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7 Questions And Answers About Innovation

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Article in which I answer 7 basic questions about innovation

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7 Questions And Answers About Innovation

  1. 1. Gestão da Inovação Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation biblioteca Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation Considering the current wave of companies that want to implement innovation, there is a specific need for answers to some important questions about the phenomenon. In this article, seven questions that are key to the way you define your strategy and set up your structure for innovation are being addressed. It will help you to take some important decisions for the implementation of innovation within your company. Caspar van Rijnbach Innovation is a hot topic nowadays, therefore 5. Should a company focus on break companies are rushing to take action on what through innovations or continuous seems to be fundamental to their survival. At improvements? the same time, these companies are having a hard time discovering where and how to start. 6. Innovating, looking to the future or Defining how to stimulate creativity, how to using the past? organize innovation and who should be involved, are some basic questions that are 7. Innovation by individuals or in not easily answered by those responsible for groups? thinking out a strategy for innovation. Before answering any of these questions, it is The following seven key questions will give important to define the concept of innovation. some insights that will help you better In Webster’s New Unabridged Dictionary structure the rationale for innovation in your “innovation” is defined as the “introduction of company: new things or methods” and “innovate” is “to make something new or make changes in 1. Does it make any sense to implement something established”. This is a very broad an innovative structure? Is innovation definition of innovation and where it remains accidental or can it be planned? hard to establish a clear difference between, for example, improvements, inventions and 2. Should innovation be centralized and innovations1. Therefore in this article, Frank organized from the top-down or Bacon's definition will be used - one that is should it be bottom-up and more related to the daily reality of companies. decentralized? According to Frank Bacon, innovation differs from invention in the sense that invention is a 3. Who should be responsible for solution to a problem, while innovation is an innovation? 4. Who should participate in innovation? 1 Roger Bean and Russell Radford, The Business of Innovation (New York –AMACOM Books, 2002) ©TerraForum Consultores 1
  2. 2. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation invention that can be made commercially opportunistic behavior when individuals or relevant to the company2. Innovation, then companies are randomly presented with these involves not only invention but also a strategic opportunities? Take the case of a railroad and financial analysis of these inventions and worker from East Japan Railways who an analysis of the company’s capabilities to discovered that the water that caused trouble exploit them with their current resources. when building tunnels for the new bullet train, was actually very good drinking water. The This definition still leaves the range of company exploited the opportunity and used it innovation open, since innovation is seen in to produce beverages, which resulted in 1994 many aspects of corporate operations - from in US$ 47 million in sales for the company. the development of new technologies or Consider the case of Jim Schlatters, of G. D. innovative ways of recruiting, to a new way of Searle and Co. When mixing substances for managing clients or important improvements an anti-ulcer drug, he tasted the extreme in logistics. However, the main focus of this sweet taste of the substance after some drops article will be on the development and had splattered on his bare hands and he introduction of products and services. licked his fingers. His discovery was pursued by the company and the innovative sweetener One thing seems to be clear: innovation is called NutraSweet turned a Drug company crucial for the company’s long-term future. Of into billion-dollar Food company4. course, companies want to control this future and this means they will need to be able to These are two examples of big breakthrough control their innovative capacity. This raises innovations that came pretty much out of the first questions: Are companies able to nowhere - unexpected and unplanned. Could control innovation? Can systemic and they have been planned? Probably not, like continuous innovation be secured and many other innovations throughout history. deliberately implemented? Does this mean that all innovations have been or have to be results of “accidents” and 1. Does it make any sense to unforeseen opportunities? This question implement an innovative structure: receives another confirmative “no” for an is innovation accidental or can it be answer. Just take Edison as an example. planned? Edison generated over 400 patents in six years of operation in his Menlo Park “Systematic innovations”, as Peter Drucker laboratory and is a great example of how to describes them, “consist of the deliberate and plan innovation. He boasted, “a minor organized search for changes and in the invention every ten days and a big thing every systematic analysis of opportunities which six months”5. those changes can offer for economic or How about companies such as Ideo, one of social innovation”3. Is it feasible for America's leading design firms, which year organizations to pursue this? Are major after year brings innovative products to the innovations the product of a deliberate search market based on customer requests? Surely, for opportunities or are they merely due to 4 Alan G. Robinson and Sam Stern- Corporate Creativity: How innovations and improvements 2 Bacon, Frank & Butler, Thomas, Achieving really happen (San Francisco, Berret-Koehler Planned Innovation, (The Free Press, 1998) Publishers, Inc, 1997) 3 Peter F. Drucker - Innovation and 5 Andrew Haragdon- How breakthroughs happen: entrepreneurship: practices and principles (New the surprising truth about how companies innovate York, Harper and Row, 1985) (Boston, Harvard Business School Press) ©TerraForum Consultores 2
