Inform your innovation strategy – The 6 Harvard Business Review articles you need to read.

Inform your innovation strategy – The 6 Harvard Business Review articles you need to read.

Harvard Business Review cited “Innovation” 669 times in the last year.

Innovation is not in danger of becoming a buzzword. It is a buzzword. Harvard Business Review alone has cited the word “innovation” 669 times in the last year and that is not including their blog. (June ’14 to July/August ’15).

What is clear is that innovation is not just a buzzword. Innovation needs to be on the agenda for every organisation. And every organisation needs an innovation strategy. At Matter we help organisation develop their innovation strategy and work with household names like Nectar, Hearst Magazines and Paddy Power to create strong organisations fit for the future. Here are the 6 HBR articles from the last year that should inform your own innovation strategy.

The 6 Harvard Business Review Articles that should inform your innovation strategy:

You Need an Innovation Strategy by Gary P Pisano (Jun’15)

An organisation’s ability for innovation grows from an effective innovation system: a logical combination of complementary processes and structures that decides how the company discovers different problems and solutions, incorporates ideas into a business concept and product designs, and selects which project gets support. Creating an innovation strategy involves determining how innovation will create value for potential customers, how the company will capture that value, and which types of innovation to pursue. Similar to product designs needing to evolve to stay competitive, innovation strategies must do too as the environment changes.

Build an Innovation Engine in 90 days by Scott d Anthony, David S Duncan, and Pontus M A Siren (Dec’14)

“If you have no one fully focussed on new growth, you’ve decided not to focus on growth.”

A lot of executives will admit that their organisations don’t innovate in a reliable, structured way. With the majority of breakthroughs only happening as a result of a fluke or individual prowess. Most brilliant ideas remain trapped inside employees’ heads, and the concepts that are developed often aren’t the most promising. Without massive investments, restructuring, or even a single hire there is a way to make innovation more systematic. This article provides an inspiring model of how company can build a “minimum viable” innovation function, in a mere three months.

Leading Your Team into the Unknown by Nathan Furr and Jeffrey H Dyer (Dec’14)

Like any corporate operation, innovation requires effective leadership; albeit a slightly different one involving skills and tactics many executives have yet to master. There is a process that successful innovation leaders follow, one that draws on risk-reduction ideas developed over the past half a century. The skilled innovation leader works more by example than by command: asking questions rather than making decisions; clearing a path to the unknown for the innovation team rather than identifying the end goal; and giving the people the right kind of time, the right constraints, and the right tools. This process, referred to as the ‘innovator’s method’, is at heart a journey of discovery, and so the role of the person leading it is to set other people down a path and demonstrate a willingness to push boundaries and embrace uncertainty. Preparing the wider team to accept novel ideas is a crucial part of the job as well as providing not just time (un-disturbed periods win) but also the resources and tools to explore the unknown.

Collective Genius by Linda Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove and Kent Lineback (Jun ’14)

To build an organisation that is capable of innovating continually over time leaders need to foster a community that is both willing and able to innovate.

To be willing; the community must share a sense of purpose, values, and rules of engagement.

To be able; companies must generate ideas through discourse and debate; experiment quickly, reflect, and adjust; and make decisions that combine disparate and even opposing ideas.

Bill Coughran, an SVP of engineering at Google, employed these capabilities both to solve immediate needs as well as make progress toward a next-generation solution.

Capture More Value by Jeffrey H. Dyer, Hal B. Gregersen and Clayton M (Oct’14)

Sometimes the only thing that can save a business is a new way to capture value.

Businesses are constantly innovating to create new value however unless they also focus on how they capture that value, they fail to gain maximum benefit from their breakthroughs. This is a common issue as even avid innovators suffer from a blind spot when it comes to value capture. Managers need to think about value capture more imaginatively and make it a normal part every project.

