How Innovation in Companies Succeed: Innovator creates the product of the future in just two days during probationary employment
Or: From Probationary Innovator to Proven Innovator Jakob Jessen* is an industrial engineer. Throughout his…
There are many misconceptions in companies about innovation management. No wonder: innovation is hype, buzzword and hope for the future at the same time.
The label “being innovative” has an extremely high priority for many companies these days. People like to use foreign feathers and exaggerate when a company claims, as a matter of course, that it is the new “Apple” in its branch. Money is also being used: On the way to the top of innovation, Germany’s companies spent more than ever on research and development in 2015, a total of 62.4 billion euros (spiegel.de on December 12, 2016) – almost 10% more than the year before.
Because what attracts is the praise and award of receiving the attribute “innovative” for your product, your solution or even for your company from customers, journalists or industry experts. For many, this is equivalent to an accolade. But the road to get there is rocky, and companies, company bosses, but also innovation decision-makers are often subject to some errors in innovation management:
Innovation management is a broad field. When studying the established standard works on the subject of innovation, one thing stands out: everything is described, except how successful innovations are created. From corporate strategy and change management to portfolio analysis and Porter’s “Five Forces” to personality traits of successful innovators, a large number of valuable models and aspects are discussed and discussed. The key question, namely “How to create successful innovations?” there is usually no answer other than brainstorming and creativity techniques.
It is therefore not surprising that innovation management in companies, trained on the basis of these very principles, does not create innovations. As a rule, innovations and ideas for future innovations are collected, evaluated, documented and communicated internally and externally from innovation management. Managing innovation without doing innovation is seldom crowned with success.
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Who is to blame for companies failing to produce successful innovations? Isn’t it innovation management that must ensure successful innovation? Ideally without keeping the company management, the operative business as well as industry experts from doing their day-to-day business? Not even close. At the beginning of professional quality management, similar expectations weighed on it. In the meantime, people have become smarter and understand that quality is not created by quality management, but by operational business. And the responsibility for the operative business rests with the company management and middle management.
It is the same with successful innovation. Creating a supportive environment, providing methods and tools, putting together and coordinating innovation projects are, of course, the tasks of innovation management. The responsibility for ensuring that innovation is at the top of the agenda is the responsibility of the line managers.
Innovation means creating something new. Something new that is successful on the market or with a relevant target group. In order to create something new, you have to think about something new. Supporting this is undoubtedly the task of innovation management. Who is best suited to help with “new thinking”? Take a bricklayer as an example. Who should the bricklayer speak to in search of new ways of thinking? With his mason colleague? He knows the industry very well, has worked on a wide variety of construction sites for many years and in any case also knows what “is definitely not possible” and “has always been done this way”.
Or are the chances better if the bricklayer talks to a biologist, athlete, artist or mathematician for innovative questions and answers? You know the answer yourself: Innovation doesn’t like to boil in its own juice. Of course, industry experience also plays a role in innovation success, but ultimately every company has more than enough of that. The view from the outside is what can really move mountains.
If Christmas cards are to be written and small presents are to be sent to selected customers, then it is clear that those wine bottles do not pack themselves. In order to support the responsible department, the company advertises a position for students, engages an external service provider or, in the best case, finds a few trainees or interns to support the whole thing. There is no question that these acknowledgments and other CRM measures don’t just happen alongside day-to-day business.
But innovation? Companies often have high ambitions. It should be disruptive. Turn the whole industry upside down. Digitization and the “Internet of Things” definitely have to be part of it. The next “game changer” should come from your own company, if you please. But to relieve the valuable experts and experienced people from day-to-day business? One or maybe even two days a week for these ambitious projects? Not to mention that someone is working full-time creating groundbreaking innovations? No, someone can spend a full-time updating the company website, but not on innovation and the future of the company.
To put it in a nutshell: innovation is guaranteed NOT to happen on the side. For successful innovation, communication across different departments is required. Regular and focused. To do this, several experts and experienced persons have to find enough time to be able to look for exchange and cooperation at short notice. Nevertheless, many companies continue to post the “low hanging fruits” page. Mostly unsuccessful.
Anyone who plays the lottery knows: the more crosses, the higher the chance of success, fortune, fame and prosperity in the lottery drawing. According to the well-known motto “a lot helps a lot”, innovation management often focuses on finding as many ideas as possible in brainstorming sessions in order to find any acceptable idea among them. The more ideas the better.
If one assumes that good ideas predominantly arise at random, then it is quite understandable to draw these parallels and to choose this approach. In the days of alchemy, chance was indeed an important tool. The hope of somehow chemically making gold out of lead was pursued through trial and error and the mixing of anything with anything. Today, the knowledge in chemistry, as in innovation, has matured further.
Trial and error is just the worst possible way to find success. A decisive reason why more ideas do not lead to significantly better ideas is the increasing similarity in the development of ideas. Brainstorming and unstructured gathering of ideas in particular lead to monotony of ideas instead of the hoped-for, groundbreaking, new ideas that are later to become successful innovations.
For Nina Defounga, innovation is at the center of her professional life. The qualified industrial engineer has been using her many years of experience in advertising, software development, product development and entrepreneurship for successful innovation. Large corporations, medium-sized family businesses and startups are equally important to her. As managing director of the innovation consultancy TOM SPIKE, she promises to find an innovative solution tailored to the customer and his resources for every technical challenge. In a manageable period of time and together with the customer’s experts.
“Emotion creates innovation” is her motto, which she combines uncompromisingly with structured innovation methods to make the impossible possible.