  3. 3. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation innovation can be planned for. Then again, whereby employees are allowed to take a surely not all of it. That leaves the question: certain amount of their time to work on their how much of it? Or should the question really own projects. The projects can be completely be 'how much?' Can both unplanned and unrelated to the current work that staff is planned innovation sit side-by-side within the undertaking. In the category of companies that same organization? work with structured and directed innovation, Boeing, Siemens and Dow Chemical have 2. Should innovation be centralized been highly successful as well6. Strategic and organized from the top-down direction given by the company’s leaders can or should it be bottom-up and be very useful, it keeps employees focused on decentralized?" what really matters to the company. There is some disagreement between Both forms, the top-down and bottom-up researchers on what brings more revenue to a approach, are possible and can be successful; company: innovations originating from it depends very much on the company’s employees or innovations directed by the industry, culture and structure. In order to companies board and based on the improve the chances of success, two things company's strategy. Sam Stern, who are highly important to nurture: an innovative undertook research on innovation at the Japan culture, as well as an innovative structure, Management Association, found out that more based on processes, funding and support from than half of the innovations that received the company’s board. When lacking these two awards from either the Japanese Science and elements, it would be hard for creative Technology Agency or the Japanese Institute employees to bring forward their ideas and for Invention and Innovations, had been inventions (for which an innovative culture is initiated by individuals alone and had not been required) and the organization to turn those foreseen or initiated by management. He also ideas into innovations (for which processes, found that the benefits from projects initiated funding and board support are necessary). by individuals, easily surpassed the benefits Innovative culture is something that can only gained from projects initiated and directed by be created over time through strong the company’s management. Do these results leadership, supporting company policies and mean that companies should have a bottom management training. This raises the following up approach? question: Not necessarily so, both the bottom-up approach and the top down approach can be 3. Who should be responsible for applied. Working at Royal Dutch/Shell for innovation? example, I experienced a more bottom-up approach, which was used in order to Responsibility for innovation should involve all stimulate staff to bring forward their ideas. employees. Each of them should feel the need Employee generated ideas went through a to contribute with new ideas to the company “GameChanger’ panel, where their ideas were and create value by innovating. This is a very analyzed and provided with the required elegant way of thinking about innovation, but it resources when approved. In 1999, out of the is not always possible and depends on the five largest growth initiatives at Shell, four had structure and culture of the company. HR come through the Game Changer model. Other very successful innovative companies, 6 Mohan Sawhney –Managing Business Innovation like 3M, have implemented a company policy (Presentation Kellog School of Management, 2002) ©TerraForum Consultores 3
  4. 4. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation departments and internal communication departments are a good place to delegate 4. Who should participate in responsibility for creating this culture, with the innovation? constant support of senior management. Apart from this creative aspect, someone also needs Where does innovation come from? Is it from to be responsible for implementing, tracking the brightest employees? Your clients? and leading larger innovative projects. Anyone in particular? Various research Innovation programs need to have a corporate studies have shown that it is difficult to governance model, with a variety of roles and determine who the innovators in your responsibilities for areas participating. It is company are, until they are given the important that one of the areas has a pre- opportunity. Internally, innovation comes from dominant lead in the governance. experimenting. If you give your employees a chance to participate, then the innovative ones In order to determine which department will come floating up. They might come from should have the lead, depends very much on all corners of the company, from the board to the type of innovation the company wants to the machine operator, from HR to Sales, but pursue. If the focus is on continuous you will not know until you give them the improvements in operational environments, chance. then areas such as operations, maintenance or engineering should probably have the lead. Intelligence is not a determining factor for If the focus is on product innovation, then it creativity and innovation, as long as a certain depends very much on the phase in which the level of intelligence is attained. Neither are product finds itself within the product life experience or age. Working in routine cycle7. New, breakthrough products should be activities is also not a barrier to creativity since the responsibility of research and there will always be some non-routine development, far away from the core of the activities done by the employee8. Creativity is business, in order to avoid getting sucked into highly dependent on the culture that exists the current market and customer perspectives. within a company. For corporate innovation, a This would have a serious negative impact on positive view of creativity is a requirement. the innovation. Products that are at the mass- market phase of their lifecycle, and still need After having identified your innovators, you improvement to better meet customers' needs might want to choose to stimulate and support will probably best be lead by marketing, as them: by special training, sharing in profits long as marketing holds close contacts with from innovation or through specific career sales. plans. This all depends on cultural aspects, leadership vision and company policies. Determining who will have what However, do not limit participation, as this responsibilities, varies very much on what goes against the spirit of creativity. You might your objectives are, where your innovative have already developed a view, on who capacity lies within the organization and how should participate in the early stages, but do these capacities best can be exploited. Who not hold back the creative power of all the will be the innovators within your company? other employees. Your innovation process, Who should participate in the program? 8 Alan G. Robinson and Sam Stern- Corporate 7 Geoffrey A. Moore- Darwin and the demon: Creativity: How innovations and improvements innovation within established enterprises –Harvard really happen (San Francisco, Berret-Koehler Business Review August 2004 Publishers, Inc, 1997) ©TerraForum Consultores 4
