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Companies can enhance their employees’ creativity and boost innovation by learning from the Maker Movement’s emphasis on creative learning, collaboration, fluidity, and novel play.
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Too often, companies with products that have alternative potential markets miss their opportunity: Either they fail to see the possibility of alternative markets, or they simply lack the will to do the necessary groundwork to explore the opportunity. Leveraging existing technology for new uses can be tricky, but the return is greater profit and a revitalized business model.
Employee satisfaction can be a double-edged sword. Satisfied employees produce higher quality-outputs and have less turnover. But satisfaction can inhibit innovation: People who are OK with the current way of doing business are not likely to transform it. They need to be aggravated enough with their current situation that they are willing to take the risks to change it. By sowing the right kinds of dissatisfaction, leaders can drive their organizations to higher levels of innovation and value.
In the digital economy, speed matters. To keep pace with customer demands and competitor moves, companies must be able to quickly experiment with a potential offering and, depending on customer response, continuously enrich and scale that offering, or discard it and move on to the next experiment. Innovating at speed means utilizing empowered teams that are aligned to achieve company-wide objectives.
When a corporate culture is designed not just to encourage innovation but to systematically nurture employee ideas, the results are dramatic: The companies that have the greatest level of participation have the best ideas. They’ve also got the strongest profit growth. All this stems from a culture that recognizes that effective innovations can come from anyone, at any level in the organization.
Creating innovative products and services that disrupt the status quo requires creativity, and creativity involves thinking differently about constraints. But too much of a “the rules don’t apply to us” attitude can lead to ethical crises. That’s what’s happened at Uber, where a string of controversies led to a mass exodus of executives, including the company’s president and CEO. Organizations intent on innovating need to understand ahead of time the consequences of breaking certain rules.
Finding the right metrics to track innovation is by no means straightforward. To steer clear of common mistakes, executives need a holistic perspective on their company’s innovation process.
What distinguishes companies that have built advanced digital capabilities? The ability to collaborate. Research finds that a focus on collaboration — both with and without technology, both within organizations and with external partners and stakeholders — is central to how digitally advanced companies create business value and establish competitive advantage over less advanced rivals.
In an interview with MIT SMR, Cardinal Health’s Brent Stutz describes how the company’s three-year-old innovation center, Fuse, uses a “fail fast and often” mindset toward innovation. “Our innovation process has three phases: explore, experiment, and then pilot. We have an opportunity to pull the plug at any time… I’m not afraid to try 42 things and only have six make it out the other end,” Stutz says.
Innovation, much like marketing and human resources, can be made less reliant on artful intuition by using information in new ways. But this requires a change in perspective: We need to view innovation not as the product of luck or extraordinary vision but as the result of a deliberate search process.
Despite the promise of additive manufacturing, the authors argue, near-term expectations about how 3-D printing will revolutionize manufacturing are overblown. Much of the technology is still being hammered out, and the authors examine three important myths about additive manufacturing.
MIT SMR coauthors Clayton Christensen and Derek van Bever discussed their recent article, “The Hard Truth About Business Model Innovation.” They explained how understanding the stages of business model development is crucial to creating a successful process for repeated innovation.
For PepsiCo, entering the natural beverage markets of coconut water and smoothies meant developing new risk-management practices. In the coconut water business, “lead times are longer and supply is more variable than in PepsiCo’s traditional beverage supply chain,” write Tim Rowell of PepsiCo and James B. Rice Jr. of the MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics. “The company has had to build enough inventory to minimize stock outs — without causing excessive losses through obsolescence.”
Attempts at business model innovation have led to both repeated failures as well as seemingly inexplicable successes — and few formulas to help guide business leaders. Yet a study of both failures and successes shows that the journey to successful innovation is predictable, although “travel time” differs by industry and circumstance. The manager’s dilemma is to identify whether the journey is one the company wants — or needs — to take.
Certain kinds of product or process creations involve not just one player but many to ensure success. Organizations working toward this kind of innovation need to think about the project’s innovation ecosystem, which includes identifying co-innovators, structuring project leadership, and potentially modifying how success is defined. “All these things need to be negotiated within the coalition” notes Ron Adner of the Tuck School of Business — a process that’s often under-appreciated or ignored.
Effectively communicating the innovation journey and output to executives requires translation. While innovation processes are becoming more widely used across organizations, they are not always fully embraced at the executive level. Innovationists need to become bilingual — able to present in the style that strategy consulting firms use when making formal recommendations and updates. When speaking to executives, innovation leaders should make sure they are not only heard, but understood.
New research by J.P. Eggers of NYU’s Leonard N. Stern School of Business and Aseem Kaul of the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management looks at how companies pursue radical invention and the success of those efforts. The researchers found that highly capable firms have much less motivation to take risks because they’re already so successful — but that they’re the ones most likely to succeed when they try to innovate.
Analytics capabilities can greatly expand a company’s ability to innovate — but what do you do when the talent you need just isn’t available? Agribusiness giant Syngenta, faced with an insurmountable analytics talent bottleneck, turned to crowdsourcing. Using a series of contests, it outsourced the development of a set of award-winning analytics tools to improve its decision making — and learned, in the process, some key factors supporting successful crowdsourcing.
In an on-demand webinar, Wolfgang Gruel and Frank Piller detail new experiments in personal transportation. Gruel and Piller say that transportation customers are on the cusp of having seamless travel experiences that synchronize all transit options: schedules, traffic conditions, and personal preferences. But making this vision a reality requires knitting together previously independent systems — in part through smart data and the Internet of Things.
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