Whitepaper: Can innovation be taught?


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Nurturing and utilising innovation is about understanding opportunity, being creative and ultimately delivering new products and services that grow a company's top line. Here, Dan Edwards discusses training a tiger-team to perform this task.

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Whitepaper: Can innovation be taught?

  1. 1. Can Innovation be taught?An insight into training a tiger teamDan Edwards, VP Consumer Products
  2. 2. Can Innovation be taught?IntroductionBreakthrough innovation is For the last five years or so, it has beenessential in the small technology very common to hear CEOs nameindustry, but often seen as a ‘innovation’ as a top-of-mind priority forcomplex and daunting task in this their companies. Numerous statisticshighly regulated, increasingly cost- generated by industry and technology management and innovation consultantssensitive market. Today, new establish the positive link between aproducts likely meet twin company’s ability to innovate and sharechallenges; they must prove real holder return. Within the last three years,value in a cost-effective manner. however, it has become clear that while many senior managers haveNurturing and utilizing innovation is about acknowledged the innovation imperative,understanding opportunity, being creative many organizations are struggling toand ultimately delivering new products and actually raise their game. Many areservices that grow a company’s top line. asking, “Can innovation be taught?”This article is about the training a tiger-team to perform this task. 1 © Sagentia 2011
  3. 3. Can Innovation be taught?Answer – work with someone who has 2. Commandeer an innovation workdone it before; work with serial innovators. spaceTools and techniques can be sharedwhich stimulate and direct creativity and The term ‘skunk works’ became popular inprepare a team for the challenge of the early 1990’s. It was the name given toexecution. And the mindset for navigating an autonomous project team tasked withthe unknown can be passed on. blue-sky project work often with a goodInnovation can be taught. deal of secrecy thrown in. While the secrecy element is not advocated, to get aHere are four guidelines for training a tiger new group of people trained up inteam to become innovators: unfamiliar tools, approaches and attitudes one needs to take them out of their day-1. Form the right team job environment.Innovation teams (hopefully comprised ofa group of professionals from across an 3. Use the right innovation toolsorganization) need to possess severalcritical attributes to navigate the potential The tools you will need fall into thesepit falls of an innovation challenge. First of categories:these is domain expertise. Real skill – not Tools to develop understandingmerely passion - is the raw material with Before starting to generate concepts, awhich to develop meaningful new insights team must become wise to the nature ofinto needs of customers, exploit the right the situation. If the consumer is at thetechnology and realize business heart of an issue, a team must gather dataopportunity. A good rule of thumb – if about their needs and understand howmembers of a new team haven’t worked they think. For market share challenges,together before (because their skills sets data on the activities of the competition isare not regularly paired in the a must-have and for developing a neworganization), it’s a good start. device, an exploration of technology willThe second area to consider is thinking be needed.style. Create a team with both left-brainand right-brain thinkers. Some people Tools to release creativityrelish facts, detail and planning (left) while It has become something of a cliché to askothers prefer to speculate on the future employees to cover a wall with stickyand feel their way through a task (right). notes with their ideas. Much more can beBreakthrough work absolutely requires achieved if idea and concept generation isboth these modes of thinking, and properly framed and purposefullyunbalanced teams run the risk of faltering stimulated. Devices such as flash cardson either the creative or analytical depicting analogies to your challenge fromdemands of the innovation challenge. other industries can create links to theThird, innovation team members need to challenge and promote new thinking andbe resilient. They are going to create ideas.something that is wonderful, but which Tools to focus on, and deliver resultstheir organization is in all likelihood goingto initially have grave doubts about and Assessing and evolving the best conceptsprobably reject, exactly because it looks is a frequent stumbling point in theso different from “business-as-usual.” innovation process. To mature ideas into investment-worthy propositions requires tools which morph the initial elements of an idea or solution into a rounded concept – even going so far as a first pass business model and plan. Tools that 2 © Sagentia 2011
  4. 4. Can Innovation be taught?sharpen the propositions include havingteams pitch their investment proposition tothe CEO and board.4. Make-ready to executeA good way of thinking about a newlyformed innovation team and effort is as ablack box into which you pour difficult,often messy challenges and out of whichinspiring propositions appear. If, however,the black box is not fully integrated into thebusiness and supported by seniormanagement, it is likely that resources willnot be marshalled appropriately to executeon the project.In parallel to effort aimed at generating thenew breakthrough product, managementmust make ready to execute on any newproposition. Resource must now be newlyallocated to the development of the newproduct and if the organisation does notplan for this demand, execution will stallbadly whilst the CEO and business groupmanagers stare one another down.Despite these challenges, innovationremains a key to profitable growth and ahallmark of the medical sector’s leadingcompanies. For those that are willing todevelop a new way of attacking productdevelopment, innovation tiger teams maybe part of the solution. Certainly, thesenew types of group have a precedent ofsuccess when implemented well – and aretestament to the fact that innovation canbe taught.Sagentia is a thought leader in theinnovation space. For more informationplease contact innovation@sagentia.comor call +44 1223 875200.Visit www.sagentia.com 3 © Sagentia 2011
  5. 5. SagentiaSagentia is a global innovation, technology and product developmentcompany. We provide outsourced R&D consultancy services to startups through to global market leaders in the medical, industrial andconsumer sectors.With global headquarters in Cambridge, UK, and US headquartersin Cambridge, Massachusetts, Sagentia works with clients from frontend market needs analysis through to transfer to manufacture.We deliver innovation around new technologies and new generationproducts and services that provide commercial value and marketadvantage. The company also assists business leaders to createstrategies for technology, innovation and growth.www.sagentia.cominfo@sagentia.comSagentia Ltd Sagentia IncHarston Mill One BroadwayHarston 14th FloorCambridge Cambridge, MA 02142CB22 7GG USAUKT. +44 1223 875200 T. +1 617 401 3170