The Supremacy of Innovation
Corporations engaged in innovation and seeking image supremacy must embrace both sides of the equation: the hard asset issues, like productions, material and costs along with soft asset issues, like vision, creative ideas combined with hidden talents blended with desires and emotions.
Bending pipes to make a perfect chair is a very noble cause of innovation, but equally important are the mind-bending exercises in the boardrooms necessary to create innovative culture throughout the organization. Most organizations use innovation as a last minute bandage on injuries caused by lack of sales and charge upon competitors under the innovation flag with newer models.
Quick fix innovations lead to quicksand. Ideally, they would be better off doing nothing; take a deep pause, retreat internally, start an evaluation leading to a revolution and strive to become a totally innovative organization driven by the creative depths of their own core vision. This way, they have a better chance to become shockingly powerful.
Here are the quick measurements as scorecards to determine your own needs for better calibration towards progress.
When was the last time you organized a board meeting just to discuss all the soft-assets of the organization?
What are the top five questions every management member knows but dares not ask?
Why is the organization making only ‘pants’ but not ‘jackets’ or vice-versa?
Why does the organization have too many or too few brands?
Why is the organization headed in a particular direction and what will it take to change course?
The innovation nomenclature
Increasingly often, corporate nomenclature is used to create the sensation of innovation, ‘Nova this’ and ‘New that’. The ‘inno’ based names primarily created to attract end user attention are already highly diluted. The excessive usage of the term ‘innovation’ often grafted in anticipation of sudden blossom reveals voids and chasms in the core vision, where the fogged illusion of invention clashes with market realities. If you could ever see a crystallized version of a truly innovative corporate vision, its middle core would be embalmed with molten lava to continuously energize innovation. Gravity defying organizations like Apple, Google, BMW, Facebook, Virgin or Tata, for example, make up a minuscule percentage of the successful global businesses and clearly point to the remaining majority for running on somewhat entirely different types of treadmills.
Innovation is the single most important missing component among organized business all over the world. An easy parallel can be drawn to “I.T.”, a term that has also lost some of its power and meaning and become a loose expression that fits any situation. What is IT today? The use of the iPad, Cloud computing, Excel, Internet, or driving with GPS? It’s all around us but not ‘everybody’ is in IT. Depending on the nature, type, style and size of the operation business, nomenclature must address and clarify by whom and where ‘true innovation’ is being applied. Despite all the PR claims, not every claimant is into true innovation.
In how many different places does the organization promote the word ‘innovation’ and how many times correctly?
How often does the entire organization go through an ‘innovation audit’?
How rapidly is market share increasing due to all the new innovation talks?
What percentage of the staff is really committed to new innovation and why?
The innovative culture
True innovative culture can be created when both the hard asset issues and soft asset issues blend within the organization – such overlays create dramatic results. When a corporate mandate boldly acknowledges both soft and hard issues as two parallel dynamics throughout every aspect of production, and encourages companywide dual-application, the result can be a groundswell at the grassroots level. This proves to be far more productive over traditional practices like framing mission statements and hanging them in each cubicle.
To capture the hidden magic, knowledge from the best innovation consultants, experts, designers and provocateurs can tackle this apparently impossible task. This is where the acid test comes into play; vision is a soft asset issue and so is innovative thinking. Both soft issues must become visible for the top teams. Only upon comfortably conquering both sides of the equation, where hard and soft assets issues are simultaneously overlaid, can optimum performance commence. Hence, the supremacy of innovation becomes demonstrable and such movements can change the rigidness in attitudes especially in a totally hard-asset-based-mentality.
Vision, on the other hand is far too complicated and difficult to map out when modeling its dimensions and applicability. Vision sometimes acts as an immense magnet, attracting all kinds of fly-by ideas – whether metallic splinters or full-sized objects, these ideas cling and, over time, distort the original shape of the magnet.
Welcome to the world of artificial-innovation-incubation where ideas are adopted without any logical or creative soft issue base while rigid production creates illusionary progress. Most organizations approach innovation by mixing good and bad ideas with good and bad processes and hope for the best. Basically, without the “do or die” passion of the innovative thinking the road appears confusing and bumpy. The power of vision must be harnessed and therefore soft asset modeling is one way to measure its power.
