Tag Archives: Innovation

A way to look at Innovation

Innovation is one the most talk about subject in last couple of years. It is likely to remain focus area for most organisation. The future of organisation is going to rely on their ability to continuously Innovate their Processes and Products. There are several definition of Innovation and each one of them adds to its own flavour and approach. At time it appears that Innovation is expressed like the blinds defining elephant as they feel.

Wikipedia defines it as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs. This is accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are readily available to markets, governments and society.

In simpler terms it is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value or for which customers will pay. The picture below represents different terms often used interchangeably to indicate innovation.

Some pointers to explain the picture

  1. The arrows in picture indicate the direction of relationship. For example,
    1. “Invention” may lead to “Improvement”, but every “Improvement” need not be “Invention”.
    2. “Novelty” may be there in “Innovation”, but every “Innovation” need not be Novel by itself
  2. Alteration, Transformation are different forms of “Change”

Innovation is often an outcome of events and processes is an organisation. Peter Drucker in an article “”The Discipline of Innovation”, Harvard Business School Journal, 1985, listed following as sources of Innovation. The content of the article by Peter Drucker is available at https://notendur.hi.is//~joner/eaps/druck7-b.htm

  1. Unexpected Occurrences – Post-It is an example of such innovation. The product was not something planned and worked for creating. It was an accidental finding and put in use.
  2. Incongruities – Conflicting requirements. A classic example here could be the current days rim in cans (used by many beverages companies). The rim design actually resolved both strength required as well as maintain the weight of the sheet used in can. This is often illustrated application TRIZ. TRIZ is in fact all about developing solution (which are innovative) in conflicting situation.
  3. Process Needs – The process constraints thrown on professionals in real life situations often leads to line managers coming out with innovative approaches.
  4. Industry and Market Changes – Several examples of outsourcing of different services or moving into self-service models in businesses are examples of innovation to counter a change in Industry and Market.
  5. Changes in Perception – This is very similar to changes in market and Industry changes, except that here on deals with perceptions only. Many innovation in food products both in recipe and presentation has come out to manage better perception.
  6. New Knowledge – Using technology and newer development in different way of using. Many of the innovation has been possible with touch screen technology today in products and services.

Organisations do adopt a systematic approach that begins with Process of Ideation and ends with Innovation in Products and/or Processes. Organisations like 3M, Google are known for their systematic approaches towards Innovation.

The most important factor for Innovation (which is facing a reducing trend in society and organisations) is “Tolerance for Error” and “Freedom to Experiment” Unfortunately both society and organisation do not have right attitude towards both. One cannot be sure but it is noticeable that most innovations (in real sense) are not related to “Last Mile Delivery/ Usage Issues” of Products and Services or possibly they do not reach out to the common man. There are lots of incremental improvements and repackaging. This may be an offshoot of the fact that bringing in Innovative changes in Products and / or Services are often loaded with significant risk of failures. Successful Innovation often requires experimentation that can be considered (perceived) risky in competitive environment today.

First Attempt!!!


First Attempts !!!

Atempting to do different things is as important as getting new ideas. New ideas by itself cannot become innovation. The innovation funnel may look like the diagram below:

first attempt 1

Refinement and subsequent product in actual use requires experimenting new things, except in case of changes to products and process. The experience of doing new for first time is critical but ,most people hesitate. The reasons could be many. I thought it would be easier to explain this through a story. This is an anecdote from my own experience.

I had a new construction as part of modifications to my existing house. The area that was built had approx. 125 Sq Ft of wall space. This space required to be painted. Getting a painter for such a small area was becoming an herculean task. I decided to do it myself. Now begins several reactions and comments that had high chance of discouraging me and deciding not to do the painting.

  1. My family members were not sure if I can do. Some thought that it would be too difficult for me to handle.
  2. My hardware store owner looked at me as if I have come from another planet. He said with a smile to try.
  3. Products and tools available were not DIY (Do It Yourself) friendly. I had to figure out myself. Somehow I did not hesitate in
    1. Seeking help from a friend of mine who is in construction business
    2. I looked into the printed items in the containers of the raw material.
    3. I was not sure how to decide whether my work output was ok. I choose to seek feedback from my family members.

I need to use following traits / behavior to manage the challenges mentioned in this series.

  1. Remained firm and focused in what I decided
  2. Allowed for additional wastage on material (Efficiency was not important. It is never important in first attempt)
  3. Did not hesitate in seeking help. I asked the hardware shop fellow, a painter in his shop, a friend of mine.
  4. I enjoyed and celebrated every milestone in the process. There were gaps but learnt and filled as I went along.
  5. Did not hurry and was patient to follow advice of experienced people.

In most organization when you want to do something different thing or same thing in a different way you will experience same.

  1. Your bosses and colleagues are likely to tell you not to attempt. They use the term RISK for that. Innovators do take risk. Learn to take Risk.
  2. You will have lot people within and outside your organization. Do not hesitate in taking their help. It does not matter how they help you. What matters is the help available in any form. You have to decide and choose the path and step.
  3. Celebrate even if it is a small milestone. Do not worry if others join or not. You must celebrate. Celebration is biggest source of motivating yourself.
  4.  Must not hurry and take short cuts. Searching for shortcuts can land you in trouble. Shortcuts and hastiness are enemy of a sustainable success.

Most importantly
first attempt 2