Innovation is a part of every new product development and discovery of new ideas for unique products or services. It begins with creativity and the generation and formulation of an idea. A big part of successful innovation lies in the process of a well thought out methodology. There is a cognitive process that collects inputs to generate insights. The concept of discovery calls for behaviors that seek to uncover new surprises through associational thinking with questioning, observing, networking, and experimenting. Innovation is an active process that connects customers to value propositions, which are the solutions to real problems. There is an innovative process of driving from creativity and insight, to problem discovery and definition, through a series of solutions that ultimately result in a solid business model that can scale new revenues and grow companies.
There are several roles that an innovative leader needs to fill that change the traditional view of management into a scrappy entrepreneurial approach in the face of uncertainty. The innovative leader in the early evolution of product development fills a role of being the chief experimenter, defining the challenges facing the company, building broad and deep expertise of the team, and supplying the needed support for the organization with resources for rapid creativity. Speed to market is part of this program and the “fast pitch” concept of assembling and creating the early minimum viable products that will evolve into the complete solution is a part of this methodology.
“Innovation is all about passion, promise, and purpose”
Innovation can be about change of existing products or about novel new disruptive ideas. Disruptive innovation is about creation of something new, disruptive to the market leaders, or possibly a product for non-existing markets. This is the stuff of startup companies. Many times disruptive innovation creates products with no established markets, or very limited markets, or possibly products for new niche markets. This is one reason that established companies have a problem discussed in The Innovator’s Dilemma by Christensen with disruptive innovation because they cannot take large risk of consuming valuable resources on a product if the market is undefined or potentially too small. Established companies prefer sustaining innovation, adding product or features to existing lines of products, finding new applications with existing technology, or repositioning existing products. This sustaining innovation approach can be a huge benefit to companies seeking to scale up their sales.
Innovation is all about passion, promise, and purpose provided that the existing markets can absorb another product, or that there is an elusive new market out there large enough to be tapped. One of the secrets to successful innovation is the concept of customer discovery, talking to hundreds of customers to find the sizable real problems and finding unique value propositions that lead to a solution. Dealing with uncertainty also brings into focus the often essential need to pivot on designs and ideas as the path to the right solution is found. Timing and focusing on how and when to pivot takes finesse and courage.
“Management must fulfill their responsibility to support innovation.”
Management must fulfill their responsibility to support innovation. Removing obstacles to experimentation and designs, providing the tools that are needed, offering ways to motivate and encourage the teams, and providing the space and time to allow the innovative process to percolate. Management must take into account the high level of uncertainty in any innovative program. These leaders need to be flexible and to be ready to embrace errors and setbacks. Quality customer relationships are necessary to create the needed dialog to insure a high brand image and delivery of a profitable result. Managers of innovative teams seek to create products that “delight” their customers with solutions to big unmet customer needs. Managers of innovative teams need to accept the world of uncertainty and pressure and provide candid, authentic, and open leadership for their teams.