in Innovation

Old school look at innovation

There’s a flurry of innovation talk from the old school business guard lately. Reading through it, it seems like those concerned with innovation are repeating ourselves, possibly because we’re not aware of what other work has been done and because we’re using discovery tools that aren’t revealing anything new.

Jaruzelski, Dehoff, and Bordia from Booz did some financial analysis and found

  1. You need to spend the right amount of money, not too much or too little
  2. Big companies have more to spend
  3. Process and collaboration are important

BCG’s annual survey (PDF) found

  • Executives will increase spending on innovation
  • Generating organic growth through innovation has become essential
  • Less than half of the executives were satisfied with the financial returns
  • Globalization and organizational issues were two of the biggest challenges

In both cases I’m struck by the research tool used: both firms use familiar tools that are useful but (IMHO) result in limited answers. Financial analysis tells us what happened quantitatively but not why. Surveys show us perception of the situation, but not necessarily the real situation. Neither used qualitative research that, incidentally, can help address the problems they uncovered.

In Not All Innovations Are Equal, Govindarajan and Trimble talk about the wider application of innovation beyond continuous improvement and products to strategic innovations. That classification has existed in the form of Doblin’s Ten Types of Innovation. Their conclusion, that “Limits to innovation have less to do with technology or creativity than with management skill” has been discussed by Gary Hamel and is now championed by MIG.

That these ideas are becoming more widespread is great. But unless this is all just marketing bravura, we need more cross-pollination of ideas and experience to make progress rather than repetition. I’ve got a little project started to make that happen, more details in the New Year.

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