by: Idris Mootee

The word “innovation” has never meant much or less when it is so overused. I was looking at some 25 annual reports on my desk and 19 of the 25 uses the word “innovation” extensively throughout. To create innovative offerings and new differentiation requires the strategic alignment of an organization’s goals, people, resources, and culture and at the same time the purposeful misalignment of thinking and working styles in order to generate innovative ideas.


There’s an very interesting article in New York Time on innovation. Here's a small excerpt:

A recent recruit to the endangered list is “innovation.” Once hailed as a panacea, it has been so diminished by hyperbole that it risks seeming irrelevant. (“Transformation” is the fashionable favorite to replace it.) Yet just like “design” and “contemporary,” “innovation” is losing credibility as a word at the very time when it is needed most urgently.

As the economic and environmental crises deepen, there is a growing recognition that many aspects of our lives need to be reinvented. Politicians routinely call for the “redesign” of society, and urge businesses to “innovate” their way out of recession. This readiness to embrace change — even radical change — coupled with advances in science and technology, is unleashing a stream of innovations.

Innovation is hard. At least that what's my clients are telling me. Why is it so hard? Imagine an organization that operates as 8 business units, with a staff of 50,000, and where the corporate strategy is incomprehensible, the marketing effort is massive but not customer-centric, where there is an over-abundance of information, most of it of very low quality, and where the marketing environment is often out of sync with the purposes of interactions and innovation. Such an environment is common in large complex organizations.

Executives understand that innovation is necessary in order to stay ahead or just to survive, yet only a handful have the conviction, discipline and energy to act on that understanding. Very few have the will to change and even fewer have led their organizations through disruptive change and discontinuities. In fact, many have made those disruptions part of the strategy. Over decades, business schools have developed a language for talking about business, from marketing to finance. We hear this corporate jargon all the time in the boardroom and see it in annual reports and press releases.  It helps us to understand and communicate. But because we don’t have a language or framework for innovation, the word was used loosely and even improperly, confusing many people. Part of the innovation process is about providing a language and visual metaphor to facilitate an innovation dialogue.

Another big obstacle to developing a language of innovation is a company's own internal structure or processes. I will write more about the processes and organizational practices next time. Let me end this post by listing different schools of innovation.

Old-school High-tech Innovation. These are technological experimentation that led to early commercialization. These technologies take decade before they hit the mass market.

New-school Open-source Innovation. These are innovation that is the results of open-source movement. The open community shapes Lot of grass root improvisation and the direction.

Social Innovation. These innovations are often the response of large scale human challenge and a new breed of social entrepreneur responded with their own solutions. 

Design Innovation. An example would be a socially responsible product-design firm run by engineering students, which provides high-quality services for nonprofit organizations at affordable prices.

Service Innovation. This is a hot one today as the economy in the west is rapidly migrating to service. Service design or innovation is a relatively new discipline. The challenge with service innovation is it’s intangibility and perishability. Most required end user to participate.

System Innovation. This is what refers to innovation that requires mobilization of all different players in the system whether it is government policy or society at large. This often refers to public policy offering sustainability benefits giving the constraints and barriers for this type of large scale change: the costs of changeover, uncertainty and the need to break old ties and do away with old practices

And Business Model Innovation, which I will write about separately next week.

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