  5. 5. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation with its strategic and financial analysis, will and brings along quite some risks (What will filter out the ideas useful to the company. be the next breakthrough product? Will there be a market for it?), it also brings substantial Not only might you search for creative abilities higher returns than incremental innovations of within your company, but also outside: clients, existing products. In their study on the suppliers, researchers, possible new hires etc. relationship between innovations and When aiming at improving your products, for corporate returns, Kim and Mauborgne example, a great creative participant in the examined 30 companies across multiple innovative process can be your lead- business sectors. In their study, only 14% of customer, as is shown by the experience of new product launches could be marked as 3M9. Although employees are often the ones innovations; that is, new products. The able to come up with breakthrough ideas, a majority, 86% of the product launches, were company will be able to mold and change its line extensions – incremental improvements products into commercial successes by on existing products. Yet, the true innovations working with lead customers. accounted for 38% of the revenues and 61% of the profits10. Through my experience with Not all your customers are good for testing out idea management and innovation programs at breakthrough ideas. When working with these several companies, I have learned that in types of ideas it is not advisable to work with many cases, 1 or 2 ideas out of a few “followers” or “late adapters”. These thousand can pay for the entire innovation customers are better references when you program. These breakthrough ideas are the look at improving your current products in the ones that really generate value for the market: by adding or taking away features, company. An example in Brazil is the natural improving the design etc. They want to have and environmental friendly cosmetics-line, their current needs better served, but they are Ekos, launched by Natura in 2000. By not ready for complete new value investing heavily in a complete new value propositions. The question is: What kind of proposition, Natura has been using this brand innovation should you focus on? Innovations to make its first steps to enter the European that help you serve your current customers market. and exploit your current market or breakthrough innovations that completely turn So, why then, do companies not focus on the market structure up side down? breakthrough innovations? The truth is that breakthrough innovations strengthen the long 5. Should a company focus on term positioning of companies, yet not always breakthrough innovations or the short term. Companies are bound by continious improvements" shareholders who want quick returns to their investments and by customers who are not Is it possible to focus on breakthrough interested in products that might fulfill their innovations? Does it make sense to target future needs or those of other customers. breakthrough innovations? It does, financially Companies automatically fall back into speaking. Although focusing on breakthrough thinking, “let us make some modifications to innovations often requires large investments our product, so we can differentiate us from the competitors”. Nice try! However, 9 Eric Von Hippel, Stefan Thomke, and Mary Sonnack- Creating Break Through ideas at 3M 10 W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, "Value (Harvard Business Review on Innovation, Harvard Innovation: The Strategic Logic of High Growth, Business School Press, 2001) (Harvard Business Review, January-February 1997) ©TerraForum Consultores 5
  6. 6. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation competitors easily copy these improvements. potential opportunities, innovation is mostly to Companies remain fighting fiercely with other do with using the past. A large part of competitors day after day over the same pie of innovation is about the combination of already ever lower margin-generating markets. existing technologies in a different way or applying already known processes or The focus on improvements is financially less techniques to different situations. Most interesting, but at least it is less risky. How innovations are not as revolutionary or many times a decade are there breakthrough breakthrough as they seem. Although the innovations that turn whole industries upside introduction of new products in a market can down? In some high technology industries, we be revolutionary, most of the technologies have seen this happen over the last decade, used in these products already existed. Take however in most industries it just does not for example, the cellular phone. Although you happen too often. So yes, breakthrough can view the introduction of the cellular phone innovations bring the company long-term into the mass market as revolutionary, the benefits, but if the likelihood is so low, then is technology that the cellular telephone was it really worth all the effort? And can't we focus based on had existed for quite some time. on both? Although it is not always easy to carry out, especially in economic downturns, it So, look at current economic, political and can be done. Several companies, like Tesco, social developments to determine patterns do both. Tesco spends money on basic and look at the future to determine future innovations such as the constant markets and customer needs, but think about improvements in its logistics and at the same a different use or new combinations of existing time invests in breakthrough innovations such technologies and practices to serve these as the highly successful internet delivery needs. business11. If we can focus on both, then how should we start innovating? How do I ensure that this happens in the best way? Should I concentrate on recruiting or fostering some geniuses? Should I stimulate 6. Innovating, looking to the future or group