INNOVATION CONVERSATIONS

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Would you like to receive big ideas each week to help you achieve Innovation Success?

How do know if your innovation is any good?

If innovation is such a “top priority” for CEOs, why do so many say one thing and then do another?

I like to read the latest Top Innovator reports to see the new trends in corporate innovation, but the one thing that persistently stands out is the still lowish returns on innovation investments, a pleading wish to foster a culture of innovation and insights about innovation-killing behaviour.

Last year’s ISPIM conference had Gary Hamel run through his latest insights which turned up some disturbing news.

Top Execs think innovation is important with 79% of CEOs ranking it as Top 3 and yet 94% of organisations are weak (McKinsey).

But think and have pity on the humble idea.

68% of new ideas are treated with downright hostility.

It resonated with me.

Running a technology development function in a FTSE100 company, sure there were highlights, but they were few and always came at a high price in needing near-heroic levels of personal drive and commitment to shift the needle.

Why did your Strategy fail?

I’m big on strategy but recently I was doing an expert interview for a client with a business transformation expert.

He believes we are now in a post strategy world with the consequences that companies should stop planning for new technology and innovation and, well, just experiment.

What he meant was to be agile; to design test and review but quickly.

On that, we can agree.

If a strategy is a plan of alternative pathways to a future objective, then do we as business and innovation leaders need to take MORE care, more agency towards our chosen futures?

Agility is a tactic as an enabler of strategy rather than a replacement.

And we need to know where we are heading and where we are not.

This brings me to this week’s idea.

I was drawn to an HBR article by Paul Weinland et al who looked at the reasons strategy fails.

The results are somewhat depressing but illuminating.

In your mind's eye, draw a 2 x 2 grid with Ability to Plan and Ability to Execute each from low to high.

The Low-Low quadrant is bad; choosing to do both the wrong things and do them poorly is a pathway to disaster if it’s a habit.

Think of a time when the plan was good but poorly executed or the plan was weak but somehow you managed to make it through.

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Are you clear about the innovation and technology strategy?

“It’s worse than that, Rob.”

I was talking with a client and we had just assessed the strengths and weaknesses of the innovation and technology management system.

I wanted to help them understand their own roadmap to innovation mastery.

Part of the discussion was how much was spent on incremental development, how much on adjacent technology and how much on the breakthrough, transformational plays of the future.

I had guessed that 90% was spent on incremental, but the figure was over 95%: and zero on big future plays.

They’re not alone.

Consider how your organisation plans its purpose, goals and objectives; strategy for short.

What’s your innovation imperative?

“It’s great that you’re all coming together like this. I’ve been walking amongst you and watching the session you’ve laid in at this conference.  But I have to tell you, I’m seeing more confusion and misfires: you GOTTA execute!” (A Divisional President).

The message was hard. But she was right.

Everyone was so busy; doing so much stuff but too few were fruitful and mostly incremental gains.

We had lost sight of our innovation imperative.

You might have read some state of innovation nation reports by McKinsey, BCG and PwC.

Many organisations say they want to innovate and set up a programme to improve and yet the results frequently disappoint.

In the worst case, investment is plunged into an expensive innovation centre - there are now over 500 around the world - but it becomes more like an innovation theatre; a performative activity delivering few real results.  This is bad news because it saps the energy of people and drives cynicism.

The reasons to innovate are several, but is what I call your innovation imperative resonant?

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