Pulled from the white paper, “Becoming a Leader Who Fosters Innovation,” by David Magellan Horth and Jonathan Vehar
How do you know where to focus your innovation leadership development efforts so that you and your organization have the capacity you need? It becomes easier to diagnose areas needing attention when you tease apart several elements of innovation, specifically: 1) process, 2) context, 3) output and 4) people (Rhodes, 1961; Vehar, 2008). This is the first of four posts that will focus on each one of these areas. Let’s start with (drumroll please):
Welcome to the third of this four-part thread unpacking the four areas on which to focus your innovation efforts. Given that innovation is a complex bugaboo to wrap your head around to decide what to do next, this series provides an organizing framework to help with that. The two previous parts focused on Process and Context, and now we turn to output, or the result of your innovation efforts. Assuming you want a result, and we assume you do, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this. But we digress.
Many conversations around output are focused on “products,” in the narrowest sense of the word: the concrete tangible things that we deliver to our customers. While academics use the term differently, let’s use the term “output” to focus on the various types of innovation that result from our efforts. Doblin Group created a framework of 10 types of innovation that we use to help expand the scope of how people see what can be created in an organization and is useful to target various areas that have been neglected. These 10 types include:
- Profit model – What might be all the ways to make money. Or in a public-sector organization, how might you obtain sufficient resources? Example: Retailer Costco augments the profit margin on sales with membership fees.
- Network – How might you work with other individuals or organizations to create value or get the job done? Example: Apple’s iPhone/iPad App Store means that others create useful content which Apple sells to owners of their products to the financial benefit of both.
- Structure – In what ways might you align your talent and assets in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage or to maximize value to your constituents? Example: While the NY Times is a traditional journalism organization, the NYT Online operates as an online provider, aggregating content from several organizations.
- Process – How to create methods so that you can do your work better than others?Example: Southwest Airlines focuses on getting their one type of plane loaded and unloaded as quickly as possible, since their airplanes only make money when they’re flying.
- Product Performance – What might be all the distinguishing features and functionality of what you provide for your customers/consumers/constituencies? Example: ScottEVest designs clothing with up to 37 hidden pockets that conceal electronics and other items without looking bulky or overstuffed and allows travelers to carry a backpack’s worth of baggage in a normal-looking jacket (including a full-sized iPad).
- Product System – How might you provide complementary products and services to create a whole that is better than the sum of its parts? Example: CCL has an entire suite of products designed to support individual learning ranging from face-to-face training to e-learning to assessments to books.
- Service – How to create notable support and enhancements which surround your offerings? Example: Enterprise Rent-a-car provides extraordinary customer service that differentiates it from other companies that rent the same vehicles.
- Channel – In what ways might you deliver your offerings to customers/constituencies?Example: Home renovation companies can provide their services as subcontractors of supply retailers Home Depot or Lowes, who sell their services for them.
- Brand – How might you present your offerings and organization to your users? Example: State Farm and other Insurance providers have opened coffee shops in order get their agents closer to customers and the community.
- Customer Engagement – In what ways might you foster distinctive interactions with your stakeholders? Example: The Mini brand of automobiles hosts rallies plus fun and unique gatherings to cement owner loyalty to the brand
Use these 10 items as a checklist for what’s not being innovated in your organization, and also use it to demonstrate the leading roles for finance, sales, operations, logistics and more. Each function can become a driver of innovation in the enterprise rather than waiting for the “Next Big Thing” to be handed down from wherever innovation has traditionally emerged in the organization.
Where does innovation usually come from in your organization, and in what areas do you want to focus your efforts?