photo © 2009 Alexander Osterwalder | more info (via: Wylio)
The introduction to a Peter Drucker article from over 25 years ago said about the innovation process, “As managers recognize the heightened importance of innovation to competitive success, they face an apparent paradox: the orderly and predictable decisions on which a business rests depend increasingly on the disorderly and unpredictable process of innovation. How can managers expect to plan for – or count on – a process that is itself so utterly dependent on creativity, inspiration and old-fashioned luck!”
To find the answers to those questions I spoke to Jatin DeSai, CEO of The DeSai Group. He defined innovation as “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.” in a prior interview named, “Innovation: An Introduction.” In my continuing interview with him we explore the process of innovation.
1. How does company culture impact their ability to innovate?
It is not really possible to create a culture of innovation without having climates of innovation first. Climate is something a leader controls in his own area. An innovative manager by his or her own nature will allow quicker innovation with the correct leader within the culture.
We utilize a tool called Innovation Readiness Assessment TM (IRA) that allows us to look at 15 factors across 45 components that can be measured for a company. That allows us to know what the climates and cultures are. This allows us to recommend how to strategically start transforming their culture to be more innovative.
2. What are the key steps to keep in mind about the innovation process?
There are two strategic processes one needs to implement – one for projects, individuals and teams, and the other is the management process for all innovation projects across the company. For daily projects, we teach individuals, teams and business areas our model called Challenge Development Process. We take everyone through a five-step process. The steps are Discontent (objective finding), Target (fact finding), Lens (problem finding), Ideate (idea finding) and Venture (solution finding). If the steps are repeated, then innovation can occur.
3. What are the major innovation processes?
I see four basic approaches.
A: Go to your R&D Department or set one up if you don’t have one. Otherwise, you can set up the D (Development) and buy R (Research) from the outside.
B: Start with a business unit that is ready with a good business leader who has a good business challenge.
C: Train all key managers and provide sets of tools. Then, let them innovate on an ad hoc basis. You will want an Innovation Program Office to function as a central resource.
D: Utilize a venture capital method. Find and grow intrapreneurship within the company. Set up a venture fund that individuals apply to for funding their ideas. A Venture Council composed of inside and outside staff determine how to disburse the money. I suggest running the process four times per year. We find that a 10,000-person firm will create 45-50 intrapreneurs within one year.
4. Do you have a special place that helps you think differently? If yes, where is it?
During early morning hours after the morning mediation – after 5:30 AM. I also try to take 2-3 retreats per year without my family. Being in a spiritual environment away from everything frees my mind.
5. What examples of innovation do you share with your clients?
We have 140 practical stories and cases written up from our work over the years. We try to match up a case study that is of a similar client type, stage of innovation and industry.
We look at types of innovation over four categories and 10 types. Most companies spend money on process and offerings only. We try to show that the highest leverage is with strategic innovations in the areas of Business Model and Partnerships/Alliances.
6. Please share an example of innovation gone awry.
Xerox –80%+ of what we would call modern office was developed in their Palo Alto, Research Center (PARC) in California. This R&D office, in the early 1970’s, created ethernet, internet protocol, graphical user interface, the mouse and keyboard.
The copier executives at Xerox New York headquarters, could not figure out what to do with these inventions. They did not fit the copier model. Bottom line: Steve Jobs got a tour and saw the potential. He created the Mac. Sun Microsystems, 3M, Microsoft, and many other companies all started because Xerox did not know how to bring these technologies into real world innovation and instead sold off their research to others.
Innovation is about challenging assumptions, breaking down orthodoxies, experimenting and learning from failure as much as benefiting from success. . Reward people for trials, not results. Companies do not know how to promote creative-destruction.. How can one create something remarkable without asking questions no one else is asking? It is finding solutions no one else will find. Most want to innovate starting from the same position every day. That does not work.
When starting on the innovation journey, it requires commitment to failure, long-term perspective, and smaller profits for the short term. Who is ready to do that these days?
The process is critical in innovation. Innovation is not lightening in a bottle but rather a concerted effort and process. You must work at innovation.
That is the interview. Over to you. Please comment below.
1. What processes does your organization use to encourage innovation?
2. Do you have an example of innovation gone awry?
3. How committed is your leadership team for long-term success not just short-term?