I am pretty curious about what makes certain organisations sustain an innovative culture while most others struggle and stagnate. This led to me to explore Corporate Innovation and Entrepreneurship as one of my research areas.
Since teaching is a good way to learn, I also teach topics around my research interests. One such new course is what I recently taught titled “Designing and Leading the Entrepreneurial Organisation” for the post graduate students of The Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII). Since the course refers to a lot about how to create and sustain entrepreneurialness within organisations, our discussions revolved around two problems — stopping bad habits (those that stop innovation) and cultivating new habits (ones that catalyse innovation)! While most courses discuss the latter, very few discuss the former. Without taking care of the former, the latter may not really work. Is that really why many new initiatives to sustain corporate innovation not result in results?
Though the course is formally over now, here are links to two articles that I would have (will use in the next edition of my course) shared with my students:
How to banish bad habits from your company? — Link: https://www.strategy-business.com/article/How-to-Banish-Bad-Habits-from-Your-Company
Creating a culture of innovation — Link: https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/creating-an-innovation-culture
While many of our readings are from journals and magazines, both my students and me keep sharing newer materials to supplement our learning. These also help us enhance the quality of our discussions inside and outside the classroom.
I thought it might be useful sharing it here so that we could hear from what you, the reader, thinks as well.
What according to you helps create an innovative organisation?
Every entrepreneur wants to understand this. Here is one more chance to glimpse into one such mind. This interview (Link: http://www.mckinsey.com/industries/high-tech/our-insights/inside-the-mind-of-a-venture-capitalist?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck-oth) with Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson is very interesting.
What got me excited is his thoughts on how large companies can deal with disruption. This is important to me for two reasons: (i) this relates to my research on corporate engagement with startups and corporate acceleration; and (ii) it helps in bringing one more perspective in my workshops on corporate innovation and strategic leadership.
While it may seem contrarian that ‘solitude’ catalyses ‘creativity’; it seems to have some validity.
While I believe that spending time with oneself is a powerful way to unlock your inner potential, I have never researched on this topic. But when I came across this wonderful write-up on the topic, I could not resist myself from sharing. ‘Is Solitude the Secret to Unlocking our Creativity?’ Link: http://observer.com/2016/06/is-solitude-the-secret-to-unlocking-our-creativity/
I spend a lot of time ‘walking’ and try to spend a fair amount of time in ‘solitude’. Both of these are getting more difficult. But almost every successful and happy person (the combination is rare) I meet increases my belief in both the above activities.
As entrepreneurs, you have a need to be actively engaged in social conversations. But you also need to disconnect from your company, industry, market and be with yourself. It provides you access to your original you. It is needed to help make that unique contribution that only you can provide.
Try it. It seems to me that ‘walking’, ‘solitude’ and ‘silence’ are also the pathway to happiness. Read more on this. Think about it. Reflect and Find out for yourself.
Be Creative. Be Entrepreneurial. Be Happy.
iPod – ‘Music’ and changed how we listen to music
Xbox and PlayStation – ‘Gaming’ and changed the way we play video games
Kindle – ‘E-Books’ and changed how we read
Are you making the next one? Which industry are you disrupting? Which market are you creating? Which product or service are you making redundant?
If you are a corporation and not doing any of these, think again, for soon some one will do it. It might make you redundant.
These are all the result of ‘Corporate Innovation’ and the entrepreneurial abilities of their people. While innovation and entrepreneurship is the talk of the town, is it being spoken off in your corridors? What can you do to make ‘innovation’ thrive in your enterprise?
It is probably the only sustainable competitive advantage!
Think about it.
It is a fact that most Universities / Research Labs (publicly funded) produce research, publish their findings and have a roster of intellectual property. This is business as usual for them. They do little in terms of commercialising their discoveries.
Corporations on the other hand have ‘innovation’ as the mandate. They attempt to commercialise inventions and profit out of creating value. Since their focus is on commercialisation, they should not be spending too much effort on ‘Research’, but sadly they do.
Most ‘research’ functions have been blamed for not being effective. This is due to a number of reasons. Lets not get into it. Many corporations also do not have the muscle power to sustain long term research activities either! Hence long term sustainability of corporations is under serious threat. Enhancing innovative ability of their organisations is ‘Top Priority’ for the CEOs / Top Management Teams.
Hence it makes sense for corporations to focus on their core activity of making innovations happen while tapping into academic research for gaining access to new inventions. I recently read an article on this topic (Link: https://hbr.org/2016/04/innovative-companies-get-their-best-ideas-from-academic-research-heres-how-they-do-it?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=harvardbiz).
There are a lot of reasons why this may be difficult to practice in a developing economy. Here are some top of the mind reasons:
- Low public funding for research
- Poor research infrastructure
- Low quality research output
- Poorly documented / published research
- Little research of practical value
- Little interaction between industry and academia
And so on… But one is bound to be surprised by the number of useful ‘intellectual property’ that lie dormant in our (India) public universities / research laboratories. Some smart companies are already beginning this…
As a corporate looking to stay relevant in the future, it is useful to include scanning academic research as part of your strategy function. Number of interesting ideas are presented in the article cited above.
Read, access and explore the academic world to find inventions that can be commercially valuable for your firm / organisation.
This could be one way of enhancing corporation innovation.
Steve Jobs and the like are exceptions! Let us respect them. But they alone are not enough. Apple and Steve Jobs alone cannot the run the world. We need people like them in every line. We need people like them at every scale.
While Apple and Google provide inspiration; there is a company through its sheer consistency in innovation has shown how small thoughts can go onto making a large company. This is 3M. When one studies 3M and history of its product, one can understand that they are not running behind a single path breaking innovative idea. They are coming up with products that solve simple need and most of it extending on an earlier idea.
This is a thought that is important for businesses of smaller scale. Innovation can be a game-changer at all scales and at all levels. Not necessarily only for multinational or products. Innovating one’s supply chain, innovating one’s processes, innovating one’s production floor layout, innovation in services could cause a considerable shift in both productivity and profitability for a small and medium company. And the best part is the rate of jump that happens with a small twist to thinking is definitive in impact and significance!
So SME companies instead of relegating innovation as something that needs to be considered only when they become large, should swiftly and adeptly embrace it at every aspect of their operations and strategy. For only when they do this, can they even realize the dream of becoming large!
One of the first things that successful innovators learn as a skill is ‘observation’. Learning to observe what? Problems, challenges, frustrations etc., that potential customers face on a daily basis. Learning to observe these opens up plethora of opportunities for innovations.
If we ask people what they want, they may never know. But if you engage with them in conversation about what bothers them or what is it that they want to achieve – it will open up unseen and undiscovered needs and wants.
All such opportunities are potential centres for ideation. When we ideate around opportunities we create solutions that are useful for the market. These innovations are potential business ideas. The entrepreneur’s search for an appropriate business model should happen after this. Else innovation could remain as mere fantasies and hopes.
We need more successful entrepreneurs. For this we need successful innovations. For this we need market centric solutions. For this we need to know what the market wants. For this we need to observe more.
So if you want to become more innovative..observe more!