The Business of Innovation

Author

Jude Umeh

August 27, 2015

In order to survive and thrive in a continuously evolving digital landscape, there is no escaping the fact that every organisation must place innovation as a core activity in their business model, but what is the best way to go about it?
 
Many organisations choose to address this by investing in an innovation capability (i.e. time, space and resources) in the form of an innovation lab / centre / hub, where they can participate and play “the innovation game“, as described in a recent paper by Capgemini Consulting and Altimeter Group. One key message is that successful innovation centres need to have: clear purpose, executive support and real autonomy to delivery outcomes. Brian Solis posted an excellent summary here.
 
Over time, I’ve come to understand that that innovation typically happens when a pressing need or challenge is presented to a diverse group of people, with the right mindset to recognise and seize the opportunity to affect change, in a sustainable and profitable way. Below are top five lessons I’ve learnt over the years leading innovation in my business unit.
 
Top 5 Innovation lessons learnt (so far):
 
1.    Innovation is much more than ‘Digital’ – It has been happening much longer than the digital transformation phenomena we see / hear about nowadays. You’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise, but digital is just one form of innovation, albeit one that is farther reaching that most.
2.    Ideation is necessary; execution is a must – Application is key. Good ideas are dime a dozen, but the real value lies in applying new and/or established ideas in ways that deliver said value to your business and clients’ in a sustainable / profitable way
3.    Start thinking about the IP in co-creation & ecosystem – this one will only get bigger and more urgent over time. Currently we see a frenzy of co-creation and new economic dynamics in the so called sharing economics, however evolution is driven as much by scarity as abundance therefore the role of IP ownership as a driver and benefit of innovation will not disappear anytime soon.
4.    Innovation is subjective – One person’s innovation is another’s business as usual. The definition of innovation alone is a minefield of individual viewpoints. However, one aspect which everyone seems to agree is that innovation “involves doing something in a new or different way which delivers some sort of added value”. Discuss.
5.    Innovation is a journey not a destination. (i.e. tradition vs. culture) – most innovation labs are concerned with creating tangible new, innovative products and services,  the success of which they may be judged. However, not many innovation initiatives start out with a focus on how to create a culture, never mind tradition, for innovation.
 
Are you a CIO/CTO/CDO, Chief Innovation Officer, Innovation Director, Lab Leader or manager? Did you find any of the above to be true in your experience, and and how do they apply to your current organisation? I’d be very interested to know about it one way or the other.
 
In any case, it is relatively easy to reach a conclusion that organisations need to play the long game and not give into temptation of seeking quarterly results for their innovation initiatives. KPIs and other measures are necessary to track success, but they can also not constrain innovation. The true business of innovation is manifest in the long game needed for evolving a certain “point-in-time” innovation culture into longer term tradition for innovation.


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