Innovation: An Introduction

February 22nd, 2011 by Rob Berman Leave a reply »

Graphical representation of the Introductionphoto © 2010 Ted | more info (via: Wylio)
I have seen the term “innovation” everywhere I go.  It seems to be the buzzword du jour.  However, Peter Drucker tackled the topic over 25 years ago in a Harvard Business Review article called The Discipline of Innovation.  He said, “There are, of course, innovations that spring from a flash of genius.  Most innovations, however, especially the successful ones, result from a conscious, purposeful search for innovation opportunities, which are found only in a few situations.”

I had lots of questions so I contacted Jatin DeSai, the CEO of The DeSai Group for his thoughts. Here are some of the questions and his answers from our discussion about innovation.

1. How do you define innovation?

Harvesting the deep insights of an organization’s human spirit and knowledge, generating a pipeline of ideas that are evaluated, selected and ventured using disciplined tools, methods and processes that advance the growth objectives for an organization.

2. Innovation seems to be the hot topic over the last 12 months.  Why is that?

Yes, it is much ‘hotter’ in US in the last few years. There are two reasons. First, we are now ready for recovery after the worst financial crisis we will ever see. Second, leaders have done all they can to cut costs. They are finally waking up to realize the importance of innovation; something they have ignored for the last few decades.  Other countries, especially in Asia and the Middle East, who have not seen the recession, are too busy executing and scaling. That is, making money.

In the last 10 years in the US there have been three major strikeouts: 9/11, the Great Recession and Corruption.  We are all down in the valley and looking up at the mountain.  Industry has been through the productivity enhancements focus, six sigma, and LEAN manufacturing.  There is no new news or we have tried it before.

Innovation is about growth and new – — it gives hope.  Many companies are re-branding to look forward to something new and novel.

3. Is innovation the fad of the moment to be replaced by some other theory or is it here to stay?  Why?

It is the place to focus now.  Innovation is what led to the Industrial Revolution.  If leaders truly understand what innovation is, they would realize it is the best way to grow and assure profitable future.  We cannot manage through uncertainty without innovation.  We cannot quickly correlate growth and success without innovation since there is not stability anymore.

4. Can we measure innovation by looking at the bottom line?

Not entirely.  It is a cop out that we equate success as the bottom line or stock value each quarter and not over time.  There is too much focus on the bottom line.

If a company sells profitable products and services, it will grow the top and bottom lines.  Thinking to grow bottom-line alone, does not assure growth of  top line.  Companies are too risk adverse to try for the next big thing.  For example, in Financial Services how many companies have an R&D Department or even a Competitive Intelligence Department?

People are idea generators where they manage the competition for the present to keep profits.  The companies may also manage the markets for the next few years to enhance profits.  What they do not do, is seek new profits by finding new markets for the future.

5. Can old technologies or approaches come back again and be innovative?

Old technologies probably will not come back.  The days of blast faxing are gone.  The only people who use this technique are local restaurants targeted to lunch orders.

Methods to fulfill supply and demand will come back.  We will begin to perform work in a personal way instead of so heavily relying on all the electronics.

6. How would you recommend that we learn more about innovation?

I list on my web site 23 books that should be read.  I also follow 25 folks who tweet about innovation.  You can find them by following me on Twitter, @jhdesai.

The Takeaway:

Innovation is not a fad but rather a key approach to business that companies need to embrace or be left behind.

These are my initial questions on innovation.  Over to your.  Please comment below.

1.      How do you define innovation?

2.      Has too much been made in the media about the role of innovation?

3.      How is your organization innovating?

If you would like to contact me, you may do so by visiting myLinkedIn page, following me on Twitter,  or e-mailing me at rcberman2 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

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13 comments

  1. I think with all the innovation that’s occurring in the technology sector, it’s definitely inspiring all kinds of people to create the next big thing. That can be good and bad, but the fact that people are feeling inspired during these economic times is amazing. Great post.

  2. Susan Oakes says:

    Hi Rob,

    I found it interesting that you mentioned Financial Services and not having an R & D department. As I mostly worked in manufacturing companies one of the things we had was a team including R&D looking for ways to innovate for current and new products and R & D was encouraged to go beyond what was the norm.

    That said most innovations today are incremental however I am sure there are those that are looking to develop new innovations that we just do not know about.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Susan:

      Jatin has worked with many financial services companies and it is his observation. Having worked at a number of insurance companies they tend to be fragmented not centralized in the area of innovation. One company tried centralizing innovation and it failed miserably. There used to be a central research or library area at a few of the companies. I think most of it has been disbanded.

      Rob

  3. Jatin is right about the need for innovation. And it applies to not only companies but people as well. Everything and everybody needs to innovate on a continouos basis. If not we stagnate.

  4. I think most definitions of innovation are too highfaluten — innovation is making something better before someone else does. Nowadays, innovation is rarely new but incremental — smarter smart phones, smaller but more powerful chips and so on. Few of us will truly innovate a breakthrough scientific achievement.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Jeannette:

      I agree about truly new scientific achievement. Incremental is often a good way to go. To use a baseball analogy we need singles but also the occasional homerun.

      Rob

  5. As I read this post, I kept thinking of Apple and specifically, the ipod. That innovation changed the music industry and the way we all buy music. Gone are the record stores I grew up with and gone are the CD exchange stores of the last decade. Innovation can cause a revolution in the positive sense of the word. Life is easier so consumers profit. Companies profit. When it’s a win win, that is how I define innovation.

    • Rob Berman says:

      Keyuri:

      To extend your analogy the same thing is happening to books. Borders is closing hundreds of stores including the one closest to me. Barnes and Noble is fine since they got into technology like the Nook and have been actively selling online unlike Borders.

      Rob

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