Have You Tried New Ways to Innovate?

by Shelly Greenway

After relying on cost and operational efficiencies to grow the bottom line, many businesses are emerging from an innovation slumber post-recession. Now there is an imperative to refocus on organic growth. The importance of innovation in driving this growth is resurfacing to the top of the agenda. For many organizations, there are some radically new behavioural, structural and operational models of meeting this challenge are gaining popularity.

At The Strategy Distillery we have outlined three new ways to innovate and which world-leading organisations are doing.

1. Corporate accelerators

What is it

This is a nifty way of getting someone else to do what your organisation is too busy, slow or too set in its ways to do.

It’s all about enabling more agility to achieve faster and more radical innovation by temporarily importing a whole start-up to be entrepreneurial for you. Large organisations such as Airbus, T-Mobile and Google are using this unique approach to drive growth through breakthrough innovation.

How it works 

The way it works can differ but the general gist is that the start-up is sponsored to come on board and is given a problem to solve or open opportunity to generate new ideas. The process is managed by an outsourced expert and the start-up is enabled to do what they do best: produce great ideas/ new technologies quickly. Finally, the corporate involved may then acquire the start-up in order to keep ownership of the technology.

The benefits 

The benefits are multifold. The start-up can boost innovation beyond what the in-house marketing/engineering/R&D team can do. The business also learns from being exposed to and working with the entrepreneurs.

2. Open innovation networks

What is it

This is an organisational version of flavour mashing: deriving radically new product innovation through merging the competencies of two very different partners.

According to Henry Chesborough, who developed the concept, open innovation is: “the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.”

How it works 

If that doesn’t quite evoke an ‘aha!’ response in you, perhaps it helps to explain that an Open Innovation Network is a platform for collaboration between companies (often working in very different industries). The companies can then jointly solve a consumer problem, generate new products and/or reduce time to market. By introducing Open Innovation, companies share knowledge, ideas and resource and collaborate for shared benefit.

A typical collaboration might be between a consumer goods company and a technology company. The former owns the brand and insight and the tech company figures out how to realise it.

The benefits 

The potential benefits are immediately clear – other people in other industries may have ideas and solutions and technical expertise that you don’t. For example, Swarovski teamed up with Crystal In-MoldFoiling, an innovative technology that allowed the integration of Swarovski crystals in mobile phones, tablets and cameras. For Hannes Erler, Director of Open Innovation Networks at Swarovski “open innovation has become the new normal.” Other companies using open innovation networks include the BBC, P&G and PepsiCo.

3. Holacracy

What is it 

Employee Utopia? An organisational structure which gets rid of bosses.

It sounds like chaos, but there is a method behind this madness! Holacracy is the trademarked name for a very different way of organising a business. According to the founders of consultancy HolacracyOne, Brian Robertson and Tom Thomison: “Holacracy can be defined as an organisational structure that many call ‘manager-free’, where roles are defined around the work, and not the people.” The idea is that by removing departmental silos and hierarchical barriers, the organisation encourages transparency, autonomy, local decision-making, speed and agility.

How it works

Rather than having fixed management hierarchies, project-based teams are allowed to organise themselves and employees can take differing roles across different projects, according to their skill-set and interests. There is a hierarchy of roles within a project, but no hierarchy of people. You could be queen bee on one project and then a specialist drone on the next.

The benefits 

There are less politics surrounding who can do what so more people can propose changes and ideas which can be processed quicker. Stakeholders are part of the project team rather than distant senior managers who hold up the sign-off process. The whole project team is run similar to a start-up with a high degree of autonomy, responsibility and agility in executing good ideas. Companies using this method include Zappos, GTD and Gore.

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Shelly GreenwayShelly Greenway is a front-end innovation strategist and partner at The Strategy Distillery –  a brand innovation consultancy that specialises in opportunity hunting and proposition development. Their success rates are driven by their proprietary consumer co-creation IP. Follow @ChiefDistiller

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