Innovation – What, When & How

braking-awaybookA newly published vision and exploration book entitled “Breaking Away” by new authors Jane Stevenson and Bilal Kaafarani [McGraw Hill, Copyright 2011] essentially defines the key for leadership to generate growth and shareholder value for corporations in any industry. It describes in smart detail how one can have “the ability to develop and embed innovation into every facet of business” can truly lead to great success and great reward to for all practitioners of said discipline.

Clearly the authors, one a Vice Chairman of the global recruiting firm, Korn/Ferry, the other, a global innovation executive with experience at several well-established package good firms [including P&G, Kraft and Coca Cola], have done their home work. The book dives deep to provide a very clear yet unobtrusive insider’s guide as to what one can do [CEO’s and other head of industry] to overcome the many obstacles to which companies become stagnant when innovation is part of the corporate business development [creation] culture.

Their principle argument is very easy to understand i.e. “Traditionally, leaders have been defined as those who hold power, which allows presidents, prime ministers, and military generals, regardless of their accomplishments to be considered leaders. But if leaders focus on building power or managing for wealth, he or she will never be able to forge a new path for others to follow” [Page 88].

Stating the simple, stupid, obvious, “Innovation leadership is about inspiring a mind-set that opens your organization up to discovery”. “It’s about developing the framework that supports an innovation strategy and empowers people to make the right choices on their paths”.

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This particular chapter [The Role of Leadership in Innovation – Chapter #5] and the rest of the book goes on to illustrate many examples of leadership under the “Discover”, “Invention” and then “Innovation” platforms. The key to all of leadership “innovation” teaching is starting with the basis of common sense, like asking questions first of the people [consumers] who want to or need use a product or service, what they may really want, so what comes forward for them to purchase is really something that they can use in their everyday life. The other basic tenant is understanding the need for change, but change through Innovation means engaging the consumer so as to ensure the product life-cycle has a purpose and continues to resonate in their lives over the short and long term.

Here is an interesting thought to put out for discussion. The three W’s [no not the World Wide Web], but The Who, The What, The Why.

The “Who” is the “Customer”, The “What” is the product and service. The “Why” is the overall business case [Page 63].

If you were to apply this simple application to what you’re doing today in the company you’re working in, or leading or starting, how might these W’s come together to make them truly open up your eyes to constructive Innovation. Not a simple task for sure, but one worthy of exploring to see if you can come up with the right approach to Innovation.

A very simple example, one I will only paraphrase which is provided in greater detail in the pages of “Breaking Away”. Henry Ford had an idea for a combustible engine. He and his colleagues built it from their drawing board [Discovery]. Once they had created the engine, they decided to invent the automobile, the Ford Model T [Invention]. They created the first recognized motor engine [not horse and buggy but horse power] transportation. But the finished product was expense to manufacture as well as priced above the average blue color wage earner or even the middle class white collar wage earner.

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They were selling the Ford Model T in the thousands of units, not the millions of units.

So their question was — how do we manufacture the Ford Model T for the masses. The answer [solution] was the automotive assembly line. Yes, what we take for granted today, was unheard of or even thought of back at the turn of the 20th Century. And this assembly line was the answer to manufacture the Ford Model T for the masses—that also increased the number of laborers, parts manufactures, dealership, tire stores, auto repair facilities, gas stations, etc, all product categories [support industries] from the Mr. Ford original idea, to now manufacturing hundreds of thousands coming off assembly line each year.

This is [was] Innovation.

And the price of the Ford Model T went from a staggering $1,000 per vehicle to an affordable $400 per vehicle. This was another aspect of Innovation. Manufacturing the same automotive product at a price that was more than 50% less than the original price tag. The one and only stipulation made my Mr. Ford – only one color was offered for sale.

A few years later, another automotive manufacturer became aware that the consumer should have a choice, and offered colors [beyond Black] which lead to his automobile company taking the lead in the automotive sector. If you want to know who that is, may I suggest you buy a copy of “Breaking Away” as it is loaded with many stories and great examples of Innovation coming from American as well and International. You can find it on Amazon or Barnes&Noble online websites.

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Now The Questions:

  1. What have you seen, enjoyed, experienced that truly came off to you as Innovation?
  2. Why do you believe that this Innovation made a difference in how you did what it was suppose to do for you to really become enthralled by it offering?
  3. Are you someone that can innovate? If you think you are, why not share what that Innovation might be without telling the world too much of the idea?
  4. How can Innovation be made simple to tackle if there was a set of formulas [like those offered in Breaking Away] that could truly put more Innovation into ones everyday life?

Feel free to tackle any or all of these questions as the end goal here is discover what might be Innovation that can impact or change what one does to make quality of life more enjoyable or useful.