Scott Anthony on Innovation Management

This week InnovationManagement spoke to Scott Anthony, leading innovation expert, author and Managing Director of Innosight Ventures. Learn more about what he finds inspiring in the field of innovation management, what can be improved, and finally what projects and challenges he is currently working on.

What is innovation management to you?

Innovation management is developing and implementing routine systems and structures to help bring predictability to innovation. It’s interesting – a generation ago innovation management would be perceived as an oxymoron. There was such a stench of randomness around innovation that trying to manage it just seemed impossible. Things have really changed. Academics have unearthed patterns that separate success from failures. Practitioners have turned those patterns into practical tools and approaches that allow people to treat innovation as a discipline. “Early adopters” like Procter & Gamble and Cisco Systems have shown how to do this at scale. It’s a pretty remarkable time to be in the innovation field!

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

People involved in innovation tend to be very passionate about what they do. I feel blessed to be able to spend so much time with so many interesting people that are determined to challenge the status quo. I also feel like we’re making meaningful progress against an issue that really matters to the world’s future. The great problems of today – poverty, climate change, health care access, and so on – will only be solved by innovation. Finally, while I think there is much greater clarity then there was a generation ago, there still are fascinating puzzles that remain unsolved.

And the most frustrating parts?

There’s a huge body of work on which practitioners can draw, but I still find too many people making too many obvious mistakes. It’s convinced me that a large part of the problem is the accessibility of the innovation literature. I think most of the big innovation questions have been answered; that there is a tool for just about every problem. But too many of these things are “locked up” in densely written books (some of which I’ve written!), or in individual’s heads. The other frustration is when people kill innovation by studying it to death. As Edison reminds us, genius is one percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration. Some companies think that their problem is a lack of ideas. That’s rarely the real problem. The real problem is doing something with the great ideas they have.

What’s your next big challenge?

It’s not a single challenge – it’s actually a three-pronged challenge. First, we are trying to prove through the small venture fund we manage on behalf of the Singapore government that taking a systematic approach can allow non-expert venture investors to beat traditional venture capital returns. We have made a half-dozen investments to date, and are working to shepherd those investments to successful outcomes. Second, I am working on a book tentatively titled Cracking Innovation’s Black Box, which is intended to offer a more personal take on innovation in a simple, accessible manner. Finally, and most interestingly from my perspective, we’re working on creating a service offering that helps large companies with some of the execution-related challenges related to innovation. We’re calling it Innosight Labs. The core IP behind it will be summarized in a book we are tentatively scheduling for 2012 called Paving the First Mile. Add on top of that adjusting to living in Singapore (where we moved in March of this year), and it’s more than enough to keep me busy!

About Scott Anthony

Scott Anthony is the Managing Director of Innosight Ventures, an incubation and investing company with offices in Singapore, India, and the United States. He previously was the President of Innosight’s consulting arm, where he advised companies such as Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Credit Suisse, Time Warner, Kraft, VF Corp, Cisco Systems, and General Electric on topics of growth and innovation.

Scott has written three books on innovation: Seeing What’s Next with Harvard Professor Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business Press, 2004), The Innovator’s Guide to Growth with Mark Johnson, Joe Sinfield, and Elizabeth Altman (Harvard Business Press, 2008), and The Silver Lining: An Innovation Playbook for Uncertain Times(Harvard Business Press, June 2009). He has written articles in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek, Forbes, Sloan Management Review, Advertising Age, Marketing Management and Chief Executive, is a regular contributor to Harvard Business Online and serves as the editorial director of Strategy & Innovation.

Scott is a featured speaker on topics of growth and innovation. He was a judge in the Wall Street Journal’s 2009 Innovation Awards. Scott is also a member of the Board of Directors of Media General (NYSE:MEG).

Prior to joining Innosight, Scott was a senior researcher with Clayton Christensen, managing a group that worked to further Christensen’s research on innovation. Previously, he worked as a consultant for McKinsey & Co., a strategic planner for Aspen Technology ,and a product manager for WorldSpace Corporation. While at McKinsey, he co-authored a publicly released report on the United Kingdom’s economic prospects.

Scott received a BA in economics summa cum laude from Dartmouth College and an MBA with high distinction from Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.
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