Marketing in the internet time. Part 8. Innovation in the digital era
Innovation in the digital era
If you want to innovate, then avoid tomtom behavior.
How does innovation in the digital era look like? Different than before? Is success of innovation in the digital era predictable? Is there something like a business logics for innovation? For real new business this is very limited the case. There are no market examples where you can look at. Competitors or colleagues are not in front of you and the way customers will react is also a surprise. The pace of change is higher, faster feedback, which means shorter development cycles, so perhaps first time right is not always possible anymore.
Successful innovation logic must, for that reason, not be looked for in that direction. The idea, however, that you can make better decisions with more information has long been refuted by psychologists. You could conclude that it is not wise to innovate and, for example, choose the position of fast follower. Then you do not have this problem. This is, by the way, the conclusion a lot of big companies in the Netherlands and Germany draw, given the popularity of the risk-free best practice approaches.
If you choose for best practice, you will come second at the most because someone does this already. Best practice is a copycat strategy. Operational Excellence (TQM, lean, six sigma), as strategic choice often associated with best practice, is not innovation but a way to reduce the costs of a company. Therewith – quoting Hamel & Prahalad- “just past mistakes are make good”.
Best practices are essentially a control approach: you push yourself through a die back. You pull yourself, as an organization, through an elsewhere proven ‘fries chipper’, where people are reduced to fries. This can, of course, enhance the competitive power of the company for a short while but it has nothing to do with innovation. Also, most people do not like being a ‘french frie’ in an imagined system, but not by them.
For me, the ‘tomtom’ navigation is a perfect metaphor for this strategy. The ‘tomtom’ always leads you through main roads. To see new things however, you should not be on these roads. Innovation is always on the edge.
There has never been so much room for different views and perspectives and conceptual destinations, but at the same time we are so terribly hyper and we all walk past the same themes continuously, where a discouraging lot is written about. The ‘tomtom’ as a mental wind tunnel where we all let us be formed.
If you want to innovate, avoid this ‘tomtombehavior’.
What is? Most of the innovation in an industry comes from outside the industry. In fact, this is a symptom of the emergence of new combinations. This means, that if you only pay attention to your own branch, you do not see the innovation coming. Hold your branch high in the top10 list, and therefore only pay attention to the nine others, is not a good strategy. It is, even reversed, extremely sensible to develop your ability to consistency: the ability to translate patterns and changes you see in other domains in possibilities for their own business.
A second suggestion. Bottom-up innovation, from bottom up, and customer-driven innovation, for example launching customers, is much more effective and more successful than management-driven top-down innovation. So go and listen to the customer and to the employees on the work floor. Stop disempowering the colleagues there, an innovation itself.
Innovative companies are generally companies who understand the core of their value as a business well (core excellence) through insight in their real ‘nines’. They do not have an ego-driven complexity and are thus capable of acting on all this simplicity and additionally with focus. Real innovative companies have this in their genes, by the way. They have the ability to constantly innovate, a class apart!
Often people think of innovation in complex and expensive projects. Strange, because important inventions usually excel in simplicity. Think of the wheel, the paper clip, the Post-it or the “stijgijzer” (an absolute killer application for a new way of warfare in the Middle Ages). These inventions demonstrate that understanding and insight most of the time leads to simplicity and sustainable solutions.
Most important with innovation is that one is willing to look a little different at things. Think different. Innovation starts ‘between the ears’.
By the way, do you encourage this skill in your organization? Do you honor your innovators in the company? Are they making a career or are you just tolerating them? Is the boss of the Ministry of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation an innovator?
Innovation never occurs on the main roads in the best practice mainstream. Cherish this tomtom bias, which always leads you along the main road, and go your own way. Never mind the advised route, no matter how famous the source is. In mainstream magazines such as Harvard Business Review, you will never find innovations. Their current review process and their need to exposure really excludes this. Real innovation can be found much closer to home.
Let others find you an idiot. Only then you will gain new experiences, experience space, unexpected discoveries and undergo new adventures. Especially consult artists. They learn you to see the world through other eyes: the creative economy.
Let others on the main road. Innovate and enjoy your space