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On Innovation

Agile, Lean startup, Ideation, all central components to an innovation process. Thinking about how this comes together at an existing enterprise, and how to propagate it is challenging

As I research the Innovation Process in preparation for a potential educational program around Innovation Management, there are several thoughts that are swirling in my head.

Being a long time technical marketer, I am familiar with many of the “Chasmista’s” methodologies (loosely, the body of thought inspired by Geoffrey Moore and his seminal work “Crossing the Chasm”), the concept of disruption, innovation, “tornado” markets are all well captured.

But I have also read practical marketing advice from Theodore Levin (in “The Marketing Imagination”) that innovation is often difficult, and that the leaders in innovation are frequently not the dominant force in the market, that often it is better to get the second bite at the apple (let someone else do that difficult work, and apply their learning to have cost, scale, or other advantages – The irony being that Apple often is seen as an innovator, but in reality, they are far better at that second bite.

There are several works out in the web space on innovation, and the barriers, these are some of the more common themes.

  1. Innovation is often starved of resources. Either it is poorly funded, or under funded. It takes money and resources to drive innovation. This, in turn, requires commitment, and long term vision for the leaders of the organization, something not common to publicly traded companies.
  2. Risk aversion prevents progress. Innovation often requires a scary leap of faith, and if you apply your normal risk assessment that you do to the normal Run the Business (RTB) projects and programs, it often can lead to innovation being shelved. Sometimes this is buried in the change management realm.
  3. Silos or BU (Business Unit) centric thinking. Innovation rarely falls within a single silo or business unit and thus touches several aspects of the organization. But often the metrics and measures expected from your business units (or silos) are tied to short term, “make the numbers” goals. And often large companies have a culture that “not making numbers will be punished”. Naturally, this can prevent a business leader from contributing sufficiently for success
  4. Time commitments or resource availability. All too often there aren’t enough people time to properly staff a program of innovation. People are either too busy, or there just aren’t enough headcount to effectively execute. Proper pursuit of innovation requires an investment of more than just capital to be successful, but also a commitment of human capital (with the right skills) to deliver.

Increasingly though, the commitment to innovation is being raised in medium and large organizations (for startups, the name of the game is all about innovation and disruption), and the formal creation of roles around Innovation and Innovation management. It is telling looking at what is being sought in these job requisitions. Some of the common “asks” are:

  • Strong project management skill, some demonstrated experience delivering large projects and managing cross functional teams to achieve targets.
  • Business and financial acumen. The role is like a mini-General Manager. While it isn’t a formal P&L, or business unit, leadership recognizes that innovation programs take both funding and business planning.
  • Experience leading by influence. Gaining and building trust relationships up and down the organization, and across groups. Attracting skilled, motivated talent when needed and to guide them into delivering on goals.
  • Ability to work in ambiguous situations, and thrive in poorly scoped roles.
  • Outstanding communication skills, both verbal and written, as well as the ability to connect with all levels within the organization
  • Strong sense of creativity and problem solving.

There are many other attributes, but in short, a strong technical project manager with some product management or strategic marketing skills would make a good starting point for an Innovation Manager. Now to define how to “make” an IM from scratch.


Josh Boot

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gander2112
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Written by gander2112

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