15 Apr Innovating Innovation!
Editor’s note: This is Part Two of three short excerpts from the first chapter of his new book, The Innovation Zone, Tom Koulopoulos paints a picture of how our thinking about innovation needs to change from the tired notions we have grown up with. In short, we need to stop putting innovation on a pedestal and bring it down to earth. Innovation, claims Koulopoulos, needs to keep pace with “Global markets [which] are responding in near unison to economic and political threats and opportunities.” Read Part One here.
The problem starts with the fact that we are at the tail end of an era which has focused almost entirely on the innovation of products and services, and we are just at the beginning of a new era that focuses on the innovation of business models. This goes beyond just asking how we can make what we make better and cheaper or asking how we can do what we do faster. It is about asking why we do it to begin with. When Apple created iTunes it didn’t just create a faster, cheaper, better digital format for music it altered the very nature of the relationship between music and people. e-bay did not just create a market for auctions, it changed the way in which we look at the very experience of shopping and how community plays a role in the experience. When GM created Onstar it didn’t just make getting form point A to point B faster, it changed the relationship between auto manufacturer and buyer and fundamental altered the reason we buy a car.
Dell did not create personal computers, it radically changed the way we build and buy them. Google did note invent Internet search, it changed the way advertisers find and pay for buyers. These are all examples of business model innovation, which, although obvious in these cases, is what I would claim to be the foundation of every great innovation. However, until recently business model innovation occurred infrequently. The change in today’s world and in the future will be that the innovation of our businesses will need to be as continuous a process as the innovation of products has been over the last hundred years.
Of course, it will continue to be important to innovate products and services, but its not enough to simply acknowledge product innovation. We need to rethink innovation to include the way we redefine our businesses. We need to think of products and services as the outcome of a process of continuous business innovation. It’s here that the greatest payback and value of innovation has yet to be fully understood and exploited. We are stuck in an old model of innovation. So to get us out of an old way of thinking about innovation let’s begin by first defining what innovation is not.
First, innovation is not invention. It’s not about creating the next new gadget, wonder drug, or military weapon. Innovation is not about accelerating the rate at which we create stuff, but the rate at which we create value. Innovation cannot exist in the absence of value that is recognized and rewarded. Invention can. Patent and trademark files are filled with inventions that never created any value. Innovation is not invention run amuck.
Second, innovation is not a slogan or a mantra into which we can pour old wine, just to create the illusion of faster, cheaper, better. Innovation is about change that matters and which creates a new experience. Innovation is about changing behavior. Innovation is about altering the context of our lives and creating possibilities we couldn’t have dreamed of. Not just an idea that sits on a shelf.
Simply put, innovation is a process of change with measurable value. If you keep that in mind as you read this book you’ll have a compass setting that helps to understand the ways in which you can harness innovation.
Most importantly keep in mind that innovation is about dealing with uncertainty, in all its forms, good and bad. The more innovative you are the more likely you are to survive and thrive in the future.
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media LLC.