What We Talk About When We Talk About Innovation

At the beginning of your career, the most frequent question you can find in a typical social conversation must be “What is your job now?”.

“I do Innovation. As an Innovation Specialist. In fact, Innovation is what I want to dedicate my whole life to.” (You see, it’s not a smart move to include three ‘Innovation’s in just one answer.)

“OK… I get it. But what is Innovation…er.. job, anyway? What are you actually doing?”

In a nutshell, here is the simplest answer that I kept rehearsing by saying it out loud:

There are two essential fields of a business.

One is Marketing. You have a product, a service, a magical serum receipt to cure all diseases on Earth with a reasonable price… and you try to sell it for a profit. That means looking for the right customers, in the right segments, with a right price and a right channel. BOOM! You get to yourself a sky-rocket business. As time goes by, you refine your structure, buy better materials at lower cost, hire more specialized people to handle more loyal clients. Basically, you answer the question “What’’s now?”

The other is Innovation. It answers the question ‘’What’s next?’’. Because no matter how good you are at your current business, eventually something beyond your control will happen: New competitors, new legal changes, new concept about a product that can capture a million more customers, new technology promising to change the entire world… Or maybe, you just want to grow and expand from what you are at the moment. Good or bad, you don’t want to passively react to the change. Thus, the act of Innovation is to actively look for a new idea and develop it into a profitable manifestation beyond your current business as usual.

To make a note here, a company may not need an Innovation management body to make Innovations happen. Just like marketing, it is always there. When an engineer slapped his head and shouted “Eureka!” and started to write down a proposal for his superior, the engine of Innovation began to run. Similarly, a CEO can take an idea from her morning magazine and ask the R&D to do some research about it. The very innovations emerge from almost every daily activities of an organization.

The problem is, without proper management, the engine cannot run smoothly. As innovations are uncertain in its nature, a blind effort to innovate can result in a waste of time and resources of the company.

You see, that’s where I would like to step in. As an Innovation specialist, I help build up and run a proper Innovation engine, starting from how to get the best ideas from people, and how to select the most appropriate projects to invest in, or how to improve the ability to scout the market for new opportunities… and the list goes on and on. The best thing about my job is that I am not the Innovator myself, but a helper to make sure that whatever an Innovation should happen, it will happen, from the right people, at the right time.

The result is an ever growing company, hoping to outlast the ever changing nature of the environment.

My team at an Innovation Workshop.

See my first company — VIB’s innovations at https://vib.com.vn/wps/portal/en/product-landing/ngan-hang-sang-tao