Lip Service or Real Metamorphosis? How Real Innovation Happens.

by Michael Graber

Lip Service or Real Metamorphosis? How Real Innovation Happens

When we get called into a company it is often because a very expensive innovation effort failed.

One of the huge global innovation firms was called in to create a new platform and what happens next is very much like a bad action movie—you know the story. No surprises.

The company received breakthrough concepts but they don’t know what to do with them, which means the concepts are little more than expensive doorstoppers.

The company painfully realizes that unless they embed innovation inside their organization, nothing new to the market will leave the nest. In other words, they just can’t outsource innovation. So much of the practice is an inside job.

At this point, they begin to reflect more deeply on their culture. They realize that they need to train people in-house to entertain new ideas about new business models, new channels, and even new products. They learn three key things.

One. They need the executive team’s full support and sign off on the innovation journey.

Two. They need visible and tangible signs of that endorsement.

That is probably 75 percent of the importance. If they know that the executive team is behind the effort, they can do anything. They feel empowered to explore, because innovation is an exploration of new possible value.

This sea change means building multidisciplinary teams and hiring some new talent that can act as innovation navigators—who know many methods, can teach and mentor processes, and walk your teams through several projects.

Three. They must re-calibrate the new process development processes themselves.

As soon as the multidisciplinary team generates a portfolio of value, they then have to formally place it in the new product development pipeline, complete with consumer insights, a business case, a portfolio of concepts, and complete quantitative studies for validation.

You can’t just mouth the lip service to innovation, do some crowdsourcing or have a suggestion box of ideas for new products, and then blame each other and the field of innovation when it doesn’t work.

You have to play for keeps. Entering a whole new field of possibilities has great consequences to the engine of the business.

You have to go through this chrysalis as a culture.

There is a key insight based on the science of morphing: when the caterpillar turns into primordial soup, they become what scientists call imaginal cells.

But they have to go through the exercises first in order to get to this point of maturity, to take flight.

If you see a culture that is embraces innovation, people are laughing, they’re engaged, and they’re working through problems together.

Creativity becomes a team sport rather than a solo sport. It’s just a joy to be around because it generates its own positivity, and many happy financial returns.

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Michael GraberMichael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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