How timely! On Sunday March 4, CNBC launched a five part series on business innovation hosted by Maria Bartiromo. http://innovation.cnbc.com . The underlying theme of the show is "innovate or die." The program focuses on the need for businesses to innovate to survive in increasing global hypercompetitive markets. Featured guests included notable business leaders:
Vinod Khosla, Founder Sun Microsystems and venture capitalists
Howard Putnam, Former CEO of Southwest Airlines
Cathleen Black, Hearst Magazine President
Arkadi Kuhlmann, ING Direct USA CEO
Jim Carroll, Author and Consultant
I am not sure if the series will explore the root causes and challenges behind innovation. The first episode spent too much time focusing on individual iconoclasts and a risk averse business culture. Moreover, the choice of sponsor (IBM) suggests the audience is big business. I'll get into why innovation is an even bigger challenge for big business in another posting. You can watch the March 4th episode and judge for yourself. Series podcast.
March 4th episode
As you view the series, remind yourself that innovation is not just about another Apple iPod, a widget, piece of software, or some other new gadget. Innovation is any new idea or process that meets, creates, or transforms a social need in a positive way. My own views are more in line with academicians like Gareth R. Jones.
What innovation is and isn't
- Innovation is not just about creating new products or services.
- Innovation is about any new idea and not just a new product.
- Innovation in process can often bring about a revolutionary change.
- Innovation is not limited to one person or some department. The best ideas are the simplest ones.
- Innovation has more to do with thinking originally, and sometimes driving new social needs.
- Innovation can apply to way you create markets, sell, price, market, or advertise.
- To create a change culture, an organization must be willing to cannibalize its own business strategy. If you can figure a better business model, then you should pursue it. Otherwise, someone else will for you. You have to be proactively challenging your own success every day.
- Often the best ideas come from individuals or organizations that have no ties to the organization. So don't discount your customers, users, and even competitors. Some of the biggest market leaders like Microsoft, Oracle, and Cisco Systems have innovation acquisition best practices.
Harnessing and managing innovation has more to do with organizational culture and values. If you would like to learn more about challenges organizations face managing innovation, check out a couple of classical organizational textbooks used in business schools. One of them is Organizational Theory: Design and Change by Gareth R. Jones. Another is Organizational Behavior: A Diagnostic Approach by Judith R. Gordon.