09 Sep

MAKING BREAKTHROUGH INNOVATION HAPPEN

Connecting the dots of this huge range of information is what makes new ideas emerge, as a breakthrough innovation that produces a quantum leap in value, for both customers and the company. This connection is not a linear process at technical or functional level, otherwise anyone could already have done it and the result would probably be a mere incremental improvement within the existing competitive landscape.

How can a company connect the dots systematically, then? How to design a company’s organization in order to make value innovation management be a process, instead of gambling in pursuit of new market spaces?

In the past years many solutions about how to organize companies to foster new ideas and to incubate breakthrough projects have been studied, in order to overcome the danger that too many efforts and resources could be fragmented within companies. Different organizational models have been applied, ranging from innovation focused cross-functional teams to separate spin-off with their own management, technical and sales force teams.

Anyway, especially within successful companies, the inertia at management level could be very strong. The success in combining the exploitation of the existing business and the creation of value innovation depends on the senior management ability to set up a “what if – why not” culture, based on a risk-taking approach and on different performance criteria, goals and processes, still sharing the common company vision and values. Very often, setting up a dedicated innovation management team is a key factor in order to install and spread a cross-fertilization mindset within the organization and an operational framework which can bridge internal and external resources, making open innovation happen.

Consider the case of Equens Innovation Sounding Board from EQUENS, that runs a very large and successful infrastructure in cards and payment processing in many countries. In their innovation process, new ideas are collected internally and prioritised through a structured process by a cross functional innovation team and then validate and enriched through an external dedicated team of clients and industry experts – the Equens Innovation Sounding Board (EISB) – ensuring to gather all the clever ideas from clients and partners towards breakthrough new services. In this way the concept of open innovation has the potential to unleash creativity and dig down into the top prioritised new initiatives.

Another notable case is Daimler Car2Go mobility concept, one of the most innovative example of a completely new market space and business model in the car industry. As a spin-off from Daimler (Mercedes Benz and Smart), Car2Go has created a new flexible concept of mobility solution. This new car-sharing model allows people to use a car with a pay-per-use price structure, which includes all the usage costs. Car2Go network of users is growing fast, offering a different choice for individual transportation and enabling greener mobility with the maximum of flexibility and comfort for drivers. From the management point of view, Car2Go was developed through a dedicated innovation unit focused on “thinking outside the car”, where competences from the different corporate units (IT, financial services and strategy) were brought together in pursuit of innovative business models.

So, creating dedicated innovation units, having their own processes and structure and still being integrated at senior management level through common vision and values, should be your first step to approach innovation systematically. Those dedicated structures must have agility and entrepreneurial aptitude, different metrics and rewards. Then you should create your value networks of customers, suppliers, partners and experts that can unleash the full potential of open innovation and support your innovation effort.

Finally don’t forget to encourage a risk taking and experimentation driven culture and, of course, strengthen the trust that the dots will somehow connect in the future.