True innovation can feel like an elusive shape-shifter, dazzling us unexpectedly in a kaleidoscopic unfurling of its wings before quickly disappearing into darkness. What works brilliantly in one situation doesn’t always succeed in the next, giving the concept an evasive air. It’s tricky to nail down a singular, tried-and-true formula for innovation, but fortunately some experts have made the attempt, giving us a lot to sift through.
Not to be confused with its more famed predecessor, innovation flows from invention. It does not equal, but improves its parent.
If you’re interested in the field, you might already know the difference between incremental and disruptive innovation. The former builds by slow improvement on existing structures, responding to customer or market demands in calculated, measurable phases. ‘Disruptive innovation,’ on the other hand, coined by ~Innovation Godfather~ Clayton Christensen, refers to innovation that acts not only on the product, but also on its entire value network and market. Disruptive innovation might have all the bells and whistles, but both types of innovation are essential. Often, one cannot exist without the other.
Chronologically, there’s been a transition from linear to dynamic models of innovation. The outdated linear models were typically driven by only two forces: a technology push, and consumer demand/need pull. Newer dynamic models of innovation are multidimensional, placing emphasis on systems integration and the immutable power of networks.
Related: What is Rapid Prototyping
So, here are a few dynamic ways to think about innovation.
1. “Connect and Develop” Model | Open Innovation
There are some key points to take away from Procter & Gamble, an empire that has surely withstood the tests of time and adaptability.
In the pursuit of progress, R&D isn’t anything profound. So why have so many firms failed to age gracefully, despite having responsibly poured heaps of their sales revenue back into research and development for new products? Clayton Christensen highlights that most models fail to account for the long-term trajectories of new “fringe” markets, and over-focus on optimizing for their established audience. While these systems are highly competent in their ability to pick up on existing user needs, they’re missing a train they didn’t even know they should be on.
Procter & Gamble takes a different approach. According to its former VP of Corporate Research and Development, networks are a powerful catalyst in innovation. Procter & Gamble reinvented R&D, shifting the phrase to ‘Connect and Develop’ and sourcing the bulk of its ideas from outside the company. Says Nabil Sakkab, ‘The future of R&D is C&D—collaborative networks that are in touch with the 99% of research that we don’t do ourselves. P&G plans to keep leading innovation, and this strategy is crucial for our future growth.’
Another term used to describe this model is “open innovation,” a paradigm that was originally outlined by Henry Chesbrough, organizational theorist and director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation. He defines open innovation as ‘the use of purposive inflows and outflows of knowledge to accelerate internal innovation, and expand the markets for external use of innovation, respectively.’ Open innovation is an entire school of thought. It takes dynamic models a step further in a bold counter that defies the vertical integration approach.
Related: Define I
2. “Dual Operating Systems” Model
One fairly intuitive obstacle in innovation is, simply: how do you keep up? Technology mutates so fast that landing a solid foothold in any one sector can feel overly ambitious at best. John Kotter, a Professor at Harvard Business School and expert on change, suggests ramping up your motorcycle with a sidecar.
He argues that while hierarchical structures and organizational management practices are beginning to show wear and tear, we still need them to keep the logistical demands in check. The key though, is a second operating system, ‘devoted to the design and implementation of strategy, that uses an agile, network-like structure and a very different set of processes.’ This parallel operating system moves with speed, agility, and creativity—something altogether different than its hierarchical counterpart. Kotter proposes that these systems would operate ‘in concert,’ each enhancing the other, both driving innovation.
3. Agile Development Model | Rapid Prototyping
Perhaps the best model of innovation for tackling efficiency, the agile development model, uses rapid prototyping to swiftly explore possibilities. Popularized in The Lean Startup movement circe 2012 by Eric Ries, agile methodology is an antidote to the inherent unpredictability in software development. It emphasizes quick, iterative developmental cycles with minimal feature sets; solutions can be built with the goal of understanding a particular platform’s strengths and weaknesses before extensive development of a final product.
At SF AppWorks, rapid prototyping is at the core of our methodology. We’ve used it to deliver exceptional products to our Fortune 500 clients for the last 10 years. Connect with us to talk about how we can use it in building tools for your business.
Vijay Govindarajan, a distinguished Professor at Dartmouth and leading expert on strategy and innovation, also advocates for these quick iterations—a fail fast to grow fast approach. In his book “The Three Box Solution to Managing Innovation,” he traverses past, present, and future to deconstruct innovation and introduce a framework for achieving it.
These are just a few angles from which to explore innovation. Innovation evolves, redefines, restructures, and completely reinvents itself even with each passing year. That’s why we find it fascinating—striving to attain it is only human. If you want to talk more about it, we’d love to. Reach out to us, and remember to keep moving forward.
Written by MaCall Manor, on behalf of SF AppWorks