organisation currently doesn’t innovate at all, but you’d like to do more (this might not be much of a stretch for some of you). What’s the best first step?
Innovation is executing new ideas to create value.
If you think about that, you can see that time is important – you can’t do all three things instantaneously.
Here are two important ideas:
1. Within an organisation, innovation is the process of idea management.
2. New ideas diffuse along an s-curve.
If we put these two ideas together, we can see how time works in innovation.
The whole issue with innovation is that we can’t know in advance if it’s going to work or not. If we know it will work, it’s not innovation, it’s just a financial decision. Many of the struggles that people have with innovation comes from this – we want certainty. But if we’re going to innovate, we must actively seek out uncertainty.
3M is one of the most innovative companies in the world. Each year, their target is to have more than 30% of their revenue come from products that are less than four years old. To do this, they must constantly come up with new stuff. To find this new stuff, they spend about 6.6% of their annual revenue on Research & Development. The average large US corporation spends less than 2% of revenues on R&D, so 6.6% is a whole lot. But think about this for a second – what is 3m spending the other %93.4 of their money on? The rest of the money goes to executing ideas that they’ve already had.
One of the keys to being an innovative organisation is culture. The way that people within our organisation interact has a big influence on are ability to innovate.
I often hear from people that their organisation has a “risk-averse culture.” When I do, I remind them that we create culture – through our own interactions every day. So if we want to change our culture, the first place to start is with what we do ourselves.
If we think about innovation as executing new ideas to create value (and we should!), then it becomes clear that innovation is a process. There were some good posts about the different parts of that process this week – here are the ones that caught my attention.
This is often the way new ideas come about. Someone sees a weak signal and amplifies it. The challenge with weak signals is that you can’t use the normal forms of proof to demonstrate that the idea is good.
When we invent the future, we are combining weak signals with existing ideas to reconceptualise products, services, ways of doing things, and entire markets. That’s more profitable than moving things forward incrementally, but also a lot riskier. Succeeding at requires vision, creativity and courage.
I just finished a week working with a team of 10 MBA students as part of collaboration with the Wharton Business School in their Global Consulting Practicum (GCP). They had to develop a proposal for our client, and get it signed off – this will guide the work that they do for the next four months.
They had a good week. They worked really hard, over long hours. They developed an excellent proposal, and the client loved it. They are set up to do a really good project.
However, now I know a bit how Doug felt. The team didn’t hit their top gear.
We talked about it on the last day, and I told them this. Unlike me in the mill, they agreed with me (or, at least, they appeared to!) If they find that top gear, they have a chance to not just do a really good project, but to do a great one.
Innovation is the process of idea management:
Of course, you need ideas. But once you have them, you have to select which ones are most promising because we never have enough time and resources to execute them all. And we do have to execute – that’s a critical step.
We have our innovation metaphors all wrong. Too many of them relate to point where we make the creative connection between ideas: the flash of inspiration
the eureka moment, a stroke of genius, and so on.
All of this makes us think that innovation is an event. But it’s not – innovation is a process.
Your market is never stable. One dangerous assumption that organisations make is that they know what market they are in, and that this will remain stable. Information technology is wreaking havoc on traditional industry boundaries. John and I visited a research lab for an engineering company last week, and it was very clear from the projects that they are working on that the firms that will win in this traditionally very conservative industry will be the first ones to become fully knowledge-based. As projects get more complex and more expensive, managing the flow of data becomes increasingly important.