The Innovation Blog

The other side of innovation

Posted by David Culton on Sep 11, 2010 7:20:00 PM

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Mark Gallagher of Blackcoffee suggested I take a look at this new book by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble, and I'm glad I did.  Vijay and Chris are associated with the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.  Vijay a professor and Chris an innovation speaker and consultant who is also on the faculty at Tuck.

This is a book written for leaders of innovation, primarily those who seek its pursuit from within existing business structures.  What I love about this book is that academia is finally waking up to some of the realities of the innovation challenge for management of existing businesses.  Vijay and Chris admit that it simply hasn't been studied well enough by the B-schools until strategy moved from teaching would-be managers how to manage the status quo to the fact change is inevitable (and on an incredible pace) and that therefore strategy must be about leading change - creating the future -- "Strategy as innovation."

While there are many excellent points made in this book and a bonanza of tips, myths, challenges, etc., there are three overriding premises that resounded with the nearly 20 year business innovationist/practitioner in me:

1. The major challenge in innovation is not in creating ideas.  Ideas are creativity.  Innovation is about successfully implementing ideas.  (I would point to the definition of innovation we have developed over time:  “Business innovation is the process of envisioning and successfully implementing new ways of doing anything that creates value for an enterprise and its customers.”  So total agreement here.

2. Succeeding at implementing innovation is especially challenging for existing organizations.  Vijay and Chris call the existing business the “Performance Engine.”  And they make a very good case for the major challenges for innovation efforts presented by Performance Engines.  Culture, competition for resources, lack of understanding the challenges, are but a few of them. 


As my partner Mark has consistently pointed out, we’ve all known this for a long, long time.  Machiavelli had it right back in 1514 when he said:

“It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who would profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries, who have laws in their favour, and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who does not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it.”

~Niccolo Machiavelli

But for some reason, business leaders haven’t really understood this.  Too many have felt that if they and their organization’s were good at running existing business, they ought to be able to take ideas and implement them with the same excellence – wrong!

3. To succeed, the leaders of innovation have to develop new skills that allow the innovation effort to work synergistically with the Performance Engine. 

If you are an innovation leader, facing challenges in succeeding within your organization, this is a great, informative read.  I recommend it. 

Topics: Innovation, leadership, strategic innovation, strategy, growth, implementation