The race for creative products and services will continue to accelerate in 2014. Businesses, large and small, are coming to the race with different processes and mental models for exploring, discovering, evaluating and implementing innovative ideas. Some simply copy the mental models others have used while others have chosen to innovate innovation by nurturing the sources of innovation and enabling creativity to find its own model.
What Model of Innovation Will You Follow?
Whether you copy existing models of nurture your own process of innovating you will likely need help from the outside in and from the inside out. Inside out resources are familiar with the marketplace and problems within both the marketplace and your company while outside in resources can bring a new perspectives without any cultural or political constraints. The combined resources bring the needed inventory of knowledge and skills required to effectively facilitate existing innovation models or create a specific model that fits your markets unknown needs.
Many organizations do not have an organized approach to innovation they just react to others that do. Those that have a model follow one or more of the following:
- Innovation in secretive skunkworks: A skunkworks (also known as Skunk Works) is a small group of people who work on a project in an unconventional way. The group’s purpose is to develop something quickly with minimal management constraints. Skunkworks are often used to initially roll out a product or service that then will be developed according to usual business processes.
- Innovation created through intrapreneurship: Intrapreneurship borrows from the principles of entrepreneurship. Whereas entrepreneurship is the act of spearheading a new business or venture, intrapreneurship is the act of spearheading new programs, products, services, innovations, and policies within your organization.
- Innovation Labs: These are dedicated departments exploring ideas, conducting research, testing new products, concepts, collaborating with competitors and suppliers, thinking outside the box etc. These labs usually are created by companies with large R&D budgets who employ over 1,000 people. As an example see List of Tech and Media Focused Corporate Innovation Labs
- Open Innovation: Open innovation is a simple concept: Instead of doing everything in-house, companies can tap into the ideas cloud of external expertise to develop new products and services. But, as with many simple concepts, the devil is in the details. In practice, open innovation is not just one strategy but three different strategies, each presenting enormous opportunities as well as major challenges. Moreover, open innovation is not a panacea: It might solve some problems but create others. Open innovation might not be the right approach for every company, but many organizations can benefit from it. The key to success is careful consideration of what to open, how to open it and how to manage the new problems created by that openness.
- Systemic Innovation: Systemic innovation implies a caused state of being embedded within every part of the organizations ecosystem. It is not in addition to anything rather part of everything the organization does. Look at and study the common attributes of the Forbes list of the most Innovative Companies and you will find that innovation is simply part of the culture, the mind meld of their belief system. Everyone is expected to think, create and deliver innovative products and services that exceed stakeholder expectations. These organizations consistently create innovation by systemically transforming the intangibles that stakeholders value most into tangible results.
- Collaborative Innovation: What people mean when they talk about collaborative innovation is typically something like Procter & Gamble’s (PG) close relationship with suppliers and contractors. P&G launched its Connect+Develop R&D program more than a decade ago and claims half its innovations come from outside the organization. Another example would be Microsoft’s partnership with Techstars Corporate Accelerator, created a structure that’s proven to be a model for early-stage innovation success. The structure provides entrepreneurs the opportunity to create innovative products and services. The entrepreneurs are provided with some mentorship, the opportunity to own the IP in whatever they created and 94% ownership in their work and products. There are other collaborative models emerging between corporations seeking innovation and consultants who can help them create it.
- Innovation Through MVP: A Minimum Viable Product has just those features that allow the new product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is an innovation strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent for value created and usually leads to an other creative business models or products. Featureless and not feature rich. Get what you want when you want it and not get what we have when we have it. Making things simply and thus making things rich.
To define your innovation roadmap you can take something from the existing models or be creative by thinking and doing things that disrupt conventional wisdom. To be creative you need inspiration and a purpose and it doesn’t matter where or who it came from or how you got it. What matters is whether it will make a difference.