Saturday, January 16, 2016

innovation is the poster child of the mantra that there are no rules

One of the myths of business is that only new companies implement innovations.  Another myth is that only established companies do research and development.

In reality, new firms need to invest in research and development to gain market share. And, established firms need to invest in innovation to lead the market or to protect their slice of the pie.

But what type of research and development? How do we classify what will work and what won’t? There is no straight answer to the innovation mystery.

Innovation is a complex process that has become a confused concept in recent times. The challenge with complex concepts is converting them into the simple.

Jim Euchner, the vice president of global innovation at Goodyear, several years ago proposed  set of innovation types:

Innovation that feeds the existing profit engine
Process innovation
Faster, better, cheaper product innovation
New feature (incremental) innovation

Innovation that creates a
New profit engine
New product innovation
New business innovation
Disruptive innovation

Experience shows that organisations seem to find it harder to become successful as they move down the list. Success in the latter categories, although harder to achieve, leads to greater profits.

Euchner also suggests that we pay more attention to the context or the circumstances – generally business circumstances – in which the innovation is situated, effectively matching the type of innovation needed to best suit the situation.

The key is to recognise that innovation is not a standard process. As the context changes, so does the approach to innovation. And as approaches change, so does the need for different types of innovations.

If one looks at new companies as they grow and mature you often find excellent examples of innovation that changed according to the situation. Often the company starts out as a ’new kid on the block’, its product offering could be classified, for examples,  as a ‘process innovation’. The business and its business model matures, and the ongoing innovation now falls into the ‘faster, better, cheaper’ category.

So it is important to understand that there is no one-size-fits-all philosophy in terms of successful innovation. The one constant is that you have to be open to change and new points of view. Innovation is continuous.

Successful innovators and entrepreneurs all embrace change and the risks that they pose. In fact, innovation is the poster child of the mantra that there are no rules. Only by trying out new things, by failing, by discovering what works and what doesn’t, do you gain answers to the innovation question.