Many use the term “innovation” as if it were a methodology or a process. Sorry, grasshopper, there is no universal innovation process. Innovation is not something you do; it’s something that you achieve. In the case of business innovation, it is not achieved until the market rewards your creativity and compelling value proposition with the resounding crescendo of booming demand and fat profit margins. Anything else is just brand extension or product improvement. Or God forbid, the oxymoronic incremental innovation…
Forgive me for splitting hairs (and infinitives), but the starting point of understanding innovation is the notion that you don’t do innovation – you perform the disciplines of innovating.
This I have learned about innovation in my 25+ years of successfully doing strategic business innovating:
- Innovating isn’t easy to do. If it were, we’d see more of it. A lot more of it. Innovating is very, very difficult to do and even more difficult to do sustainably. That’s why we see so little of it.
- Innovating is not something that your IT department is going to deliver for you.
- You really can’t do it part time or in your spare time. It has to be your #1 priority.
- You won’t achieve business innovation success with insourcing, outsourcing, open sourcing, crowd sourcing, or strategic sourcing — although you might find some potentially good ideas that way.
- There is no silver bullet. No simple innovation answers. Just tough questions, powerful frameworks and a whole lot of hard work.
Business innovation occurs when you successfully perform and align a whole bunch of complex business concepts and activities together, including: opportunity identification, creativity, ideation, breakthrough thinking, invention, discovery, technology development, reduction to product or practice, intellectual property protection, freedom to operate, market analysis, competitor analysis, positioning, channel strategy, value proposition, pricing, launch, growth, sustainment, lifecycle management, market timing — and perhaps more than a little luck. Not to mention combining all of this with deep thinking about business models, revenue models, customer experience management — and brilliant execution.
Lao Tse’s ancient observation still holds true today: “The journey of a thousand miles must begin where you stand.” This is especially true of the innovation journey. Don’t underestimate the sustained effort that successful innovation requires. And don’t waste precious time searching for that magic silver bullet.