Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

Innovation Failure Points - Inside-Out Innovation

In a continuing series of posts I am examining a number of consistent innovation failure points, under the thinking that learning from failure is much more instructive than learning from success, since often success is situational, while repeated failures can be instructive. In the first two posts, we reviewed failing by starting poorly, and failing by neglecting to closely link innovation to strategy. What I’m interested in is identifying the “weak links” in the innovation process and examining why innovation fails most consistently at these particular points. Today we’ll consider the weak link of what I like to call “inside out” innovation. This is the presumption that we know what our customers need, and that happens to look a lot like our existing products or services. Too many firms “innovate” with very little information or insight about the market, their customers, or customers’ need or wants. …

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Innovation Failure Points - Disconnected from Strategy

As I noted in my previous post, I think it can be more instructive to learn from failure than from success. Too often a success is situational, and the conditions for that success aren’t necessarily repeatable. But we can also see many consistent failures, which I know can be addressed. Today we’ll look at the second weak link in an innovation chain, the confusion around innovation and strategy. All too often, executives are interested in innovation but have strong reservations because innovation is likely to explore areas where the business does not have specific strengths or will make recommendations that cannibalize existing products or services. None of this activity is necessarily wrong, just creates some uncomfortable discussions when it comes time to invest. This, compounded with the fact that often corporate goals, strategies and strategic intent are murky at best or simply poorly communicated, means that …

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Innovation Failure Points - Strangled in the Crib

I am going to start a multi-part post today thinking about innovation’s failure points. Too often all we hear about are the innovation successes, yet if the statistics are right, there are far more “failures” than successes. I believe it is more interesting and more informative to consider the failures rather than the successes, in that every failure is instructive, while most successes are situational. So, rather than looking at a successful result and assuming the process was valid, let’s consider innovation as a series of interconnected links, and find the likely failure points for innovation in that chain. As we look at weak links in the innovation chain our first stop is at the beginning. While we all claim to want more innovation, all too frequently innovation is strangled in the crib. As innovation consultants, we receive calls on a regular basis to talk to prospective clients …

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Innovation - Science or Alchemy?

Fair warning: today’s post is a philosophical debate about the direction and focus of innovation as a tool to create new products and services. Too often we in the innovation space take for granted how different and unique the tools and processes we bring to bear are for many in corporate settings. We also don’t always understand how these tools and methods depart from the traditional, comfortable methods of many of our clients.We stand today, 2010, at a crossroads from an innovation perspective. Innovation is going to become either a reputable science or a disreputable side show, and there are two constituents that will direct the outcomes. Innovation consultants and others who offer innovation services are one group that will dictate how innovation is eventually accepted and perceived, and our prospects and buyers in firms large and small are the others. In just a short time we’ll all have to … Continue reading

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What if innovation was the norm?

If you’ve spent any time around innovators, you’ll know that a lot of good happens right after someone utters the phrase “what if”. There’s so much potential and possibility in those two words. With a sentence beginning ‘what if’ we can release ourselves from preconceived notions and the way we usually do things, and explore a different reality. ‘What if’ is powerful. ‘What if’ is liberating.So, I was thinking that often innovation is considered to be the exception in a business, and that got me thinking – what if we flipped the hypothesis? What if innovation was the regular course of business, and some boring status quo constraint was the exception? Today we run our businesses based on a don’t vary, don’t fail, don’t risk constrained model. What if our business model was infused with innovation, and we looked with surprise when someone wanted to retreat to safety and security? … Continue reading

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Innovation is Solving Problems Without Constraints

As a person who started out as an engineer, I know that most engineers like to solve problems that are useful to society. Often this means that there are tradeoffs and constraints associated with any problem. Cars that get higher gas mileage may need to be lighter, but lighter cars don’t survive crashes as well as heavy cars. So when we are presented a problem to solve or an opportunity to address, we often start out by trying to define the constraints.These constraints could be based on technology issues, but are often based on other factors, like legal or regulatory issues, pricing or cost issues, distribution or transportation issues and so forth. When we as innovators agree to work within a set of bounds or constraints to solve problems, we are like the kids in kindergarten who are encouraged to “color within the lines” – that is, we accept the … Continue reading

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Innovation Training Reinforcement

We deliver innovation training for our clients. Surprisingly, it’s a service we are frequently asked to deliver, and a service we get great feedback on. You might think then that we are aggressively selling this service to our existing customers and to our prospects. If so, you might want to keep reading to understand when we think innovation training works well, and when it is just an exercise to demonstrate innovation activity.First, let’s consider training delivered in any organization. Most people have some awareness of the tools and methods they use to do their jobs, and some welcome the chance to brush up on those skills or learn new skills. Unfortunately, training budgets are often the first items cut when times are tough, and there’s clearly been fewer training dollars budgeted in the last two years due to the slowdown in the economy. Most training, therefore, had to deliver real … Continue reading

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