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INDUSTRY alumni speaker Trevor Owens has written a great deal about how an established company can innovate. In this short video, he describes two ways a company can encourage innovation — 1) defining ‘time horizons’ and 2) spurring ‘innovation flow’. Here’s the full slide deck.
The very nature of an established business is diametrically opposed to the nature of innovation — a growing company’s primary focus is to establish repeatable and scalable procedures. And so instilling innovation inside a large company is naturally going be very hard. Luke Vincent tells a story of how his team followed all the rules in introducing an innovative product only to later be shut down by a single sentence from company leaders.
Steve Blank found two strong corporate strategy tools for making innovation work. One, being an ambidextrous company whereby you are both executing your business model while innovating in parallel. And two, using the “Three Horizons of Innovation” framework. Yet, he feels that these methods fall short in giving instruction on execution. He describes how lean startup tools like Customer Development and Agile Engineering can be combined with these tools to get “10x the number of initiatives in 1/5 the time”.
Despite companies integrating many of the tools that are recommended to foster innovation — wikis, new idea incubators etc. — “94% of the managers [are] dissatisfied with their company’s innovation performance.” (Report link). The Harvard Business Review team tells us what’s missing, including employees who are not educated to be innovators, a shared definition of innovation, and competent leadership.
Eric Ries, one of the architects of the Lean Startup movement has authored the book, “The Startup Way“. It promises to guide you through methods of applying startup methods in an established company. He deserves credit, having inspired many modern technology companies to new ways of thinking and ultimately driving many of them to success.
Apparently, the Stage-Gate approach to product development is used by “about three-quarters of product developers in America, most Fortune 500 firms”. When it was first introduced, it promised a leaner and more predictable way to bring products that matter to the market. It’s clearly been successful, but its original author now sees opportunities to improve the system by leveraging new processes like agile development. Here’s a general introduction to the process.
The first part of Lauren Maffeo’s blog post will certainly make you excited to be a Product Manager. But later on, Lauren reminds us of innovation processes that are becoming more and more commonplace in modern technology companies. These include Goal-First Planning, Crowdsourced Ideas, and Data-Driven Feature Prioritization.
When searching for processes that facilitate innovation, it may be useful to first understand where exactly innovation is taking place. Roman Pichler lists three — user experience, business model, and technology. Further to this, he associates challenges with each — desirability, viability, and feasibility respectively. Armed with this knowledge, you will see which areas have uncertainties that can be questioned with experiments. “This enables you to ask the right questions, formulate appropriate hypotheses, and carry out helpful, focused experiments.”
It’s interesting to look at four facets of innovation that you’re likely familiar with in respect to the toy industry. These are, as described by Danny Iny — people seek relationships, build on something that is already working, tailor a product to a customer base that’s already using it, and give customers what they want.
GE realized that “openness leads to inventiveness and usefulness“. Stefan Lindegaard goes on to include GE’s innovation manifesto which includes collaborating with transparency and compensating those who are innovating inside the company appropriately. He also gives Samsung and LEGO as other examples. LEGO shared insights into how they created a task force to build an open innovation roadmap.