The Capitalist’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen and Derek van Bever (Jun ’14)

Different types of innovation impact growth differently, yet they are all evaluated using the same (flawed) metrics. Performance-improving innovations, which replace old products with improved models, and efficiency innovations, which reduce costs, fail to produce many jobs, (actually efficiency innovations eliminate them). Market-creating innovations, which revolutionise products so significantly they create a new breed of consumer, succeed at generating jobs for their creators and for the economy. However efficiency and performance-improving innovations are usually thought of as better opportunities.

The capitalist’s dilemma is that doing the right thing for long-term prosperity is the wrong thing for investors, according to the tools that guide investment decisions. The issue is, these tools, are based on an unquestioned assumption that capital is scarce, and that performance should be assessed by how efficiently companies use it. The truth is, capital is no longer as scarce as it was, and therefore the tools guiding these decisions must catch up to that reality.

Further reading:

If your innovation processes are more mature here are the 4 Harvard Business Review articles we think you should read next:

Engineering Reverse Innovations by Amos Winter and Vijay Govindarajan (July/Aug’15)

A trend is starting to emerge around the logic of reverse innovation; where products are designed first for consumers in low-income countries and then adapted into disruptive offerings for developed economies. While a thought-inspiring concept, it’s still very much finding it’s legs as only a handful of companies have managed to do it successfully. Why? Research has concluded that the main hurdle facing product developers is mindset.

Western designers, who are accustomed to creating products by following time-tested methods, struggle to overcome the restrictions and leverage the freedoms of emerging markets. This puts them at risk of falling into mental traps that prevent the development of reverse innovations: matching segments to existing products, lowering price by removing features, failing to think through all the technical requirements, neglecting stakeholders, and refusing to believe products created for low-income markets could have global appeal. There are five design principles that companies can follow to avoid these traps and take both Eastern and Western markets by storm.

Digital-Physical Mashups by Darrell Rigby (Sept’14)

25 years into the digital revolution, many companies still fret over whether to invest major resources in digital capabilities. All the while, customers who entwine their digital and physical worlds neatly together, wonder why companies aren’t doing the same.

Organisations spanning the globe are trying to cope with the swiftly changing marketplace and most industries are still in the early stages of a new concept of “digical” transformation; of which the greatest barrier to face is inexperience with its execution. Learning from the stories of leaders from 20 global industries, five rules are outlined that can help; (1) Build your strategy around digital-physical fusion and it can be your new competitive edge, (2) Add links and strengthen linkages in the customer experience, (3) Transform the way you approach innovation, (4) Organisational separation is just an interim step, (5) Build a digical-savvy leadership team that includes the CEO. Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Nike, Disney, and Burberry are included in the group of companies whose efforts in this sphere have significantly paid off.

Turn Your Science into a Business by Reddi Kotha, Phillip H. Kim and Oliver Alexy (Nov’14)

“Inventors should carefully identify and protect the most profitable potential applications of an invention before competitors enter the fray.”

Commercial success with a new technology typically relies on the limited ownership of a critical asset or capability; however, to create the technology, an innovator expands on the knowledge from a variety of different sources. Inventors who poorly manage that tension often fail to successfully commercialise their innovations. In order to really understand how to manage the tension, the authors carried out a comprehensive analysis of more than 1,000 inventions which lead them to identify seven IP traps that unwary innovators (individuals and companies alike) fall into when inventions and innovations for the commercial market. Pulling from stories experienced in their research, the authors explain these traps and provide advice on how to avoid them.

Sustainability in the Boardroom by Lynn S Paine (July/Aug’14)

More and more companies recognise the importance of corporate responsibility to their long-term success, however the matter struggles to gain a supported voice in boardrooms, consistently falling to the bottom of priorities. Nike created a dedicated corporate responsibility committee in 2001 to deal with issues such as climate change, water pollution, corruption, and uneven access to wealth, health and education. This committee serves as a sounding board and constructive critic as well as a source of knowledge and expertise. It also drives accountability and stimulates innovation. A dedicated committee like this could be a valuable addition to many companies as a source of knowledge and expertise; a sounding board and constructive critic; a driver of accountability; a stimulus for innovation; and as a resource for the full board.

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About Hugo Pickford-Wardle