Drive around almost any big city in the world and you’re likely to hit traffic jams sooner or later. It’s like innovation in large companies, where the sheer size and complexity can inhibit the smooth flow of new offerings.
When I was growing up in the UK of the 1970s, there was a TV game show called The Golden Shot. The final part involved a member of the audience guiding a blindfolded cameraman to line the crossbow sights up to the bullseye. “Left a bit, right a bit, up, down a bit – FIRE”. If they were lucky, the bolt would hit the middle of the target and they would win a prize.
Innovation should always have a target.....
Are you confused about what innovation really is? If so, it’s probably not surprising. It’s widely written about in many different contexts, but with different impressions and about different things. So in an attempt to get a few things off my chest……
Experience is what you get just after you needed it. Or so the saying goes, suggesting that if only you had known beforehand what you learn afterwards, you would have avoided mistakes and achieved a better result. That’s largely true (in my experience!) but it isn’t a blanket statement that’s applicable in all cases.
I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations recently focused on the strategic view of innovation using the 3 Horizons framework originally proposed by McKinsey, and the assessment of risk and return from innovation.
Recently I went to the Financial Times’ FTInnovate conference in London. The conference theme was “Big vs small: which one is better?” The conference chair freely admitted that the intention was to provoke debate, not to have a fundamentalist binary position with only one right answer. And there was a lot of good discussion and debate.
“It’s only words, and words are all I have…….” , is a line from the Bee Gees song “Words” from the 1960s that has been covered many times since. Full disclosure here – I don’t have this song in my collection, only in the recesses of my consciousness.
Open Innovation is now widely recognized as a way to enhance options for innovation by accessing external assets. However it can mean many things to many people; from running a crowdsourced idea scheme like Lego Ideas or MyStarbucksIdea, through to large co-branded initiatives like Senseo.
In the middle of this spectrum lie Open Innovation joint development projects. Put simply, these are projects where two or more companies work together to launch a product or service, usually exploited in the market place by one of the partners. But these can take many forms.
In a recent conversation, I remarked that I used to be a scientist. Thinking about it afterwards, I realised that was wrong. A more accurate description was that I used to practice as a scientist, first with basic science, then the discovery and development of science-based products. But I am still a scientist, in other words I take a scientific approach to many aspects of my work; I think like a scientist.
One of my favourite definitions of innovation comes from Andrew Hargadon – it’s about making the possible desirable and the desirable possible. It neatly encapsulates supply and demand, implying that it’s something the customer wants and the innovator can deliver. It’s where problem and solution meet.