Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration, according to a quote attributed to the American inventor Thomas Alva Edison. According to Nick Jones, Research Vice President at Gartner, the innovation is at least similar. This consists of only 20 percent good ideas, but 80 percent the right processes.
So what do companies have to do to drive innovation? According to Jones, a look at particularly successful innovators helps. There are four aspects with different weightings that they get right in the innovation process, namely
the purpose (10 percent), i.e. the transformation of business, the use of new markets or new technologies;
the processes (20 percent), such as the focus on adjacent value creation areas, a gradual improvement of the products or nearby markets and customers; such as
the employees and the portfolio as an innovation pipeline (70 percent) to make improvements, expansions, variations or cost reductions or to strengthen the focus on existing markets and customers.
Innovation is the implementation of new ideas that create value, according to the Gartner analyst.
When looking for new opportunities or customer needs, companies can take different paths that are more or less disruptive. According to Jones, the classic method is to search for value drivers, known pain points, obvious opportunities, new regulations or technical possibilities from which new products, services or business models can be derived.
In addition, companies can also be inspired by innovations from suppliers and partners, but also from competitors. According to the Gartner analyst, the unexpected use of products also provides interesting insights. In this context, Jones refers to the Ikeahackers.net website, where customers of the Swedish furniture store creatively convert furniture and misuse it. Input like this provides valuable feedback about what customers are really looking for, he explains.
With a little imagination, innovative examples from other industries can also be transferred to your own business or new technology trends can be exploited. In this context, however, Jones warns that new technologies can also have the opposite effect. Some people are rather skeptical about 5G and radiation, for example. Even if there is no evidence for this and studies usually cannot prove any health effects, as a company you have to be prepared for such resentments because purchase decisions are based more on belief than on facts.
According to Jones Unthink, the most disruptive method of creating innovative ideas is what can be expressed in German – more badly than right – with “the unthinkable thinking”. Here you add or remove restrictions for the business and ask according to the question “What happens if …?” apparently put factors into question.
According to the Gartner analysts, so-called reverse destructive strategies are a popular exercise in ideation workshops. The focus here is on what a start-up or a competitor would have to do to torpedo their own core business – and what can be done about it.
In order to advance your company with new ideas and approaches, innovation labs or digital labs have sprung up like mushrooms from numerous providers and users in recent years. Other companies try to push the topic with a chief innovation officer or at least appoint a team or committee, if not full-time, for innovations.
However, Jones cannot say which organizational form is the most suitable to get a company on an innovation course. He refers to a study by Gartner that all types of organizations are equally effective in driving innovation. His conclusion: You need an organization for innovation, but it doesn’t matter which type you choose.
The task of this organization is to manage the innovation process, explains Jones. To do this, the company must first of all ensure that activities are developed and started to generate ideas. Then it was the task of the innovation teams to evaluate the proposals, to prove or refute hypotheses, and ultimately to recognize the value of an innovation.
As the Gartner analyst explains, the innovation process is essentially a gradual, gradual reduction in risk before an idea is finally implemented. This is extremely important, according to Jones, because mistakes in risk reduction are often to blame for the fact that a product or service never goes into production – precisely because management is unwilling to take a (non-calculated) risk.
As a positive example, the Gartner analyst refers to the approach at Amazon, the company is not without reason considered to be particularly innovative and customer-centered: A three to nine-page “press release” must be written there at the start of every new initiative, for example Prime Now which the most important aspects such as purpose, control, scope, success measurement, procedure and support are named and dealt with. In this way, the most important questions are clarified before even one line of code is written.
Jones mentions the definition of innovation indicators as another helpful measure. Various aspects are taken into account in these. The assessment is based on the three pillars of culture (e.g. time for innovations, staffing, working methods), processes (e.g. efficiency, productivity, result rate) and results (e.g. learning success, benefits achieved, brand perception).
Tools can also help, says the Gartner analyst, especially in larger organizations. In the area of strategy and planning, such a tool could be the classic SWOT analysis or scenario or future state planning. Hackathons or certain challenges help to find ideas.
Jones also recommends that when you’re looking for innovation, you primarily focus on areas that will make a real difference to the company. You should – at least initially – also consider strange ideas. If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said: “Faster horses,” he recalls Henry Ford’s frequently quoted saying.