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Innovation And How To Have Your Own Inhouse Creative Innovation Team

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Today, innovation has become a very common word. But how much do we know about it? How can we have our own corporate innovation team? …

Today, innovation has become a very common word. But how much do we know about it? How can we have our own corporate innovation team?
What links innovation and creativity besides rhetoric?


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  • 1. 1Running Head: Corporate innovative strategy Corporate Innovation Strategy Introduction1.0 What is innovation? What is innovation? Is it something like automation or is it something else?. Today, “innovation” is increasingly being heard in discussions about business growth, business strategy, even “innovation groups”, innovative approach etc. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word as ‘to bring in new methods, ideas’ or ‘to make changes’ in society, while DIUS (The UK Department of Innovation and Skills) defines innovation as ‘the successful exploitation of new ideas”. From these and other official definitions, we can define innovation as “a new way of doing the work so that positive parameters are enhanced, by investing the same resources as before, or which achieves the same performance parameters by using a significantly lesser amount of input resources”. Indirect positive parameters can also mean such factors as “employee motivation, employee loyalty, better planning, labor welfare etc.2.0 How innovation works: Innovation is nothing but creativity in different words. Due to the monotony of everyday life, we see only what we want to see. The greatest computer of them all, the human brain, blocks the images we are not interested in seeing. Suppose, you have had an accident and limp badly when walking, albeit for a temporary period. You are embarrassed to walk publicly but as it has to be done, you do so. You will see that day that a large no of people whom you can see on the roads, are limping. You will no doubt be astonished and think about the no of residents of your city who limp, have suddenly increased three to four times. That is actually not true. Those people were always there but you did not see them before, as you were not thinking of them. Now as you are in a similar condition, you are seeing them. This is just a small and solitary example of what our brain, that much underrated part of us, can do. Now, before the reader can cry, “FOUL” let me state that the above paragraph is vital in discussing ‘how innovation works” which is the title of this chapter. We have seen that innovation can be brought about only by thinking from a different perspective i.e. thinking in a new way. Otherwise, we tend to miss the trees for the wood. However, we have become so accustomed to thinking in the same old way like “Event A will lead to B and B will lead to C”, i.e. in a cause and effect way that starting to look from a different perspective is tough. Let us now bring Dr Edward De Bono into the picture. He is the man who first coined the term “Lateral Thinking” which we use for creative thinking, and who is considered as the leading intellectual authority on the subject of creative thinking. Dr. De Bono has written a long list of books on the subject of creative thinking starting from 1969 and has more than 35 years of experience in this field. “At Du Pont we have experienced the power of deliberate systematic application of the De Bono tools to practical problems with remarkable results. For example, by lateral 1
  • 2. 2Corporate Innovation Strategy thinking in process continuity at a fibre plant with a radical altering of basic equipment design, reducing the number of moving parts by 80%” D.Tanner, Director “Du Pont Centre for creativity & innovation (back-cover of reference #4) In his book “Serious Creativity” Dr. De Bono, describes the humor model of lateral or creative thinking. Dr. Bono argues that in normal cases, our thinking process moves in a straight line, as shown in Fig 01. This “track of thought” comes across the sidetracks, some of which lead to creative solutions but the problem here is that we do not see these side tracks. We mentally block these sidetracks sub-consciously and go straight and straight on, in the usual and common way. We therefore need a way to make these mental blocks disappear. Dr.Bono calls these ways ‘provocations’ i.e. events which provokes us to leave the main track and enter the sidetrack. Fig 01 Lateral Jump The track of thought which is shown above by the green borders and the black arrow is our thinking going ahead straight. The red bordered sub track is the creative track which may lead to innovation, but we do not see it. In a joke, the punch line makes us suddenly make a lateral jump to the sidetrack (the blue curve). We then find the joke funny.A joke generally has a punch line, which is obvious to us but escapes our line of sight. Hence,when the punch line is quoted, we mentally stop in our tracks, take a lateral jump to the sub-trackand retrace our original steps to the point of origin. This shows us the side- track that we hadmissed earlier and we laugh at the joke. All the above takes place in microseconds obviously.Dr. De. Bono argues that as we take a lateral jump into the sub-track in a joke, the same thingcan be done by deliberate provocation, so that we can see the problem in other perspectives.Once, bypassing the mental road-blocks, we go onto the sidetracks, innovative solutions toproblems can be found by creative or ‘lateral thinking’. These solutions were actually there allthe time but could not be seen due to the blindness of our sub-conscious. Referring again to Fig01, the blue line shows the lateral jump that we have to take to make so that we can thinkcreatively and thereby find out innovative solutions to existing problems. Dr. De Bono hadinvented this management tool with successful results in many famous companies, leading toinnovation of existing systems to unprecedented degrees as in Du Pont3.0 The relevance of innovation to IndustryHere the reader may ask, but what is the relevance of innovation to man? All the comforts andnecessities of life, which we enjoy today, are the inventions and discoveries of man. Is that not
