I’m a big fan of the book Obliquity by John Kay. Despite the clumsy nature of the word, the message is simple. Objectives are rarely achieved in straight lines, you get there by oblique means. So if you want to achieve something, don’t aim directly for it, do the right things and you’ll eventually get there.
It’s an old saying that if you continue to do what you’ve always done, you’ll continue to get what you’ve always got. If you keep on banging your head against the metaphorical brick wall, your headache won’t go away, it’ll just get worse. It’s the same with creativity and idea generation. New products and services will continue on the same themes they always have if you have the same input and approach.
It’s the stuff of legend that Henry Ford is reported as saying “if I’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse”. This statement is trotted out (sorry….) to justify not doing consumer research on new products and services. The proposition is that consumers can’t tell you what they want; that they are unimaginative and uninterested until they see and touch the magical answer to all of their prayers, which our product will provide.
It must be a terrible feeling to be trying to innovate in the depths of a corporate morass, surrounded by the urgency of the day-to-day and banging your head on the metaphorical brick wall. Nobody seems to care and the corporate leadership is not only distant in the organization chart but never contribute to innovation.
Many of you will have heard or read the following statement – “innovation is everyone’s responsibility”. It’s often well meaning, intended to invite participation from all the creative minds in the company. However, it’s wrong.
I’m sure you’ve heard the statement – “we’re doing this innovation for strategic reasons”. Quite often “strategic” used in this context as a euphemism for “it’s not going to make any money but we need a reason to justify it”. Strategy should rarely be used as the sole reason or even excuse for innovation. It should always be strategic and make money.
Open Innovation (OI) offers companies greater opportunities for innovative products and services by increasing the access to inventions, technologies and products that other companies possess. In order for it to work effectively, it must be internalized in a way that gets a project moving fast. This is a key part of the process and certain people can play a key role.
The obituaries and tributes are fulsome and quite rightly so. Steve Jobs was an extraordinary man who built Apple into an extraordinary company. In the best tradition of declaring interests, let me say that I am also an Apple loyalist, an iPhile. I love the products, so my views may be slightly biased when I say that the Apple of the last 10 years is one of the most successful business stories ever.
I suspect the vast majority of innovation professionals would agree that measuring what you do is important. That may well be a statement of the blindingly obvious, but the debate diverges dramatically when considering what is actually done. Luis Solis of Imaginatik wrote a good post on Innovation Excellence clearly distinguishing between input and output metrics. I’d like to build on Luis’ article by adding four other considerations to the debate.