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

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Ten Innovation Imperatives

Interview - Robert F. Brands

Interview - Robert F. BrandsI had the opportunity to interview Robert F. Brands, author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation" recently.

Here is the text of the interview:

1. When it comes to innovation, what is the biggest challenge that you see organizations facing?

The first and most important challenge is to understand and realize that innovation is not optional, it really is : Innovate or Perish. As a result of the traditional product lifecycle it is a phenomenon that once past the "growth" and "mature" phase, any product or service will ultimately decline. So for any thriving business one has to reinvent itself and add new products or services over and over. Once convinced of the importance, it all starts with the leadership. The CEO supported by the leadership team has to create a vision mission and strategy that is all in support of and in line with the innovation efforts. As a result resources would be budgeted, measurements and reward systems created. It has to be a holistic approach since no individual elements like just having a new product development process or great ideation will ultimately create sustainable innovation. The larger the organization the bigger the challenges and the most important tip is to have a simple and clearly stated innovation objective so that all involved will work towards the same objective, this can be as simple as "one new product per year".

2. For you, where does innovation begin?

Innovation begins with the Chief Executive Officer who has to be the Chief Innovation Officer. His or her vision, mission and strategy supported by the executive leadership team is really where it all begins but the most important first step is for any organization to define innovation so that everybody is on the same page.

3. Are there any of the ten innovation imperatives that are more important than the others?

To create truly sustainable innovation, no imperative is more important than the other. However it is essential to have a solid New Product Development process as well as Ideation process in place since both will create, feed and guide the product concepts through the organization.

4. What are some of the most important parts of an innovation culture that must be maintained for innovation to be sustainable?

Inspiration is one of the most difficult elements of the innovation efforts to maintain according to a recent survey by InnovationCoach.com. This is kind of a surprise as it is the chief executive that should continue to inspire, stay focused and involved. In looking at the parts to make this happen, communication is absolutely key. It is really important to share with the organization as a whole the intend, the goal and the focus and as a result one should communicate on a regular basis to share the initial victories and wins, challenges and focus. The second element that comes to mind is "Openness" of Innovation; start internally, eliminate silos and the anti-bodies and cooperate to win. This will create an environment where by Open Innovation from the outside can be accepted and welcomed which can help you accelerate your efforts.

5. Why are patents and the new product development process so important to innovation?

The book spends a complete chapter on the importance of intellectual property and patents and how to go about it. Patents are important since they create protection and allow a greater return on investment, it helps you carve out a specific proprietary area of protection that can help you build market share and create stakeholder value. It is proven that those companies with a strong patent portfolio creates much more value to their stakeholders than companies without. Airspray, the case study focused on in the book (the company that brought instant foaming dispensers like hand soap to market) was sold at 15 times EBIT which proves the point.

The New Product Development process helps you take a product or service from concept to launch. It enables you to do multiple tasks, simultaneously, by different departments, so that all elements come to completion and fruition at the same end date. This can be done by way of a simple matrix or complex detailed process but it is essential to prioritize and track the concepts through the process and have clear go/no-go stage-gates with teeth.

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

Making sure that the innovators of tomorrow are skilled in project management, ideation, and teamwork. Leadership will come naturally to those able, but regardless of whether you are a leader or contributor these three skills are essential to cooperate and deliver the new products and services of tomorrow.

You'll find our book review of Robert F. Brands' book "Robert's Rules of Innovation" here.

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Braden KelleyBraden 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 Mike Waddell said...

Its interesting that Robert Brands highlights the role of leadership as vital for innovation and it starts right at the top with CEO.

In the 80’s Kouzes and Posner of “The Leadership Challenge”, based on observation, identified that what they call “exemplary leadership” isthe key factor in the best performing organisations. This they boiled down into five factors 1 Exemplary leaders live out the desired culture (attitudes, beliefs and values) of the organisation, 2) Leaders are passionate about the difference they can make and enlist others in the realisation of their vision, 3) Leaders innovate to improve the organisation and its capabilities and they encourage others to do same, 4) Leaders empower their people, encourage collaboration and build spirited teams to achieve extraordinary results, 5) Leaders spur on their people to greater achievement by recognising and celebrating the contribution of individuals (my summary).

Its easy to see how such a leadership attitude would spark life into the innovation culture of any organisation, not least because of characteristic 3, innovate to improve but also characteristics 1 and 2 which are really about the infectious desire for the culture to be lived out.

What is more powerful than a CEO who lives out the desire for innovation. Interestingly I just posted an interview with a CEO who has done just that over the last 8 years or so, embedding creativity and innovation in the culture of his organisation to the point that they are able to use the culture as a differentiator. If you are interested you can find it at http://creativeleader.co.uk

1:33 AM  

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