  • 3. 3Corporate Innovation Strategyright? So if I have invented all devices, why should innovation be such an important matter forme? That is true indeed and a very absorbing question. The answer is that original virginthinking invents a device or formulates a concept bringing the inventor to the forestage.However, at the time of their birth, few human inventions or concepts, tend to be of a typesuitable for our use. This is because the inventor or the thinker does not consider humanconvenience, at the time of inventions of machines or concepts. What is most important to himat this stage is the feasibility of the breakthrough in relating his on-paper concepts to practicalreality.It is when the invented item is taken up for production and is used, that the innovators make theirappearance. They maintain the originality of the device but now make small changes withapplications in mind. They apply all the feasible ideas, which have been obtained from marketsurveys in the product or concept and therefore make the product suitable for our use with easeand convenience.People are of the opinion that innovations are hard to come by in a service industry. This is amyth. All industries have some service fields, but in some industries, it is the service provided bythe company, which brings in the revenue. Service Industries can definitely be innovative too.The difference here is that in a product industry, it is innovations in the product, which adds to itsvalue and in a service industry, the way of providing service is subjected to the “De Bono LateralJump” for critical thinking and innovative improvements. *************
  • 4. 4Corporate Innovation Strategy Corporate innovation strategyInnovation rules and the main innovator is the king:Today, as regards innovation, we have exhausted to a large extent, the amount of creativity thatcan be applied. Therefore, to survive in the market, we need make our product prices morecompetitive or, raise the quality bar. Generally, price margins cannot go beyond a certain level,so depending upon the quality, this appears to be a good idea.Google India has been listed as one of the top and preferred employers. A Google employeesays, “In Google India, nobody is told what and when to do it.. The work for our team is done asper our own rulebook. This makes for team spirit and the team members come together for betterunderstanding between labs”. Google has many side programs such as books.google.com,Google mail, Google fight etc but it is Google labs, which takes the cake. Google labs is awebsite containing free software, which has almost no practical utilities but for fun. Google itselfclarifies that Google. Labs are just for fun. (However, I am not very sure of this, considering thecommercial acumen of Larry and Sergei.)The reader can probably realize now how important innovation for industrial growth. Thecompany which does not take interest in creative thinking and innovation, has failure hangingover it like the ‘Sword of Damocles”. Say, A and B are companies, the difference being Apractices innovation and B does not. Here, B will be much behind A after a few years regardsproduct flexibility and therefore will have a higher production capability as he has innovateddifferent variations of the same model. Since A experiments with time and quality actuallyrequired, his end production facilities are more than B. A can also operate at lower productionquantity his losses being made up by the overcapacity production Therefore qualities being same, if A and B present rival bids, then A can revise prices due to itsflexibility over price. However B cannot reduce his price and has to say so the buyer. B thereforenot only loses the order, but also gives the customer the opinion that B does not care two figswhat the customer has requested, thereby lowering B’s chances of getting future orders.2.0 How to bring about ideas or stimulate creativityIf someone asks you “What is creativity?” What would you say that answers that question mostaptly, directly and completely. Let us try being honest. Maybe you will say, “its thinking whatothers do not?” but that’s not precise. I can think about a lot of thoughts which a person can thinkbut others do not (pornography for instance). There are more experts in this line then I can count,each having their own way. Therefore-which expert do I follow? I will say that lets think forourselves. Most entrepreneurs today are practical to such an extent that they won’t recognizecreativity even if it starts dancing the exotic Indian snake dance in front of them, naked. For anindustrialist, knowing what is creativity is enough. Definitions are not required from him. If herecognizes the need for creativity then he will not doubt its benefits, which will put him wayahead of the competition. A) The Creativity Green House: Creativity can only flourish in places where it is recognized and where it has the ideal atmosphere for growth. Every organization should have a creativity department and all creative employees should be located there. The ideal
