“Strong innovation with a broad impact” by Marc Giget, CEO of European Innovation Institute (2/2)

Marc Giget is a French expert in the field of innovation enjoying an international reputation.

Below is the second part of the interview we conducted with him (interview part 1), where we focus on what organization set-up and  how to introduce innovation that will shoot far and strong.

How should innovation be organized in a company?

Do you need innovation directors? Yes, their task is to anticipate, to see if “what’s in the pipeline” makes sense.

As far as organization is concerned, there are no absolute rules, everything depends on the identity of the company, for example whether or not it has a centralized structure. My recommendation is not to go against the organization: at the start, innovation is marginal, there is no point contorting the organization to try to make it innovative, work with the organization, don’t add problems, start off a little separate from the rest and then reintegrate innovation: the old organization will become obsolete by itself. This is illustrated by the example of SNCF with Voyages SNCF and idTGV, two internal start-ups. It is also necessary for the organization to continue to produce in industrial quantities.

Rather than seeking to rebuild the organization, create a unit, an independent space for thought and reflection. This has become increasingly common in the forms of Labs, Innovation Centres etc. It’s better if the very people who work in the organization come to this space rather separating it off with a team of brainboxes who will cause conflicts by giving the impression of “stating the obvious”. This is the space where you can test, develop prototypes, assess, anticipate, prepare for the future, get away from the here and now. In parallel to this, the Business Units maintain the development of incremental innovation through maximized process optimization.

We have seen how design is becoming increasingly important in the innovation process: what is the link between design and marketing? Is design’s ambition to achieve universality compatible with the segmentation involved in marketing?

When you launch a new product, it is too early to segment: this segmentation approach applies to products that have reached maturity and for which new outlets are sought through the introduction of specific product variants. When you do something innovative, something radically new, you considerably improve the service without segmenting the offer: then, when you have fully profited from the existing product, you can segment it. Fireworks provide a metaphor: you launch a rocket which later explodes into a thousand smaller rockets.

In Japan, marketing is subtly defined as “transforming a sales act into a purchasing act“. It is the customer who actively seeks out what the Japanese company has designed. This approach is consistent with the aim of Desirability that design strives for.

Marketing without design is lifeless, and design without marketing is mute

– Von R. Glitschka

Marketing sets out the specifications for the new product, the designer takes these as the starting point and fuses them with the aspirations of individuals. A good marketing mix is essential to establish a firm basis for innovation: price, target group, etc. Design is not a substitute for marketing, just as marketing does not have a creative role. It provides a framework, a tendency, without stating what has to be done. Design brings with it a vision, a sensitivity, something in which people will recognize themselves.

The essential thing is to bring together a range of skills within a project team: marketing and design as well as sociologists, engineers, architects, poets, autistic individuals, creative deviants… To design an experience is an extremely demanding task and one that demands a multidisciplinary approach. The teams involved in innovation projects are extremely varied, just like film teams: just think of the credits which seem to go on for ever! Everyone has his or her role and not everyone is there all the time. During the Renaissance, there were also some very extensive teams.

Innovation has left its mark on history. It is the best synthesis at a time T. To go from 12 tracks on a CD to 12,000 tracks on an iPod, a unique and varied object, is to witness collective intelligence in action.

How do you launch your innovation in a powerful, profitable way?

The best time is not necessarily the earliest. You have to choose the right time to launch your innovation. Apple did not launch the iPhone 5 until it had achieved the return on investment it had set itself for the iPhone 4. As far as innovation is concerned, the leader is the one who dictates the pace. To do this, innovators prepare, store up and then release their innovations when they are ready.

At the same time, a leader will try to sell its products, but not unrelentingly as otherwise it may become blind to what is going on around it! A market leader is perfectly adapted: it may become arrogant. Society changes, it may no longer be adapted to the new order.

To continue to lead, you need an immensely strong innovative culture: this is true of companies such as 3M which are not afraid to feed off their own strengths in order to innovate and know how to concentrate on their strongest positions where they are No. 1, 2 or 3 in their market. A leader that has become blind to its environment can be threatened by a new player in the market, smaller and more versatile than it is, but which brings with it new technologies in which the leader is not interested because the newcomer is still small. However, for the newcomer, these technologies can be the path to success. Leaders have to fear those who are different, those who come from elsewhere, who threaten their assets, as digital technology did to Kodak’s laboratories.

Innovation brings with it a process of transition management in which the important thing is to know how to withdraw successfully: Schumpeter speaks in terms of “creative destruction”. The leader is encumbered with the enormous handicap of its assets, its factories, its workforce, etc. Within this context of change, the brand, as a continuing statement of identity, can be a great advantage as it proved to be for Kodak.

Another important principle is to know how to organize your market when the innovation is launched. La Fontaine said: “The master of the arena is he who organizes it”. What will the de facto standard be? It is not necessarily the best technology that prevails (example of Blu-Ray). Knowing how to win the battle of the standards is a key aspect of leadership in the field of innovation. This task of organizing demand mobilizes old phenomena such as forums, best seller lists, spaces where people go to meet and discuss.

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