Forget all what you’ve learned about innovation?

Larry Keeley is an unorthodox abrasive innovator: have a look to what he says about the innovation processus:

  • “Almost everything about the way innovation is taught and practiced and asserted is wrong.” After all, since innovation fails about 96% of the time, Larry wonders why people even bother ever to listen to innovation “experts.”
  • “We say it’s time to ‘think out of the box’, but this is only likely to yield a vast array of bad ideas that we then spend months analyzing before we discard.”
  • “So forget brainstorming. Instead, get clear on your innovation “intent,” make discipline the norm, and focus all engines on creating a leadership platform that keeps you moving forward.”
  • New products are a distraction—” an overly emphasized, not-very-important basis for innovation.” Larry’s research suggests that many other types of innovations, from “changes to channels, brands or customer experience, to changes in processes or service systems or business models, are more likely to give you sustained advantage”.
  • Larry and his firm, Doblin, Inc., have determined there are 10 types of innovation that a firm can focus on. “If you focus on five or more of the 10 types, and make it your leadership platform, your innovation success rate should increase to 35 – 70%.” Platform are broad capabilities that have the potential to cut across industries, markets, and applications; they take something hard to do and make it become routine, affordable, and robust.
  • Innovation is a high protocol processus: “the absence of good innovation protocols means that the average innovation team is forced to make up both what they will address and how they will address it—a prescription for failure.” So you need “innovation in-depth”. Larry’s discipline model is nevertheless quite traditional: it begins with diagnostics, it  assembles the right combination of customer needs (most of them unmet and subtle) with competitive patterns, and a company’s own capabilities.
  • “Innovation represents opportunity, growth, and a better way to deliver value. We just need to get smart around our sense of opportunities – but it’s not mysterious. There’s nothing squishy or ethereal about the innovation process. Instead, with hard-work and discipline, innovation can be implicitly understood so that anyone who wants to can not only participate but also succeed.”

What is a leadership platform in the digital market? Naturally it’s about adding a busines model to a new product: just like Eric Schmidt did with the  fantastic Page rank technology Google founders had created, adding a way to get paid for the search engine through the sponsored links system and the development of sales in Europe. I assume it refers as well to what we see more and more: building an ecosystem between the high-tech device and the on-line applications, we’ve discovered it with the iPod and iTunes, then with the iPhone and the App Store, and the “Google  inside” devices and corresponding Android market place. It’s about connecting objects to online services, even the content would benefit from being recomposed has an interactive service, that you can personalize and share, immersed in social networks culture.

I’m not sure I’m totally aligned with the “no braisntorming thing”, which seems to be part of the innovation protocole as it helps cross functional team to work together, and build a common spirit and enthusiasm for the next battles the innovation team will be involved into.

But I surely join three Larry’s recommendations that I put it my way:

  • innovation, especially rapid innovation needs a framework to found creativity, I call it the creative tension; Larry Keeley talks about “innovation with teeths” and “innovation with drama”;
  • innovation is not only technological, otherwise it’s an invention; new product requires new business model, appropriate delivery model, original branding, effective processsus …;
  • innovation requires focus, moving from creative chaos to order, managed execution and delivery, as new product, or should we say “leadership platform” finds its identity.

From my experience, you will meet these key success factors when the innovation team gets enough support in its initiatives, to find its natural leadership, once the team manages the team.

Ron Ashkenas wrote an article about “creating context” (2010, Oct) which extends this empowerment principle in the context of stategy execution: “the only way to truly align things is to make sure that all employees make the connections themselves. This requires, first of all, that everyone has a reasonably shared understanding of the overall strategy; and second, that everyone makes it their business to position their individual decisions around what, how, and when to do things in the context of the overall plan. In other words, it’s not enough just to have a strategy. The strategy also needs to be widely shared, understood, and used as a basis for individual and team decisions.”

Talking about innovation and mixing Larry Keeley and Ron Ashkenas thoughts,  I would be tempted to say: it’s not enough to have a new attractive product, it also needs a leadership platform, shared and owned by all company employees involved in the innovation achievement and delivery.

Larry Keeley at the 2009 Innovation Summit, Chicago

The greatest innovations of all time by Larry Keeley (2007, Feb)


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