Thursday, January 24, 2013

4 Reasons Why 2013 Will Be The Year of The Innovator

This article was written by Haydn Shaughnessy, Contributor in Entrepreneur Magazine, reprinted by permission

A couple of years back when I edited Innovation Management, I was a strong innovation skeptic. A lot of the writing that came my way sounded really like cheer-leading rather than analysis.

I pushed back on one after another “stoke their fire” or “4 Ways….” type article. It was mushy stuff and largely predictable.Move up tMove down

Times change. Innovation is ripe again. Here are four reasons, apart from competitive pressures, why 2013 will see a surge in intelligent, strong ROI-related innovation writing, thinking and action. It could be your opportunity, too.

#1. The enterprise is more deeply engaged by innovation than ever before. The reason is simple enough – most organizations are overwhelmed by the requirement to change.

I just completed 30 interviews with CIOs and Chief Innovation Officers for my Cognizant Future of Work project. For the first time in all the years I’ve been observing enterprises I got the feeling that they were now becoming innovation engines, or trying to become so.

Innovation is becoming embedded as a transformation method. Unlike social it is necessary and objectives-driven. And it has the broadest possible relevance to the future.

The drawback is: how do you get a coherent overview of change in your org – for sure it is happening but do you know enough about it? Are you in control of the transformation? That will be a big question in 2013.

#2. Method is maturing and expanding. Go back only three years and innovation revolved around those corny “inspirational” ideas about stoking up the troops and unleashing their creativity.

The problem for a lot of enterprises was that formal methods like TRIZ appeared to be too formal, or somehow not relevant (I think the opposite, TRIZ is highly relevant). Six Sigma was too closely associated with cost reduction. Employees needed educating but enterprises were often too scared of opting for the wrong education.

Now innovation is often reactive – if your people are using iPhones, you had better react. You need to start thinking about re-architecting your infrastructure. There’s no time to lose. If you are marketing-led, you have to be multi-channel, in fact hyper-channel. Whatever business you are in, you are impacted by radical adjacencies.

Methods are being adopted from start-ups and the lean philosophy in order to cope with this – and it is a liberation. You also have genuine innovation method in instances like MMI – see my post here - and a growing understanding of the complicated business environment. That means leaders are beginning to trust to a little bit of chaos – not too much of course but enough to allow their organizations to reset. But it leads to point 3.

#3. Strategic options management is growing in importance

Most companies are faced with at least two innovation models that they are forced to function with. One will be a formal lab-to-market or legacy model. Another will be a service model.

But this service model can come in two flavors. On the one hand, seeking out a service layer to protect product. On the other, trying to find your way among all the service options in SaaS and Cloud and “ecosystems”, to form and reform offers to the long tail.

The strategic options portfolio is becoming an essential management tool because of this complexity. Companies are managing hundreds of simultaneous innovation projects (P&G told me they manage at least 400 at any one time, and that means not just managing the science but also the customer input and the go-to-market pathways). And the numbers of growing. Fortunately, platforms are maturing to meet that need.

# 4. Finally the Chief Innovation Office is proving its worth. Chief Inno Officers are often working on a shoestring but it is largely a new profession and a new office. They are beginning to prove themselves, and not just as cost-savers, a role they are often forced in to by platform vendors as much as by their own corporate culture.

Many large companies now know cost-cutting has gone too far and that they need to re-open a space for innovation beneath the radar, among peers,, innovation on the bench, or from entrepreneurial service managers. Companies in fact are looking to design freedom back in, through the innovation office. Carefully!

These four reasons convince me that 2013 innovation will be the exciting place for ideas and action.