Innovation Summit Presentation – Miami 2007

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by: Idris Mootee

Innovation is a hot topic and there’s no question about it. It’s now on the agenda of every senior executive. I was speaking in Miami this week in a summit to demystify this subject. People often equate innovation with creativity or novelties, but not seeing it from a business strategy perspective. Innovation strategy models often follow an uninspired formula – let’s encourage employees to come up with some creative ideas, conduct a few focus groups and voila! We have an innovation strategy.

It is extremely common for organizations and consultants who believe in innovation starts from a product. The question is ‘what is a product anyway’? There are those who believe that there is no formula to make innovations happen, it is all about creativity, but that’s not true. "While it is true that innovation is not the product of logical thought" as Einstein put it, "the result is tied to logical structure."

So what is an innovation strategy? At the very minimal your innovation strategy model must allow you to do the following:

1.      – It allows you to explore the changing landscapes (convergence, market shirts, discontinuities and technology disruptions)

2.      – It allows you to identify customer unmet needs or explore non-consumption (through journet mapping, obervational research and other ethnographic exercises)

3.      – It allows you to open up your opportunity horizons

4.      –  It allows you to link ideas to economic value.

5.      – It helps to create multiple scenarios for the future.

Inn Innovative leadership means navigating and opening undefined pathways through the boundaries you operate within or prepare to expand into. First you must decide on your innovation posture (see my presentation below). It also requires innovative leadership to use one of these models to fully leverage the many strengths of their available human capital assets – intellectual and physical assets, production and social assets, capital and developmental assets. As Drucker puts it "Innovation is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship. The act that endows resources with a new capacity to create wealth".

Large companies will continue to struggle to innovate and end up writing big checks. Economist Joseph Schumpeter foresaw that organizations cannot easily forgo the products and processes that brought them great success and eventually get stuck. As I told the audience in all my innovation keynotes "The biggest enemy of innovation is size." Large companies with their vested interests and huge market investments (to achieve scale) will simply not be as agile as smaller maybe even "open source" companies in delivering new ideas to the market in a speedy manner.

Microsoft, Yahoo and Sony are all good examples. They are all standing on weak legs. Take Microsoft Vista for example. Avalon/Windows Presentation Foundation is really a mix of MacOS GUI features, Mozilla XUL, and lots of Xerox Parc. NET is Sun’s Java and Jini plus Bell Labs substantial language framework innovations. Expression Suite is an acquisition. Yukon/ WinFS bares amazing resemblance to SQL Anywhere. Hotmail was an acquisition. Finally, most of the key clustering technology – its Open Source. Despite all the resources and amazing teams of top tatents, innovation for Microsoft is a serious challenge. I’m trying to think of a few innovations that come from Microsoft that achieved moderate success. Can you?


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