Getting In The Innovation Groove

I’ve been sitting here bouncing to the sounds of Kid Sheik’s Storyville Ramblers on an old piece of vinyl and realized I have an admission to make.

Nothing will kill your business faster than innovation.

The record hisses and pops.

Two kinds can do you in.  Effective innovation by someone else or unfettered, rabid innovation by you.

The former will happen no matter what, so you have to react (preferably proactively) and, uh-oh, innovate.

The old record only has a few plays left in it. It cackles and hisses, displaying 30 some odd years of use since I picked it up down in New Orleans after seeing the Sheik at some hall in my youth. Funny thing about vinyl, the wear it displays is a reminder of enjoyment past and a reminder that something new is due.

Yup, we’ve all got to move on to the next thing sooner or later.

That’s my gig in many ways. Helping companies break down barriers to innovation. Get the ideas flowing again. Fall out of love with the way you’re doing things now and focus on the things that actually make you great.

The toughest lesson for many is what happens once the ideas do begin to flow.

There are always too many good ideas.

Google unleashes huge amount of creative might with 80/20, but has discovered they can’t act on every great idea even with their resources. I wouldn’t be surprised if people leave because of that, taking their 20 elsewhere.

Rampant innovation without decision damages an organizations ability to deliver core promises. SKU creep, feature creep, customer creep, creepy creep. Creep indicates growth in complexity without thought. Creep indicates an unwillingness to kill ideas that fail or don’t fit (purposeful abandonment). Creep can destroy a firm’s core competencies and undermine the strategic advantages the creep was supposed to reinforce.

Jazz makes my mind wander, which has it’s advantages at times.

The point? How can you tell the difference between rabid innovation and innovation with focus?

  • Do your initiatives big or small have a clear strategic purpose? (No better way to lose your way than moving without a map)
  • Are sufficient infrastructure and resources available for your innovation? (Even in a world of cardboard creativity, you must be excellent in everything you do.)
  • Is there clear reasoning for go/no go decisions and specific opportunities to make those decisions? (If you don’t know why or when an idea should die it will suck resources until your company is dead.)

Kid Sheik Boogie has all but disappeared behind the hiss of worn grooves. I’ll soon have to retire the platter for its digital cousin, which lacks the character of the well worn record. That hint of smoke filled rooms, overpriced Hurricanes, and good friends.

The cry for more innovation sometimes has that ring of a comfortable old record. But through the smoke and noise of a competitive marketplace it can be easy to miss what that cry actually means. It isn’t innovation for innovation’s sake. It isn’t innovation out of fear. It isn’t even a call for more. It is the call for strategically meaningful innovation that makes your company’s spark shine even brighter.

Time for another record. A bit of Marley and the Wailers sounds about right.

Tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Getting In The Innovation Groove

  1. J.D. Meier says:

    Beautiful.

    I like the twist you put on it … how innovation can defeat you.

    I like to think of it as innovation by design. One thing that’s helped our group innovate effectively is a rigorous process of allocating a percentage of the overall portfolio and testing the results with customers … to see which ideas stick, and failing fast. Another thing that helped was formalizing the assumptions were were testing against. Without the assumptions, we often learned a lot but didn’t know what we learned 🙂

    I’ll try not to ramble on about innovation, but it’s a sweet spot for me. I like to think outside the bun. I think it’s important to remember that you can innovate both in your product or in your process … and that if you don’t innovate in your process, you can get priced out of the market. I seriously need to share my lessons learned on innovation, but with my ruthless prioritization, it’s currently on my backlog and not my sprint backlog 🙂
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Finding Your Eye of the Tiger on Expert Access =-.

    • Hi JD,
      “Without the assumptions, we often learned a lot but didn’t know what we learned” is a great way of putting the reminder of how much we need to measure against objectives of some sort, no matter what we are trying to do. Would love to see more of your take on innovation over at your blog. A lot of what you talk about certainly inspires it.

  2. Andrew says:

    Fred,

    You make an excellent point here.

    In general, innovation represents a positive phenomenon and should be encouraged, both in terms of within the corporate world and within broader society as a whole. But in order for it to be useful, innovation must arise out of a clear and specific purpose.

    The pursuance of any form of innovation which does not have any form of clear objective represents a simple waste of financial, physical and human resources.

    (That said, I do like Google’s approach, which I feel allows for the free flow of ideas and innovation on the part of its engineers as well as a process for organization of these ideas and focus of organizational effort upon the innovations which most closely suit the strategic direction of the company)
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Why I empathize with tobacco litigants =-.

  3. I wonder if the innovator can find it in the 80/20 model. My mind has trouble thinking it can be anything short of all or nothing. Yes chores still need to be done, etc. etc. etc… but anytime I’ve fallen into that grove (not as worn as your album I’ll admit), it’s been more like a seizure than sipping lemonade while playing with Popsicle sticks.
    .-= Richard Reeve´s last blog ..…if it looks you in the eye and you look back =-.

    • Hi Richard,
      Reminds me of how disruptive multi-tasking can be to getting a thought down on paper. Too many shiny things keep me distracted all day long. I can think of a number of ways such a universal effort can backfire, but have to admire management putting weight behind their innovation philosophy.

  4. kay plantes says:

    Studies have show that when a firm with a lot of line extensions (think toothpaste or brownie mixes) reduces its range, it’s profitability increases. Why? Lower costs as more volume goes over fewer components and second, consumers do not turn away from the brand, frustrated by not knowing which line extension is best for them. I always turn to marketing when I think of innovation. Marketing as its core is creating value for customer in ways that build profitability for your firm. A good test for any supposed innovation. Have a good day, Kay
    .-= kay plantes´s last blog ..The Root Cause of Our Economic Mess Is Commoditization =-.

    • Hi Kay,
      I believe one impact of the current recession is a determined effort by retailers to reduce the number of brands and selection they stock, which I’m sure will in many places provide the significant cost benefits you mention.

  5. Terry Heath says:

    I like the phrase, “rabid innovation.” It’s a close cousin to my own “rampant creativity” and I know both of them too well. You’re right, there has to be a logical method for saying both yes and no to a new idea. Myself, I have a hard time saying no to them; because I’m thinking each might be the next “good answer,” none of them get the chance to prove if they are or not. I realize that isn’t the application you’re making, but it works for me. It’s difficult to say no to innovation.
    .-= Terry Heath´s last blog ..Five Writing Tips to Engage Readers =-.

  6. Hi Terry,

    Rampant sounds so much more positive than Rabid, but I know what you mean. Janice Cartier wrote about an ‘art studio in a ziplock’ she works with to force her into a smaller selection of tools. The limitation actually frees her up to explore certain materials more in depth. Part of the problem with many decisions is that there is more than one right answer. Deciding between to ‘rights’ is much more difficult that seeing a clear ‘right/wrong.’

    On the topic of innovation – glad to see the link works through to your new site. It’s been a while since I could get there.

  7. Andrew says:

    Fred,

    Thanks, my travels are going well – last weekend I went to a mud festival!
    .-= Andrew´s last blog ..Why I empathize with tobacco litigants =-.

  8. Pingback: Scenario Planning As A Spur To Entreprenurial Thinking | Frog Blog