  • 5. 5Corporate Innovation Strategy modus-operandi should be :Other departments, whenever facing a critical problem, passes it on to the creativity department, who either gives up or solves it and returns back the paper to the originating department. The Green house should have PC’s , white boards with markers etc that all tools of the creative. Its ambience should be bold and it should be very well lighted B) The Management Approach: if you are creative and let’s say you have been placed in the creative department, will you do any creative thinking if you know that you will be crucified if you fail. You won’t. Management support has to be with every creative person, or they will just do their usual jobs. C) How to recognize creativity: The answer is by their actions. Once you have done or ensured the above, appoint someone senior to administrate this department. Give a pep talk to all your staff and tell them about the creativity department. Encourage them to go there whenever they want to. However, tell them that time cannot be cited as excuses for not finishing their jobs. Wait for 6 weeks. Find out who has been most to the department from your administrator and what have they done there? Your administrator’s report will be enough to find out who the creative persons are. Form your initial team and start your creative journey. D) But how will these people be creative? What will be the stimuli? If you want to find that out, you have defeated your purpose. These creative people will find their own way- not mine, not yours and certainly not an expert’s. If you ask them, they may think that you dislike their activities, or do not trust them and misunderstandings may crop up. After a couple of years, you will be able to appreciate your action of keeping mum rather then asking them how? By then, the benefits of innovations will start coming and you will be able to laugh all the way to your bank. 3.0 The dismal story of American creativity. Nigel Collins, an American Creativity expert, carried out a survey among both businessmen and creative people some months back. 182 people from different industries and different perspectives were answered the following two questions, shown below. From these surveys, it is obvious that the American dream is on shaky ground right now. Therefore, as can be seen, unless something drastic is done, America will be left behind in the creativity race, by nations like China and India and that will be a pity, .indeed! “Cos the times, they are-a-changin’ ’’ Bob Dylan
  • 6. 6Corporate Innovation Strategy3.0 On Business models and CreativityBusiness models have a lot of relevance with creativity. A large no businesses conclude thatcreative thinking and innovation is only beneficial to those industries, which obviously need it,such as the software industry, the multimedia industry, the advertising industry etc. .It is also acommon thought for many creativity is only an irrelevant waste of time for manufacturing andservice industries,. These industrialists close their minds towards innovation and creativity. Thisleads to a situation where, even if some tiny innovative idea dares to raise up its head, it isformally decapitated. An example of this types of business model is that of the Bajaj Auto Ltd ofIndia. In the seventies, Indian markets were yet to open up and Bajaj Auto became almost asynonym for the word ‘scooter’ in India. Bajaj controlled about 90% of the market and whenasked about his marketing department, “Rahul Bajaj”-the CEO is reputed to have said “WhatMarketing department? At Bajaj Auto, we don’t believe in Marketing”Famous words! and hopefully tasty- because in the 80’s when the markets opened up, poor Bajajhad to eat his words. Still, the business model of the company is not that open to innovation inthe sense that the company does not have a separate innovation department. The pyramid shapedbusiness model is today destined to die mainly because here innovation is not given equalemphasis with engineering and cost management resulting that during cost reduction exercises, itis the innovative ideas that are killed of first.Another area where companies lack in creativity is that they just cannot indulge in valuequantification of intellectual capital. Intellectual capital or resources is such a concept, that has to be nurtured properly throughout its life cycle. And you cannot buy it for money.Managing capital reserves of intellectual wealth is one area where old businesses lag and itcannot be understood by the conventional accounts officers. This makes the pie-diagram shownoposite all the more tragic.Only 17% of the creative energy is utilized today in American Industry. What happens to thebalance 83%? This is a huge loss not only to corporates but also to human development as awhole.3.01 Disruptive and Sustaining Technologies: The threats and opportunities as an outcomeof the prevalence of Disruptive Technology.The term ‘Disruptive Innovation’ was first coined by the Harvard Management Professor “Clayton M. Christensen , “along with “Sustaining Innovation”. They are also referred to asDisruptive/Sustaining Innovation Technologies) .These terms have now become so popular thatwe see them making perfect sense alone without any reference to Christiansen.Innovative technologies can be divided in two ways. First we have sustaining technologieswhich is the technology in vogue practiced by all players in a field, with more big players thensmall.Here, innovations come about slowly and the market is stable. Then what happens if atechnology aimed at the lower end of the market, much cheaper in price comes up?. Thesetechnologies do not have the dexterity of multi applications and are aimed at these customerswho are into that particular application. These are disruptive technologies and the effect is that
  • 7. 7Corporate Innovation Strategythey disrupt the stability of the market and play havoc with the market figures. But why cannotthe bigger companies fight it out with this low-end products?. They cannot because it is non-suitable to their business model.Christiansen studied the disc drive industry and came up with results which validated hisstatements. The three main statements of Christensen’s theory are i. Sustaining technologies are different from disruptive technologies ii. The pace of progress often precedes the market’s awareness of the need iii. Structures of companies color the choices and investments they makeThe disc drive industry was taken as the study material by Christiansen in his book. Around1954.the first disk drive was developed in IBM’s San Jose research laboratories It was as large as arefrigerator and it could store 5 megabytes of data. The Market started expanding and in 1976, itwas estimated to be 1billion $ in value. The players were integrated producers like IBM andOEM’s like