A Dummies Guide for Innovation

by Nicolas Bry

Pierre d’Huy and Jérôme Lafon, both innovation teachers and consultants, share all the secrets of Innovation Management in their encyclopedic and brilliant book, Innovation for Dummies. All aspects of innovation are described in a simple and thrilling way, from innovation history, to innovation process, open innovation, user centric innovation, and a practical step-by-step approach to complete innovation from unfolding the idea down to implementation.

The chapter dedicated to the philosophy of innovation struck me particularly. They kindly accepted to answer a few questions.

Nicolas Bry: Has Innovation Management changed at the era of Internet? What methods has the Internet enabled?

Pierre d’Huy and Jérôme Lafon: Yes, of course, internet has drastically changed Innovation management. In a nutshell, our three main changes are:

  1. Super fast access to information. The 40 + remember when they had to go to specialized libraries to do a simple benchmark…
  2. Connecting people. Quick access to useful plateforms, creation of remote dream teams connected by Skype…
  3. The power of the crowd. Crowd sourcing, to know more during the early stages. Crowd funding, a useful research where prospects show their desires, not with their declarations but with their money.  Kickstarter, since 2009, 13 million people have backed a project, $3.2 billion has been pledged, and 128,950 projects have been successfully funded.

Do you observe further evolution in Innovation Management linked to the rise of the Internet of Things, and Artificial Intelligence?

Not yet. Just the beginning.  Ideo has coined the term “Hybrid insights” coming from deep human centered empathy and “smart data”. IoT will deliver a flow of new problems to solve, of weird correlations, of strange results… new real good stuff for inspiration.

The best is yet to come. AI ? a good example is Autodesk Hack Rod project, the power of AI linked to the power of new 3D printers. It’s based on billions of data points plugged into generative-design software. It’s totally changing the innovation management equation. IoT and AI work first.

If we pick-up Design Thinking, Lean Startup, and Agile/Scrum approaches for innovation, they all share ‘a rapid prototyping approach, combined with learnings coming from the user interaction, in order to iterate quickly: is this innovation in short cycles very different from the way we used to innovate? Is it the core of modern innovation?

Yes in a way, even if “try and error” approaches exist for a long time. New key factors to come : neuro-science knowledge, IoT data and AI learning machines. The iteration loop you’re mentioning, will be faster than before, and the level of complexity higher. We think that, above all, the quality of choice of the “root question” to solve will be better.

Among all the tools that you share in your book, what would be the key message that you would like to share to build a sustainable corporate innovation lab or initiative? In addition, what would like to say to  corporate innovators, and entrepreneurs?

We don’t believe in the startup propaganda. Startup may change the world one day if they succeed, but large corporation can change the world quicker if they unleash today their collective intelligence. So dear corporate innovators, you’re in charge. And, yes, it’s possible to be a super innovator in a large company.

Innovation is the creation of a new tradition, but before it comes to that end, it crosses a lot of resistance; how do you suggest to balance these correlative endeavors, and to tweak this ‘ambidexterity’: looking for differentiation, and even disruption in your innovation project AND engaging the corporate, and aggregating resources to support your project? How do you develop the path to the unknown while leveraging the assets of the legacy business?

By explicitly, even when it’s done by the same team, splitting the two approaches. As explained by James March Stanford Professor, exploitation exploration are two different cognitive modes. Our experience is that your AND  is possible as long as it’s not done simultaneously. To simplify, in order to avoid confusion, it’s a good idea not to do it on same project at the same time. In a castle, you can get rid of the old kitchen, keeping intact the beautiful ancient ball room. Ambidexterity is about that type of arbitration. So please, train your teams to be ready to switch from one mode (exploration, disruption, change) to another mode (exploitation, regularity, repetition).

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future of TV - Leading by InnovatingSerial innovator, Nicolas Bryhas set up creative units for new business at Orange, Club-Internet, and SFR. He created crowd platform Imagine.Orange.com, Orange Studio for Intrapreneurs, and edits Open Innovation blog RapidInnovation.fr.  He’s an international speaker, coach for entrepreneurs & startups, innovation teacher at Telecom ParisTech, HEC & CentraleSupélec, and freelance consultant (ECC). Follow him at @nicobry.

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