The Economist magazine called innovation the “industrial religion of the 21st century” and it is quickly becoming one the most popular buzzwords. While innovation management is a relatively new discipline, it is the core of economic progress and the heart of a company’s business strategy.
Innovation management is more than just new products, creative brand extensions, or technological inventions – it is a systematic way to actively realign a company to a common goal. Innovation management is about unlocking hidden value in existing products – thereby reinvigorating a business without necessarily reinventing it. It is a disciplined process that results in significant economic value creation, meaningful differentiation, and improved customer experience. Innovation is by nature unorthodox. It happens when there is sufficient variety of insights, foresights and action. When you dig beneath the veneer of any innovation success story there is always a series of trials and errors before the (sometimes accidental) eureka moment. Innovation management is a multi-discipline professional practice that encompasses skills and capabilities that can be learnt and implemented. Around every complex problem solving process there appears to be a bit of magic but at the core there is a rigorous framework and methodology.
Working with clients that strive for transformative or disruptive innovation is the most exciting part of my job. Businesses that are willing to explore daring innovations that challenge their mental models, their overall design, and their organizational structure are more successful than those businesses that seek only incremental benefits. It is also rewarding to work with so many people from so many disciplines who are determined, committed, and dedicated to challenging the status quo.
It is frustrating when a company cannot move beyond ideas. Imagine a large organization where the corporate strategy is incomprehensible, the marketing effort is massive, and information is abundant. Size does not necessarily equal quality and this is the common situation in many large complex organizations. Executives know that innovation is necessary to stay ahead but only a handful of them have the conviction, discipline, and energy to act on that knowledge. Most companies lack a rigorous approach in their innovation management process – they are missing the true consumer insights, the strategic foresights, and language and visual metaphors that facilitate the innovation dialogue.
The biggest challenge is advising successful companies to think about change. When a company is expanding, when a manager starts saying “our firm is doing great”, or when a business is featured on the cover of a national magazine – that’s when its time to start thinking. When companies are under the gun and things are falling apart it is not hard to find compelling reasons to change. Companies need to learn that their successes should not distract them from innovation. The best time to innovate is all the time.