Where to look for innovation

At every annul planning meeting with a client company, we have the team take a look at their business from a different perspective, inspired by a current business book or article. This year’s inspiration is Ten Types of Innovation: The Discipline of Building Breakthroughs, by Larry Keeley, Ryan Pikkel, Brian Quinn, and Helen Walters.

The authors write: “Executives need to understand that not only can they expect innovation from anyone in their organization—they are doing themselves and their company a disservice if they don’t do so. The most innovative organizations rely on systems of individuals and teams working across functions in their organizations. Innovation isn’t the work of only scientists, engineers, or marketers; it’s the work of an entire business and its leadership.” Directly quoting from the book, here are five key insights that we are highlighting with our strategic planning clients. 

Knowing where to innovate is as important as knowing how to innovate

Striking oil or mining gold depends far more on knowing where to dig than on the digging itself. Identify the right innovation opportunities and be very clear about the nature of the innovation you intend to create before you begin a project. (Look at Keeley’s ten types of innovation in this short BusinessWeek article.)

Tackle the hardest problems first

Don’t look for low-hanging fruit. Instead, target big, gnarly problems with no easy answer. This isn’t about what’s easy for you; it’s about solving deep problems for your customers. When innovating, focus on the hardest parts of a concept you have to get right. The easy stuff can wait until later.

Turn complexity into simplicity

It’s easy to take something simple and make it complex: politicians and lawyers seem to do it for a living. Yet very few innovations are championed for their intricacy. Most are known for bringing elegance and simplicity to even the thorniest problems. (Then, and only then, can you be confident that you’re on track for successful implementation of your company’s strategy.)

Refuse incomplete answers

Having embraced big challenges, be patient and work to create comprehensive solutions. Look for ways to resolve tensions instead of defaulting to trade-offs. This requires you to be comfortable with ambiguity and to wait for the answers to emerge.

It doesn’t count until it’s on the market

You haven’t finished the process of innovating until you bring the offering to market and you’re getting revenue for it. Or, in social or government contexts, until you have helped your stakeholders in a new and better way that can sustain itself over time.

For more detail on the authors’ insights, click on authors’ video or
this BusinessWeek article or a second video.
Better yet,
purchase the book from Amazon.com.

Creating an innovative culture can be a powerful status quo changer. Getting the team onto the same page and committed to strategic goals like this is what strategic planning is all about. Our two-day intensive planning meeting helps foster innovation in strategic planning in a similar manner to the way Bell Labs fostered innovation in technology — you’ve got key people in a room, interacting and collaborating, even off-site to minimize distractions, thus somewhat mimicking the conditions of wide hallways, open doors, no elevators. (See my 2012 blog post on this.)

If you’re interested in having a facilitated strategic planning meeting that moves you from concept to tangible implementation, check out our service offerings online, contact us by email, or better yet, give us a call at (800) 207-8192 to arrange for a complementary consultation to determine if you are ready for strategic planning and if our program is right for you.

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