Seagate. In 1996, the market was estimated as $18 billion. Old ideas were notfeasible anymore and companies like IBM developed thin film coatings, investing 50-100million $. These were sustaining innovation technology examples. Then disruptive innovationtechnology came in and main players were pushed out of the market. The most significantdisruptive innovation shrunk disk size from 14” to 1.8” through a no of steps, and at each step,more and more established players made their exit from the market. The adjacent figure shows clearly that customer expectation met sustainable technology at first but then it demanded more at less performance, which was met by disruptive innovation. This is still going on and current market trends indicate that customer’s demand is now relating to storage capacity and size.This is not to say that IBM does not have the research facility. It has but not at small volumes and incremental inertias. Today, a capacity of 1 TB(100 GB) appears to be nothingAnother reason of this interesting phenomenon is that big companies like IBM require time tochange as inherent in their business models. For a decision, a meeting of the board is necessarywhich then allocates the resources necessary for it. This is corporate venture capital modeling.But what about Facebook or say Google? Though huge in financial worth, they have retainedtheir private venture investment capabilities, which allow them not only to innovate but to
  • 8. 8Corporate Innovation Strategyapply these innovations at a rapid pace. Other examples are yahoo, rediff, mindtree, khojguru,wordpress, baido, orkut, etc.4.0 Innovation in the service industry:The service industry is one area where there still exists plenty of room for innovation of thedisruptive kind. The first example, which stares at me when I think about it, is tour management.of businessman or corporate tour management.In any organization, the top people have to move from one place to the other, to meet and/ordiscuss, to close a sale etc.. Suppose, the VP of the company is travelling abroad, think of theenormous logistical work involved and what if the programme changes slightly, then the VP hasto devote time to inform his office and perhaps do something himself.? The vice-president isbooking his own flights and rental cars, finding out telephone nos. etc. Is that not a waste?At this point we introduce a service company which will co-ordinate all that for him. In short,they will be responsible for booking rooms, arranging conveyance, advising companies aboutservices of a particular hotel, take the responsibility of arranging all changes in case the itineraryis changed. To sum up, if I am that hypothetical VP, I will definitely avail of the services of sucha firm. No longer do I need an extra person for logistical planning. It saves me headache, savesme time and I can concentrate upon the meeting and be fully prepared. What else do I need?This is one area where the service industry and innovation can go together and there arecountless other innovative ideas. These, if done with the right amount of competence has tosucceed. Before embarking on this venture, if a market survey is done than I can guarantee thatthe indication will be the existence of a market .If you have a ready-made market, then success isyours. Perhaps I will soon read the success of such a business venture in the global context.4.0 Conclusion :From this brief study of innovation, we can safely conclude that there can be no growth withoutinnovation and innovation is here to stay. We can also conclude that businesses should notbecome huge goliaths, which take light years to move. Small organizations, which are self-autonomous is the best way by which business should be done. Dynamism-in-seconds whennecessary has to be there and retained, if businesses are to co-exist in the future.This can be best expressed as said by Thomas Friedman in “The World Is Flat” whom I quotebelow. If the flattening of the world is largely (bur not entirely) unstoppable, and if it holds out the potential to be as beneficial to American society in general as past market evolutions have been, how does an individual get the best out of it? What do we tell our kids? My simple answer is this: There will be plenty of good jobs out there in the flat world for people with the right knowledge, skills, ideas, and self-motivation to seize them. But there is no sugar-coating the new challenge: Every young American today would be wise to think of himself or herself as competing against every Chinese, Indian, and Brazilian. In Globalization 1.0, countries had to think globally to thrive, or at least survive. In
  • 9. 9Corporate Innovation Strategy Globalization 2.0, companies had to think globally to thrive, or at least survive. In Globalization 3.0, individuals have to think globally to thrive, or at least to survive.” ___________________ReferencesArksey,Hillary and Knight, P. (1999). Interviewing for Social Scientists, Sage Publications LondonBurtonshaw-Gunn. S.A.(2008). The Essential Management Toolbox-Tools, Models and Notes for Managers and Consultants . John Wiley & Sons LimitedChristensen. M.C. (1997) The Innovator’s Dilemma-When new technologies cause great firms to fail. Harvard business school pressDe Bono E.(1992) A Guide to Serious Creativity –Harper Collins IncVijay. J (1997).Commercializing New Technologies: Getting from Mind to Market. Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Massachusetts.Schumacher E.(1977). ‘Small is beautiful-A study of Economics as if people mattered. Sphere Books LimitedParkinson C.N.(1998) Excellence in Management. Vision Books Inc.MasSilverman. D and Marvasti.A (2008) A comprehensive guide to doing qualitative Research Sage Publications Inc., CaliforniaStake R. (1995). The art of case study research Sage publications,Thousandoaks,CAZhang, Qingyu and Doll, William (2001). The fuzzy front end and success of new product development; Sage Publications Inc., CaliforniaAll rights reserved. Arindom Borah/Kolkata/Pan: AHSPB5488Q

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