work? Does invention and innovation using the past? come about from individuals or groups? When thinking about innovation, people automatically think about the future. They start 7. Innovation by individuals or in projecting macro economic trends and how groups? the world or their specific customer market will look like in 5 or 10 years time. They start The myth that innovation depends on lonely visualizing what kind of technologies will be geniuses that come up with one innovation available in the future and how they could use after another, without being in contact with the these technologies to develop new products rest of the world is a persistent, but erroneous and deliver new services to the customers. way of seeing innovation. Although these geniuses certainly exist, most of them work or Although these are very useful exercises and have worked with teams of specialists to they will help you to open your mind for inspire invention and make their inventions commercially viable. Thomas Edison has 11 Incremental or Radical? Shape the agenda/The become a legend to many people, as a one chartered institute of Marketing- Harvard man patent machine. In fact, he worked with a Management Review, nr. 49 –April-May 2005. group of around fourteen researchers at his ©TerraForum Consultores 6
  7. 7. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation laboratory at Menlo Park, even splitting survival. Strong leadership that stimulates a revenues from the inventions with them. culture open to creativity will enhance the Besides, Edison sustained and exploited a innovative potential of the company. Strategic wide network of other inventors, building upon direction, well-defined processes, user-friendly their ideas. A great example of this is the technology and an established governance platinum light bulb, which was hanging in his model will enable companies exploit this own laboratory long before he “invented” it. In potential, while leaving the door open for fact, it had been developed more than 20 some unforeseen ideas to flourish. years earlier by one of his a regular contacts, Moses Farmer.12 How to give strategic direction to innovation and which department should lead your In our age of innovation and speedy internet innovative program will be determined by the connections, the phenomenon of networks is strategic objectives you set. This definition is becoming more popular again, with critical, since different departments will have companies and even competitors sharing and different focuses (operation vs. client focused; working together to direct breakthrough break through innovations vs. continuous innovations - take for example Philips and improvements) and ways of evaluating Sony in the development of the CD. strategic relevance. Although one department Companies connect themselves to the outside might have the lead, everyone in the company world to engage with researchers, lead- should be able to participate in the process. customers and suppliers to help them to Limiting participation, will handicap the innovate. Internally, companies construct creative potential of your company. networks to stimulate the exchange of views between employees from a wide range of Make sure you use some of the company’s fields and departments. This does not mean money for research in breakthrough ideas as that these people get together in a these are the ones that will ensure your future. brainstorming session without any specific At the same time, do not forget to strengthen target in minds or problems that need solving. your short-term performance through Group creativity should be guided by a goal. continuous improvements by looking at the This logic brings us back to our definition of future, exploiting already existing knowledge innovation at the beginning of this article, and technology and applying it in new ways, which states that we should focus on new combinations or in different situations. innovation that is strategically relevant to the Throughout this explorative process, you organization. should not just focus on the lonely genius. You should lay your emphasis on stimulating networking between creative people from Conclusion diverse backgrounds, those with different ranges of knowledge and by including third Although innovation is sometimes accidental, parties in your innovation process. innovation can, and should be, managed. Many companies have shown that this is Innovation is essential for the survival of your possible and history tells us that it is pretty company and it is possible to implement a much the only alternative to ensure long-term structure that strengthens innovative capacity. Form alliances with peers and key 12 Andrew Haragdon- How breakthroughs happen: stakeholders to ensure the subject ends up on the surprising truth about how companies innovate the executive agenda. Legitimize the move (Boston, Harvard Business School Press) towards becoming an innovative company by ©TerraForum Consultores 7
  8. 8. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation highlighting the successes of other companies in similar or the same industry as yours. You’d better start working at it, before your competitors get too far ahead of you! *** Caspar van Rijnbach is a consultant at TerraForum Consultores and specializes in innovation Artigos Relacionados Como transformar idéias em inovações que geram resultados Programa de Idéias: mais quantidade ou mais qualidade? Gestão da Criatividade Gestão de Conhecimento, Inovação e Colaboração Seleção de Profissionais Criativos ©TerraForum Consultores 8
  9. 9. Gestão da Inovação Seven answers you need to be able to give about innovation A EMPRESA A TerraForum Consultores é uma empresa de consultoria e treinamento em Gestão do Conhecimento (GC) e Tecnologia da Informação. Os clientes da empresa são, em sua maioria, grandes e médias organizações dos setores público, privado e terceiro setor. A empresa atua em todo o Brasil e também no exterior, tendo escritórios em São Paulo, Brasília e Ottawa no Canadá. É dirigida pelo Dr. José Cláudio Terra, pioneiro e maior referência em Gestão do Conhecimento no país. Além disso, conta com uma equipe especializada e internacional de consultores. PUBLICAÇÕES TERRAFORUM Gestão do Conhecimento e E-learning na Prática Portais Corporativos, a Revolução na Gestão do Conhecimento Gestão do Conhecimento - O Grande Desafio Empresarial Gestão do Conhecimento em pequenas e médias empresas Realizing the Promise of Corporate Portals: Leveraging Knowledge for Business Success Gestão de Empresas na Era do Conhecimento ©TerraForum Consultores 9