As the third quarter of 2019 comes to a close, innovators approach the future with positivity. In fact, when Innovation Leader surveyed 215 innovation and R&D professionals, 56 percent of respondents expected their company’s overall innovation investment to increase from 2019 to 2020.
More information about budget — as well as support, staffing, and a variety of other hot topics — can be found in our recently released Benchmarking Innovation Impact 2020 report. Looking for other ways to share the optimism? We gathered the five best pieces of advice from our September online coverage below.
1. Be Open about Projects Early to Prevent Silos
Bose Corporate Concept Group unites different applied research projects and seeks to foster connections between the company’s branches. However, innovation was not always approached with collaboration in mind.
“When we started Bose Labs, about a year and a half ago…a lot of the research projects were on separate Excel spreadsheets and didn’t…get shown to the rest of the community that’s working on research and technology…” says Kendra Winn, who works on the team.
According to Winn, dispelling the air of secrecy helped develop ideas faster and gain increased support.
“We really put a focus on making [innovation] visible to the entire community that’s working in this area,’” she says. “[And quarterly, we have] Bose Labs Expo… and we have the teams just come and put what they’re working on on [display]. … [Y]ou could really see the cohesion of the teams…and the ideas just percolating across the groups. And they’re making the connections and moving things forward much faster than we had historically.”
Get more insights from the Bose Corporate Concept Group in this podcast episode.
2. Formalize Innovation Roles to Build Long-Term, Breakthrough Capabilities
Retaining innovative talent can help teams foster the capabilities necessary for major breakthroughs. However, Gina O’Connor of Babson College observes that innovation roles “have no clear definition.” She points to titles specifically created for corporate innovators that often disappear when they leave the organization.
During a recent Master Class, she emphasized the importance of embedding innovation jobs into organizations for the long-run. “When [a job is codified and] the [person in the role] move[s] on, we actually have an empty position that we post, to try to actually put somebody in that,” she says. “It’s only through that, we believe now, that companies will really be able to institutionalize this capability of breakthrough innovation or strategic innovation, and get better at it over time.”
Watch the full Master Class and download slides.
3. When Creating New Products, Start with Functionality
“If your innovation starts with a technological advance, focus on functionality, rather than how to persuade consumers it’s worthwhile. Who is the target audience and what problem do they have? Can you make their lives faster, more convenient, cheaper, or safer?” Josh Bernoff postulates. “The best products extend tools we already use, like smart phones, cars, and web browsers.”
Bernoff is the Former Senior Vice President of Idea Development at Forrester Research. In his recent article for Innovation Leader, Bernoff discusses common roadblock that leads innovations to failure — and how to ultimately find success. Read the full piece for more tips on avoiding failure.
4. Remain Customer Centric when Innovating
“What makes innovation fail often is the fact that the information about solutions and the information about needs [are] owned by different parties,” says Olivier Toubia, a Professor of Marketing at Columbia Business School. “The manufacturer [or company] has the solution expertise. … And the consumers have the needs and the problems that they want to solve.”
So how can teams keep the customer in mind when launching new initiatives? Toubia suggests using ethnographic research and lead users. “[Follow the] lead users approach…where you partner with users that may not be your users, but they’re people that have developed some solution expertise that could be relevant for you,” he says. “So for example…[3M] was trying to develop surgical drapes for the operating room for the top US hospitals…and they went to veterinary hospitals to see how vets were able to fight infection in much harsher environments.”
Check out the full interview for more advice.
5. Create a Common Language for Innovation
Innovation can be a realm filled with jargon that seems foreign to the business units. In a recent Master Class, Brant Cooper of the consulting firm Moves the Needle recommended creating a set of universal definitions to ease the communication trouble.
“Number one…organizationally, you need to define innovation. And this needs to be your company’s definition, and it needs to be universal,” Cooper says. “I actually encourage people to not use the word innovation. … Use a word that’s going to resonate with everybody inside the company.”
Cooper suggests words like “growth” and “scalability” as alternatives. Watch the full Master Class for more insights on building rapport with leadership.