22 Jan Innovation the New Corporate Crack
Corporate Crack: Innovation for Sale!
I have been involved in the area of innovation Lassen Innovation for more than 25 years, both as an innovation strategist and as an inventor. About a decade ago, “innovation” became the new buzzword, like “synergy” or “solutions” or “value added.” Major consulting firms took advantage by using a smart policy of offering what customers wanted to hear. They’ve created a range of reversed-engineered innovation systems to sell to their clients. The systems are reversed engineered in the sense that the innovation is created from the risks that these companies have to manage. They were designed to be extremely attractive to large risk-centric companies. Today, there are as many as 800 different forms of innovation best practice. Do I have to point out the irony in that number?
So what do these consulting firms do? It’s simple. They create a risk-management system, but call it an innovation-management system. Their clients get to tell their bosses that they’re innovating, while at the same time, they don’t need to take any risks. This can only be described as “corporate crack.” This is the perfect combination of a brand initiative that has the no risk benefits of a risk management system. In most cases, it amounts to a rebrand. The clothes may end up different, but the organization stays the same. The problem is . . . there is a cosmic rule of the universe that states that there is always a direct correlation between the proportion of risk to the proportion of reward. Take away the risk and most of the time, you take away the reward.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course. Sometimes organizations use old-fashioned new product development risk-management tools and because of their brand positioning, they are able to have a breakthrough success. In the fast-moving economy, however, I wouldn’t bank on this method.
What makes more sense is to identify ways to invent value by going after real insights across customer nodes and touch points throughout a journey. This value is derived from leveraging the trajectory of change within technology and other market factors. What I’m saying here is that inventing takes guts and brains. Brains alone won’t cut it. As Einstein once said, “Insight is not a cure.” I take this to mean that knowing something doesn’t get you where you need to go. It’s deploying according to that insight that drives breakthrough innovations.
I have the best competitors in the world
I do have to confess I have the best competitors in the world. There are also many innovation consultants that do a great job including larger consulting firms in my opinion. I do think however this is the exception and not the rule.
Somehow, and I’m not sure why, my consulting firm seems to specialize in mopping up after failed innovation initiatives. I guess when all else fails you hire someone who’s willing to say what’s necessary instead of saying what you want to hear. Internally, we call it innovation hazmat, since we go into organizations and mop up the toxic waste that was created by innovation posers who really have no idea what they’re doing. The sad part is that the stakeholders in these organizations wanted to do what was right. Their employees wanted to engage and collaborate. Unfortunately, they were sold a bill of faulty goods. Resurrecting a field innovation initiative is no small task because now you have to go back and try to get these great stakeholders to give innovation one more try.
In our practice, we find that it is possible to do this no matter how bad the toxic spill. Needless to say, the best thing to do is to start out with a readiness assessment, then develop a comprehensive, actionable, and perhaps more importantly, sustainable innovation roadmap. When done right, innovation can double your returns on strategy. Furthermore, it can empower you to lead your market in product and service innovations. The customer loyalty is only icing on the top. And if that isn’t enough, we find that the most innovative organizations also always have the highest quality of work life. For the bean counters, when done right, innovation can yield huge multiples on return on investment. If you’re working with posers, kick them to the curb. Your company’s future is on the line here, so these considerations should not be taken lightly.