Do I have to disrupt?

Do I have to disrupt to innovate?”

I was recently asked this question by an executive. My simple answer to this is; No. Innovation, or to be innovative has in my opinion been misinterpreted to mean invention. And an invention can be disruptive. Innovation, on the other hand, is finding new and/or better solutions to changing human needs…

You can disrupt by invention, but you don’t have to by innovation. Having been exposed to and worked hands on with innovation as a corporate innovation catalyst, it is evident that the key to innovation success is not disruption. It is evolution. As Darwin classically puts it; “It’s not the strongest of the species that survive, not the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change”.

We have seen in the past years an extreme rush for being innovative. To follow the newest trends. Rushing into projects around utilizing the latest technology, and at the same time forgetting to figure out the right use or the right why for that technology or trend. What also seems to follow is hasted restructuring of the organization and wrongly adjusting processes, hiring (and firing) the wrong people and perhaps just making a good mess of things?

After discussing a bit back and forth with the executive I asked; is your company struggling financially? Are your employees unhappy? Are your customers dissatisfied with your current offering? The executive’s answer to my questions was; “We are financially stable, but to be honest I don’t know too much about our customers and my employees….But we have to be innovative!”

Sounds familiar? Don’t worry you’re not alone and all is not lost.

A culture for innovation!

To build a culture for innovation, start off by finding the entrepreneurial spark within your company’s DNA. This should be aligned around customers and employees, the two main drivers of classic service value chain theory.

Developing a productive culture for innovation supported by the right agile processes is in my opinion the single most important thing you can do. You should set up an innovation portfolio around

what you deliver today,

what you could potentially easily change and deliver on tomorrow

and what you can deliver in the future.

This will reap results and create a culture of evolutional innovation. (And please don’t misunderstand — thinking big hairy audacious goals are important, but don’t focus all your attention here.) Finding the root cause to your company’s need to innovate is important!!

Worshiping the customer

Amazon is a company who worship their customers, and seem to have found the magic potion to innovation. This is evidenced by their market valuation increase by 1934% from 2006 to 2016. I asked one of my awesome friends, Eliza, who work with customer experiences at Amazon in Seattle what this means to her;

Innovation and Thinking Big is a part of life at Amazon — but it shows up in many ways. It isn’t an expectation at a specific level or role. It is something everyone thinks about and contributes to. The best part of working at Amazon is the people — and we hire the best! When you get a group of the smartest people together that are all focused on the customer and making the best decisions on their behalf, great things happen”.

Evolutional innovations that we can implement today and tomorrow are plentiful and should be constant. The radical and disruptive ones are far in between. The more radical an innovation is, the more profitable it will be. Yes, the financial risk will higher, but the benefit of said innovation should offset this risk. Therefore, dear executive; Investing in the future without the support of a 50-page business case that strongly support a secure ROI might seem scary, but it is the old way of thinking. You need to change.

So, empathize with your customers, know your employees and be aware of their changing needs. Keep a close eye on technology and trends but make sure you understand what problem it can solve or what the added value will be. Create a strong culture for innovation supported by agile processes. And finally; take some risks and learn from it!!

#innovation #disruption #profitableinnovation #value #technology