Understanding Innovation: The Quest!

Posted: May 12, 2016 in 2016 Events & Posts
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brain-with colors

Last week my company celebrated Safety Week.  Each day of the week was dedicated to a different subject related to safety.

I was asked to present from our list of topics in which I selected “Innovation”. This was interesting to me as over the past several months my company has been shifting our goals and strategies in regards to how we do business.  We have been making the push to infuse more creativity into our culture and become more Innovative.

I conducted some reading to gain understanding of what the innovative process is and how to ignite more of it within myself.

This lead me to an article published in December 2009 by the Harvard Business Review titled “ The Innovator’s DNA”. I figured this must be for me.

Once when I was in college I decorated the shower in my apartment by hanging a fish designed floor mat on the wall. I was going for the ocean look.

My roommate said he was o.k. with it, but over the next several weeks he would talk about it to anyone who would listen. Obviously that type of creativity is not the innovation we are talking about.  I thought he would have understood the creative thinking behind it. The ah moment. The funny thing is that today he is a musician and founded his own record company.

In the article “ The Innovators DNA” a great point is made relating how most companies go about the innovative process.  A group conducted a six-year study to “uncover the origins of creative—and often disruptive—business strategies in particularly innovative companies.  Their goal was to put innovative entrepreneurs under the microscope, examining when and how they came up with the ideas on which their businesses were built.

In most companies, top executives do not feel personally responsible for coming up with strategic innovations. Rather, they feel responsible for facilitating the innovation process.  In stark contrast, senior executives of the most innovative companies, a mere 15% in the study don’t delegate creative work. They do it themselves.”

This made me ask myself two questions.

Are Innovative Companies the Most Profitable Companies?

  1. Are Innovative Companies the Most Profitable Companies?
  2. Does Innovation Facilitation work?

Looking for Answers

Are Innovative Companies the Most Profitable Companies?

Using the Comparative Research model, I reviewed multiple list and articles of the world’s Most Innovative Companies versus  the world’s Most Profitable.

A few companies did appear on both lists of the Most Profitable and the Most Innovative but only one company appeared to be the Most Profitable and the Most Innovative. APPLE.

Although, I must say, there were few companies to appear on the Most Profitable list and on the Most Innovative List.

It was easy for me to deducted that based on a company’s industry and market, it may not put a premium on infusing high levels of innovation in their business operations.

Example, while ExxonMobil’s bottom line benefits from low cost oil production they are more profitable when the price of oil (Price per Barrel) is high.

They are market based. While Apple is consumer based it would appear that a premium is placed on the innovative and creative process because consumers want new and fresh products constantly.

Conclusion:

It all boils down to what drives the companies market and earnings.

Does Innovation Facilitation Work?

Innovation Facilitation is complicated.  It really turns into a Leadership question. Is the leader mature enough to understand what equals a truly innovative approach to solving challenges?

In most cases the leader may only focus on executing the task according to stringent work processes and procedures.

In January 2016 General Electric released their “Global Innovation Barometer” results and in it they published some interesting results.

The results make clear that companies understand and know that they will need to be innovative in a rapidly changing environment driven by technological improvements.

As reported in Fortune 500 Magazines review of the report, “more than four in five executives (81%) worry about being left behind as technology evolves faster than they can adapt, creating this “fear of becoming obsolete. GE calls this the “fear of missing out,” or FOMO.

So again, the question, “Does innovation facilitation work?” Turns into a Leadership question stating “ Is the Leadership mature enough?” In some companies the great ideas and innovative approaches get snuffed out like a candlelight in the dark. The light was there but when it gets to middle management it is often left in waiting until all of the wick has burned out. This is not to say that all persons in middle management are killing great innovative ideals but  it is to say innovation must become a process in which it is;

  1. Valued at all levels.
  2. Rewarded.
  3. Merges with Company objectives.

So in the end I conducted a presentation, asked a few questions and got a few answers. Although more research is needed regarding the Innovation Facilitation question.

I am not sure I got to the bottom of it yet.

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