As innovators, our life is regularly facing the “Jumping Hurdles and Closing Gates on Innovation” described by Paul Hobcraft (@Paul4innovating).
From idea to execution, innovation has many places to lose its way. Vijay Govindarajan describes it sharply in his “From idea to execution” (2005, Dec) article: the “innovative project will be clashing with the existing organization at multiple levels, long after the idea generation stage”.
One points out the lack of innovation culture as a frequent shortcoming, for example in functions such as purchasing and legal department which are from the fuzzy front-end process innovation implies. Consuming time and burning energy in bureaucratic tasks and formal contract, which sound logical in mainstream operations, have often no meaning for early-stage innovation, and can smoothly kill creative desire.
But innovation is an “optimistic path”! It involves “focusing on the levers that we can operate” observes Professor Philippe Gabilliet (@gabilliet). So let’s leave the obstacles in the rear-view mirror, and share some aspects that makes innovation such a great activity.
Firstly is the domain of bespoke creation: innovation is not a manufacturing process where a specific set of input and operations will lead to an invariant output.
Each innovation project is specific. Moreover, shaping the new product identity is the main challenge: it involves figuring out a “reason why”, crafting a value-added concept, capturing the meaning for the user, focusing on the key impacts which will create an awsome customer experience, pointing a compelling direction, raising a personal belief, a mix of intuition and rationale that will last along the way, and refuel our energy to handle the project.
In this creative stage, where we look for someting proeminently desirable vs feasible and viable, I feel excited when I succeed in concentrating meaning, focus, and belief in a simple metaphor that everyone can share: a “filter” for our Social TV component, a “share/like button” for the Social Culture component, a “blended TV screen” symbolizing our belief in openess for the Smart TV design.
If belief and metaphor are a common basis to build on the team identity, and facilitating a common language, streamlining knowledge circulation, one has still to form a team to deliver.
Assembling a team, recruiting skilled profiles, T-shaped professionals able to ‘bring their expertise and collaborate across disciplines with experts from other areas’, making new fruitful relationship, sharing the “reason why” and the innovation direction, ensuring perpetual knowledge circulation are management tasks that greatly complement the previous conceptual phase.
Each member of the team has both to commit to the innovation direction, and develop his own course within the project: “It makes sense, but does it make sense for me?” Self-motivation will lead team member to develop his autonomy and reveal himself. “An organization where people serve their goal” as Gary Hamel expresses it, is precisely what I’m aiming at.
Cohesion and consistency, knowledge circulation, harmony are the guiding principles to face the obstacles together, aligned as a rugby team, making the whole more than the sum of the parts, and sail the boat to the finish.
You kow you have succeeded when team members start spontaneously sharing views in meeting, out of their traditional role’s boundary. Last time I saw this was when everyone was excited to discuss about the logo of our social TV component, engineers not being the last involved!
Heading innovation teams from concept to elegant realization along progressive iterations, managing cross functional talents, discovering surprising and amazing design solutions, eliminating the unnecessary, and crafting an environment of trust, an ecosystem favourable the team, turn innovation leadership in a very pleasurable experience.
Customer is king
Getting market feedback, seeing the impact, getting the return loop is the last mile of the journey, and the most difficult in my context.
Most often, I pass the innovation I design to business units that will ensure marketing and sales: therefore, if we measure the product experience, it’s often not our role to assess the overall customer experience, nor to optimize the service design, stressing some ‘Boom’ or ‘Wow’ moments in the customer life cycle.
It’s also not so easy to get feedback from the operationl forces: when it works, you usually don’t hear from them anymore… until the next release. So when we get great feedback from our partenring business units, it’s time for real celebration!
Considering product design, the role of the end-user has deeply enriched: with user oriented design, and then cocreation, passive input from the user is evolving to a more active collaborative design. Customer is transforming from a passive user to an active co-designer.
It is all the more true in our digital industry: the loop ‘from technology to user’ has become reverse, ‘from user to technology’, when user is acting as a software developer, or contributes to the value of the service by generating content for social media or by using a search engine.
Harnessing collective intelligence is what requests innovation adventure. Modern digital platforms enable us to enlarge the team for ideation and innovation contest, switching from monologue to dialogue with user, offering customer an opportunity to act as a partner.
By activating the intelligence of many, openess allows innovation to blaze new trails, and make a very different impact.Keeping a child’s heart, eyes wide with wonder, ready to be surprised, taking full account of unexpected options, is my driver to share the joy, and jump the hurdles of the innovation course.
image credits: hoed.com.au, irishrugby.ie, boom-wow-blogs.forrester.com, eyeglasses-calgary-optometrists.com
Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Forward thinker, he created international digital BU, with a focus on interactive, social and smart TV. He graduated from Supélec and HEC Business School, completing a thesis on “Rapid Innovation” which he implemented successfully at Orange through “component innovation” path. He blogs at nbry.wordpress.com and tweets @nicobry