Innovation is now a very hot topic at the C-Suites. I have speaking a lot on the subect the last 5 years. The funny part is I am talking about Strategic Innovation and many still talk about Technology Innovation as if it was the sole source of innovation. People are very interested in my interpretation of Build-to-Last and the idea of Build-to-Fail-Fast. (Photos by Anddres Ahues)
Every large companies is thinking about it and most have little idea how to integrate that with the organization’s strategic intent; how to make it work within certain organizational structure; how to decide which project to fund; how to create a balance between reenergizing the core and attaching white space; what types of people to staff the innovation function; or simply what capabilities gap are needed to fill.
We just finished a comprehensive study of 42 top companies across 5 industries to understand what challenges and barriers that exist as well as little success stories. Generally speaking there are less success stories as we dig deeper but it is fine since they are at the early stage of the learning curve. We codified the knowledge in lessons learned as well design and implementation options as well as capabilities gap and how to fill them. It is not a 50,000 ft view but a very pragmatic understand of the situations and every company can learn from it.
The most common mistakes fell within the following:
- Focus too much on break-though ideas or staying too close to the core
- Not focus enough on creating break-through ideas and results in only incremental ideas
- Using existing (advertising and market research) vendors and infrastructures as well as toolkits that are not designed for innovation but apply them anyway and not getting the results desired.
- Fail to articulate the core purpose of innovation and how it is driven by the strategic intent and value creation
- Totally don’t understand the concept of ‘whitespace mapping’ let along the sense-making process behind it, and just called it ‘brainstorming’
- Fail to create a space that allow people to play and experiment and fail safely. A physical space that people with shared interest to play with ideas.
The idea of an innovation space is a good one. Even Microsoft has a space called Garage, a place opened last week that gives their staff access to tools such as a soldering bench, a laser cutter and a 3D printer to make prototypes and connect people with shared interest.
The Garage is in one of the oldest Microsoft buildings in campus but lots of windows. They filled the building with new "pods," basically temporary work spaces where teams of 2-6 employees can set up shop to collaborate on projects for a couple of weeks.
It is an attempt to create a safe place to fail. Fail as much as you like that and you wont get demerit points. Like all large companies, any good idea can get lost quickly because the initial market size is too small or it is threat to the core. Every company should explore having a space like this. Or they can house them in one of our offices that are even better.