In 1666, Sir Isaac Newton was engaging in the 17th-century form of social distancing. He left Oxford to stay at his mother’s estate, in order to avoid the plague that was sweeping the country at that time. It was during this stay that he saw the fabled apple fall from a tree, which would eventually lead him to his Law of Universal Gravitation. However, there is no evidence of the apple actually hitting him on the head.
If your approach to generating ideas consists of only waiting for Newton-like flashes of inspiration, then your innovation pace will be slow with few ideas materializing. The increasing pace of technology change, along with startups emerging to disrupt more and more markets dictate that companies must see innovation as a standard part of doing business if they are to survive and thrive.
Companies will quickly learn that this is not necessarily easy, as they find out that very few innovative ideas make it all the way implementation. Upon closer inspection, ideas that initially look good could turn out to be based on erroneous assumptions or may not offer much of a benefit. Additionally, they could introduce too much risk, or the implementation costs and disruption may outweigh the benefits.
Looking to the past to carve out an innovative future – feeding the beast by scavenging, foraging, fishing, hunting, and cultivating your way to groundbreaking ideas
A steady pace of implemented innovations requires a high number of ideas to be generated for evaluation. So, how do you find the best fresh ideas to feed the innovation beast? There are a number of approaches that we can take from our ancestors.
You can feed off what others have killed. This means looking at what your competitors and other companies are doing to see what you can adopt. This approach can reduce effort and risk, as it will be looking at proven solutions and implementations. However, on its own, this will only allow you to catch up or keep pace with your competitors. To gain an edge, you must look beyond this approach.
You can also look at emerging technologies and offerings, and review market trends to see what you can find. This requires more effort, as the wider you search, the more likely it is you will find something. Your success will be based in part upon knowing where to look – and your ability to connect the dots between the technology and how you can apply it. While there is no guarantee of finding anything, if you can be one of the first to work out how to effectively apply what you find, you may gain a clear competitive advantage.
You can bait your hook (issue an RFI or RFP) and see if you can get a bite (review the responses). This will enable you to benefit from outside ideas and creativity. But as all fishermen know, success requires using the right bait (thoughtful and targeted RFIs), and knowing in which waters to cast their lines, (which service providers to engage).
If you have identified a need or opportunity, then you can actively pursue your prey (technology or offering) to meet this need or opportunity. By setting a narrower focus and a known target implementation, it can provide a quick innovation win if successful.
You can take the long view and cultivate an innovation culture within your company. In the spirit of as you sow, so you reap, the more you put into it, the more you are likely to benefit in the long run. A company’s own employees are a potential valuable source of innovation – and you can get them engaged through issuing challenges, gamification initiatives, offering rewards, and giving recognition. While this may turn up major ideas, their internal knowledge and experience can also yield a lot of smaller ideas. Other actions you can take include establishing an innovation lab, along with processes to manage, evaluate, measure, and report on innovation.
These approaches are not mutually exclusive, and companies should ideally utilize a variety of them at different times. When done correctly, the cultivation approach will be the most reliable source of innovation – even if it is more of the evolutionary – rather than revolutionary type. You will also increase your chances of success by including as many viewpoints as possible – both internally and externally.
Whichever approaches you end up taking, it is important that you embrace the need for innovation and establish a governance process to manage, track, and report on innovation. Sorting the good ideas from the bad also requires establishing processes to refine and test the ideas, assess any risk, and build and validate the business case. I will take up this subject in a coming blog post.
ADMnext – a source of innovation
Core managed service offerings and tools from Capgemini’s ADMnext are continuously evolved and rolled out to clients – and the identification and introduction of innovative ideas are built into the deals with assigned senior architects. While Capgemini’s Design Office offering targets innovation governance and helps you to create, manage, and report on your innovation journey.
Other innovation-focused components include Accelerated Solution Environment (ASE) workshops for rapid solutioning and consensus building, and Applied Innovation Exchanges (AIEs), which are dedicated, partner-network facilities that focus on solving client issues or developing new solutions.