The word innovation gets thrown around a lot. So much so that it can almost get lost in the static as just another buzzword. But when we try and break it down, I don’t think anyone can deliver one true definition of innovation. It’s an enigma – there’s never a simple answer. One thing I think we can all agree on is that innovation – how you differentiate and grow your business – is essential to your success. And everyone has a role to play here.
So, what is innovation – really?
Innovation is about creativity and invention, and disruption and continuity
For me, the core of innovation is creativity – creating ideas and growing them into viable business offerings. For example, many telco R&D departments may have been dreaming up ideas for apps we all use today, such as Instagram or WhatsApp. However, they didn’t grow these ideas into business offerings. It was innovative startups that thought up these ideas and transformed them into millions.
Secondly, innovation is about being inventive. It’s the ability to make something new – something that’s never been done before – and then bring this invention to everyone. For example, if I were to ask you who invented the telephone, I’m almost certain you would say Alexander Graham Bell. In fact, it was French inventor Charles Bourseul back in 1854 – a full 22 years earlier.
Bourseul wrote a paper titled “Transmitting Voice Over Electrical Current” and sent it to his manager, who unfortunately thought he lost his marbles and ordered him back to his day-to-day duties. And so, 22 years later, it was the Scottish engineer Alexander Graham Bell who took this idea – and all the credit – transforming it into an applied innovation.
Sometimes the next big idea is too big: Getting better all the time rather than all at once
Thirdly, innovation can be disruptive, incremental, or even continuous. While big, game-changing innovations can completely transform the way we do business, they’re not always viable in the long run – whereas incremental innovations can lead to more secure value creation over time.
For example, if we compare French TGV with German high-speed trains, the invention of French TGV, necessitated the building of new tracks and platforms, while the Germans innovated incrementally by enhancing their existing trains with pendular technology. They didn’t need new tracks or dedicated platforms, and additionally, they were less costly to manufacture.
So much of innovation is about technology, but then again, so much isn’t. Many great innovations aren’t linked to any real technology at all. For example, French company Sodexo created a whole new business offering with the restaurant coupon. They applied the concept of cheques to enable companies to give their employees money in the form of a coupon they could use to pay for their lunch. Restaurants receiving the coupon from their clients were reimbursed with cash after, just like they would be with a cheque.
There’s no technology here, however, this has started to change with the digitization of these coupons. So now, we can’t really say that there’s no technology – but don’t forget about the essence of this innovation – zero technology and only paper!
While I stand by my assertion that we can’t agree on a single definition of innovation, the examples that I’ve provided seem to follow some important patterns:
- Proliferation: Ideas need to be proliferated to reach others and be transformed into value.
- Cross-pollination: Ideas from one field can morph into new ideas in another area.
- Business value: Ideas are transformed into value – into business offerings.
But enough with the theory, patterns, and observations – Let’s see how all this can be applied within your organization
Typically, an organization naturally divides itself into groups with IT engineers working hard to deliver services to clients on one side (let’s call them cluster A) and SMEs mastering client business domains, working hard to deliver their missions on the other side (let’s call them cluster B). In most cases, clusters A and B are working hard independently – siloed and not speaking to each other.
Now, what if, in the same organization, we created cluster C, whose goal is to:
- Generate, submit, and share their ideas.
- Make clusters A and B work together to leverage the creative power of the group.
- Bring structure in the management of ideas so that the most valuable ones reach their destination.
While every organization has its A and B clusters, at Capgemini, we already have cluster C ready for you – Design Office.
Introducing Design Office: A framework enabling sustainable, open, collaborative ideation
Design Office creates incubators that are integrated into our AMS services, which generate ideas from inside or outside, and grow the most valuable ideas into MVPs and/or individual projects. The Design Office framework is built upon four pillars:
- An inspirational set of ideation techniques to trigger idea generation and collection
- A simple idea management process to systematize transformation of the most valuable ideas into MVPs and/or projects
- A collaborative IT platform to enable idea management and sharing across Design Offices and the Capgemini ecosystem
- Ideation KPIs to measure our common successes.
Over the past 18 months, 40+ Design Offices have been launched leveraging this framework, with over 1,000 ideas submitted in 2019.
This is the power of Design Office – the open collaboration it can facilitate and the unlimited ideas you can create together. Imagine how things could have been different – French and German engineers working in tandem to create a joint high-speed rail network – or Charles Bourseul and Alexander Graham Bell working on the telephone together. With a true collaboration framework, innovation is infinite.
This is why – with Design Office – innovation is everyone’s call.
In my next post, I’ll focus on the first pillar of inspirational ideation and our Design Thinking approach, expanding on how we really generate business-value-oriented ideas for you.