Today, attended a very enlightening talk on ‘Innovation’ from Dr. Jay Rao of famous Babson University. Meeting him in person was a great experience, I found him to be an very energetic professor with warm in-person touch. Though, this session was of a short duration, but we could get good glimpse of his body of knowledge. Amongst many thought provoking interactions during session, I could jot down few of my observations from my notes.

Need of Innovation:

With information revolution taking place in early 90s, there comes the era of insecurity for big corporations who, till now, maintained their kingdom by withholding expertize, experience and knowledge of their products/services in tight grips. But, internet brought that knowledge to everyone in the world to make it flatten plateau of equal opportunity. To this there was varied response, many didn’t care about it and didn’t decided not to change a thing, resultantly, they perished to become dead meat for crows. Few embraced the path to peruse more expenditure on Research and Development to stay competitive but could not achieve desired benefits.

Flaws in Implementation: 

Many of organization thought that this was an additional expense which they have to live with to compete in market. So, they defined their Innovation Strategy as an additional expense in RnD. During start phase, approach succeeded, but failed at later phases. Following this, they started to wonder the correlations between R&D Spent & Innovation success as well as relationship of R&D effort with ROI timeline. Perhaps, there was no such formula to arrive at an academic approach or some scientific formula to tap into Innovation.innovation

Major Reason of Failure 

However, they could nail down few major reasons of its failure. Although, many organization persevered to their innovation efforts, their efforts fell for most obvious trap, Lack of Funds. With quarterly pressure of performance and profit, many innovation research were scuttled due to budget constraints. Some of remaining research effort, which could manage this budget hurdle, failed to convince stakeholders for additional time. Despite having enough time and budget, remaining fell due to running either in wrong direction or with wrong strategy for long duration. It was not just the profit loss, but also the loss of moral of its Innovation leaders.

Real Core of It: 

After doing all deliberation on all cause, one fact came out very strong, it not about process, people or practice to enforce innovation but the core culture of organization. Experimentation and Failure of two side of Innovation and one can’t ignore other. It comes together as we proceed with it. And the culture which encourages Experiment and takes Failure in its stride, are the ultimate champion of Innovation. Organization need to ask a question before embarking on this journey, “Do they have War Chest to take Failures?”.

Innovation is a Discipline:

As we understand, Innovation is about an application of Idea to create a new useful product/service to order to provide greater value to its customers. It is a deliberate application of 3Is, namely, Information, Imagination and Initiative. Moreover, this is a risk taking initiative to uncertain outcomes and unknown customer behavior.

Professor reiterated, Innovation was a discipline which could be learnt, practiced and mastered in a structured fashion but differed on its measurable aspects. He argued, if objective was just profit, measurement was easy, if objective is for Social up-liftment or urge for Creativity or need of Independence, etc., same might be difficult.

Radical Innovation: 

Innovation could be of two types. One Evolutionary and other could be Revolutionary. Evolutionary is is more like Continuous Innovation which gives Linear Growth but Revolutionary is driven by Continuous Experimentation of disruptive in nature and gives possibility of Non-Linear growth. Prof stressed, for successful practice, it could not be either of them, instead it had to be both of them together.

Nascent Stage: 

Innovation has been the buzz word for sometime now, yet, there is no definite and established practice for it. Innovation, as a discipline, is at its nascent stage to become a practice just like we had Marketing and Quality in 20-30 years back.