How often do the hardcore engineers and best creative minds share ideas?
How often do the top leaders talk about core vision and invite challengers?
How often do the innovative ideas, discussion and changes appear effortless and part of culture?
How often do the leadership attempts to chart out vision as a three dimensional model like any other production challenge?
Surviving in the current age of abundance (as opposed to the past age of scarcity when simple tinkering with the product was considered innovative), requires360-degree, upside down turns. Constructing a dynamic, innovation-friendly and manageable environment means the corporate culture must use both its hard and soft assets and create a new, balanced mentality.
This double-barreled audit approach allows for successful staging of the following key procedures to ensure dynamic debates, pragmatic solutions and definite improvement towards added ‘value creation’ and ‘image expansion’
- Crystallization of the vision: If vision is the ultimate source of all inspiration, then this vision, as a soft issue, must be openly accepted as a soft-asset-issue that together with added layers of hard-asset issues creates a three-dimensional model. Such calibrations of hard and soft issues allow all teams to touch and feel the direction and goals of the enterprise.
- Ignition of hidden talent: If human talent (and not necessarily the “machine”) is the place where all the good ideas are processed and fertilized, then talented feedback must be boldly accepted and moreover, encouraged in all phases of production, whether we are speaking of tangible goods or services. If implemented correctly, such changes will ensure both competitive advantages and better team performance.
- Extreme value creation: If your current offerings are already considered “best in class”, then taking an intellectual hammer and literally smashing them into finite pieces and later hanging them in the middle of the boardroom will germinate the ideas for extreme value creation. Drastic innovation demands drastic measures. The future belongs to the bold.
- Extreme image generation: If your current innovations are not getting traction, flip the coin. Image and name identity constitute the glue that binds the elements of success. Even the greatest innovations can, at times, get lost in twisted name identities (confusing customers and therefore dissipating in global cyber media), or get drowned via wrongly positioned commercials (logos and graphics) killing the essence of the product, service or business.
- Garden of money trees: If your successful and highly innovative products and services are not creating a garden of money trees, chop them down. The beauty and pleasure of working in a truly high value generation enterprise is to witness the ripe of the fine fruits of success. Seek out all the wisdom and knowledge, get the best innovation experts and train your entire organization to think of innovation as its core competence. Innovation is not about a sudden change but about change in continuous motion.
- Image supremacy of innovation: If your teams are naturally inclined to place soft assets issues before hard asset issues and can boldly face the outcomes, a certain supremacy will surface. The finite spectrum will be harnessed, the quality and logic will combine and image will come under global spotlight. Easier said than done, the bearer of the vision must be in full participatory mode right from the start, otherwise the fog creeps in and illusions start showing.
These 6 stages may vary depending on the style and size of the organization but they conclusively lay out winning combination and will make the hidden entrapments come to surface. It’s important to note that all such soft procedures have to deal with the following friendly or hostile realties.
“Last century mentality” Mindsets such as producing better products and services at low prices must face the new reality of finding superb ideas and highly affordable blueprints to produce the best products at best prices to serve the right customers at right places, generating the best profits.
The innovative thinkers, teams and visionaries – the day for them to target global ideas and aim for the brass ring has arrived. The institutions leading charge of innovation and the governments agencies absorbing global trade shocks can now be armed with the latest technologies and skilled people and play the game in the upper stratosphere. The global gateways of e-commerce are now enabling ideas into global structures. Those who believe that the world in constantly innovating and will not wait for anybody.
Create a list of the top 100 soft issue-related questions that you think your organization will be most reluctant to answer. Link all the answers back to all hard asset capabilities. Then, create a companywide debate and seek consensus; look at the issues from all angles – inside and out.
Next, if you are not already the ‘innovation thinking’ tsar for the organization, circulate a memo today and have the best one appointed before the end of the month.
If your leaders and bearer of the core vision have the right match with the right ideas and your business model does the same with the right teams, you are almost there; otherwise it make it an urgent mission to organize a three-dimensional structure of all these soft issues and create an open debate to get the best innovation expertise to produce a guiding plan.
Anything less will keep you stuck in mediocrity.
The supremacy of innovation is highly logical and achievable process. Thought it tends to slant towards soft asset issues, it cannot be successful without full hard asset support.
By Naseem Javed