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A leading innovation and marketing blog from Braden Kelley of Business Strategy Innovation

Friday, July 24, 2009

Innovation Conversations with Scott Anthony

I had the opportunity recently to interview Scott Anthony, President of Innosight and the author of "The Silver Lining" about a variety of innovation topics including: 'The Great Disruption', barriers to innovation, education, leadership, and commodity businesses.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. What is the biggest challenge that companies face in the Great Disruption?

I think the biggest challenge facing companies is an unwillingness to let go of the past. Companies have to come to grips with the fact that what made them great in the past will not make them great in the future. That doesn't mean they have to completely walk away from their heritage. But they to constantly question the status quo, think about the businesses they are not in that they should be, and be willing to walk away from businesses before they need to. It's a tough challenge.

2. What stands in the way of many companies being able to deliver new innovations to market?

Well, I think it is important to note that companies don't struggle with all types of innovations. Most companies excel at managing innovations that extend their core business. They struggle with innovations that run counter to their existing way of operating. Then, the greatest enemy lies within. We call it "the sucking sound of the core." A company's core systems and structures "want" an innovation to conform to what a company has done before, not what is necessary for success. The sucking sound makes innovation slow and complicated. To break the sucking sound of the core, companies need to make sure they have a "safe space" for innovation, and that senior leaders actively step in to break standard operating procedures when required.

3. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the workforce of the Great Disruption, what would it be?

The one thing I would want to see students trained in is non-linear thinking. The era of optimization is over. We are in an era of constant creative destruction. Students need to learn how to find the non-obvious insight and to imagine possibilities that don't yet exist. I worry that an increased focus on standardized tests runs counter to the needs increasingly facing companies.

4. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in the Great Disruption?

The basic problem facing many managers is they are being asked to solve problems they have never faced before. You see, it used to be possible to have a productive 40-year career being an operator that did a great job executing a solidly formulated strategy. Today's leaders have to be great operators and great innovators. They have to pass that old F. Scott Fitzgerald test of holding two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, while still retaining the ability to function. In simple terms, managers have to learn how to find the "and." Disciplined and creative. Love big businesses and small businesses. And so on.

5. What advice do you have for companies that are already loving the low end in a commodity business?

Companies that are already loving the low-end should think about innovative ways to extend and grow their business. One way to do so is to add on additional offerings that help customers solve additional problems they are facing in their lives. This could be a new feature, it could be a service. Another approach is to see if there are other markets where they can bring their low-cost acumen. A low-cost business model is a powerful weapon that companies can deploy in multiple markets.

As a special bonus, here is a video of Scott Anthony being interviewed about "The Silver Lining" by Business Innovation Factory's Chris Flanagan:

My book review of "The Silver Lining" can be found here.

Braden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Anonymous Scott Wallace said...

I agree with a lot of the above particularly the piece about changes needed in our educational system. The emphasis on educational standards is necessary but one does worry about what will happen when taken to the limit. America's continued prosperity requires innovative thinking; teaching to standards alone will not necessarily get us there. Thanks for the article!

8:15 AM  

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