Saturday, August 07, 2004
Innovation Defined : A mindset, a pervasive attitude, or a way of thinking focused beyond the present into the future vision (Kuczmarski).
Is it just a "BUZZ"word?
Perhaps innovation has been misunderstood and therefore its full potential not realized. The vital importance of continuously fostering and maintaining an innovation culture has been underplayed. While many companies have at one point in time spoken to the importance of innovation and some have gone so far as to truly embrace innovation, few have been able to maintain a culture that supports innovation as a top strategic priority. With the myriad of benefits that accompany true innovation, there is no reason why innovation should not be at the top of senior management's "to-do" list. Innovation needs to be cultivated within organizations to ensure success and longevity. This begs the question, what is innovation really, and why are not more companies doing it?
Is innovation a process? Is it a strategy? Is it a benchmark, a cross-functional team, or a new-to-the-world process? Is innovation a management technique or a leadership responsibility? The answer is that when innovation is done well, it is all of the above and more. A truly innovative organization has developed a mindset that permeates every aspect of its business. Innovation is a pervasive attitude, a feeling, an emotional state, an ongoing commitment to newness. It is a set of values that represents a belief in seeing beyond the present and making that vision a reality.
Most managers are unable to recognize innovation when it is happening right in front of them. Their understanding of what it is and what it involves leaves a lot of room for misinterpretation. Some think of innovation as a broad-ranging creative process, others as simple idea-generation. Some see it as strictly the domain of the new products department, others know it has something to do with marketing, but are not quite sure what. Most just want to get it "done", but fail to devote enough attention or dedicated resources to it to make this possible.
Recipe for successful innovation
- an optimistic, buoyant, and positive CEO;
- a chief innovation officer (CIO) committed to leading the innovation effort;
- a commonly agreed-upon new products strategy;
- a balanced new product and technology portfolio;
- a consumer-driven development process;
- several dedicated teams;
- a reward structure for new product participants;
- a set of innovation norms and values; and
- a measurement system for assessing innovation.
- Start with a CEO who believes in, conveys optimism about, and consistently commits resources to innovation. Add a chief innovation officer who has as his/her number one priority spearheading, mentoring, and leading the innovation effort. Develop a new products strategy and technology portfolio. Implement a consumer-driven development process.
- Next, mix in several dedicated and upbeat cross-functional new products teams. Motivate them with a reward structure based on performance. Add a set of values and norms for the organization to believe in and act on.
- Simmer for approximately five years. Be sure to convey passion and stir regularly. Watch carefully that the innovation mix does not burn and keep the heat regulated. Assess success by using a previously developed measurement system.
- Make sure you have already started a new batch before removing the first one from the stove.
- Serves hundreds of thousands of shareholders, employees, and customers. Enjoy!
The aspect of innovation that concerns most CEOs is that it is almost always inseparable from risk. Though many pay lip service to the power of innovation, most corporations today are averse to the type of aggressive investment it demands. Instead, they dabble in innovation. They talk about it as the lifeblood of the company and throw occasional resources and R&D dollars into new product development. It is a hot topic in strategic planning meetings. At least one manager or department is charged with "doing" it. But the commitment usually ends there. Unwilling to be measured by their failures, employees are reluctant to take risks that the successful development of new ideas demands and, as a result, even the desire to innovate diminishes. As most managers discover, it is one thing to talk about innovation, but it is quite another to stake your resources - and your career on it.
A passion for innovation must be inculcated within the hearts and minds of senior management before it can permeate an organization. Innovation cannot merely receive an occasional mention or occasional surges of additional resources. Senior management must believe in innovation and tout it as the most valuable strategic advantage that the company could ever hope to achieve. Actions must support the words. A fervor for and intensity about innovation must be conveyed. Innovation is not just one more thing to get done. Innovation is not simply a buzzword or a trend. Instead, it should be viewed as a way of life - a way of thinking, managing, and feeling.
Summary of "What is Innovation? And why aren't companies doing more of it? by Thomas D. Kuczmarski in the Journal of Consumer Marketing.