What if Henry Ford got it wrong?
Topics: Jay Terwilliger, levels of innovation, 3 levels, three levels, defining innovation, innovation language, Creating an Innovation Team, Collaboration, breakthrough innovation, leadership, strategic innovation, criteria for innovation, decision-making, Creating an Innovation agenda, platform thinking, disruptive innovation
After the announcement of the new Nintendo 3DS on Monday, the Week asked if it was a "game-changer" innovation. Early reports indicate that the 3D technology is off the charts superior to everything we have seen previously. Critics contend that the 3D novelty will wear off, and soon smartphones with 3D displays will render Nintendo's product irrelevant.
This past week I got sucked into what I thought was a pretty weak online debate. The question posed was, "Is Incremental innovation the enemy of Breakthrough Innovation?"
Topics: Mark Sebell, Innovation, Innovation, innovation consulting, breakthrough innovation, Championed Teamwork, leadership, leadership, strategic innovation, strategy, growth, Strategic Goals, criteria for innovation, decision-making, breakthrough, new product development, Essentials for Innovation, Risk, Management
As I write this, I have “It’s a small world” doing laps in my head. In our world of innovation consulting, I am constantly struck by the relevance of seemingly irrelevant things to our clients, even from one client to another. Whether operating in different industries, on dramatically different scales – e.g. producing 250 pieces per year versus 250 million – it seems everyone has something to offer everyone. For example, on a recent “Immersion” – a visit to a client’s customer site – a company that creates massive valves for pipelines (I mean massive, like feet and feet across) and does so on a very small scale was able to give our client, a sensor company producing tiny little sensors in the millions, 6 or 7 compelling ways sensors could apply in their space(s). The two companies, as different as can be, are now working on combining forces, even sharing manufacturing insights! Absolutely incredible. Thus, my theory that everyone has something they can offer to anyone and everyone. The takeaway: don’t discredit anything because at first glance it seems irrelevant. Have faith in the power of the absurd (Einstein said, “If at first an idea does not seem completely absurd then there’s no hope for it”) and play with that creative fodder. More often than not a creative idea is not an idea that is completely new to the world, rather an idea that applies something that already exists in a new way. So, relieve that creative pressure, the performance anxiety, and you will find new things in unexpected places, and you’ll be on your way to achieving truly breakthrough innovation!
Sooner or later, no matter how obviously brilliant your idea, someone is going to ask "how big is it?" And in too many situations, this question will be asked way too early in the process (but that's a subject for another day). As a result, I'm even hesitant to provide folks here with a way to answer the question. Because providing a financial estimate too early in the process is more often a Kiss of Death than a useful bit of information. Why? Because if the topic under discussion is an incremental innovation, everyone probably already knows the answer (whatever 1-2% more of the existing sales would be). In the case of breakthrough innovations, the answer is a much more subjective question because there is no existing frame of reference for the answer. New ideas have new markets, new customers, new value propositions, new purchase behaviors, etc. So at best, providing financial information is a S.W.A.G. (Silly or Scientific Wild Ass Guess). Breakthrough innovation should be looked predominantly through a strategic lens in the early stages. Stay Loose until Rigor Counts!