Innovation on the Road to Recovery

Companies that listen to their customers, think strategically, are innovative, and make prudent investments are usually at the top of their class. Unfortunately, with the economic downturn most organizations put business initiatives on hold, reduced staff, eliminated products or services, and closed facilities to keep their businesses viable. These were extremely difficult and necessary actions, but as the economy begins its recovery, a slow reaction or in-action will be fatal to many. For the prepared and ready, the new environment will present new opportunity for growth and profit.

As companies consider the recovery, they can be hindered by staff shortages, internal and external fears, conflicting priorities and the difficulty of justifying business cases in a still tentative financial environment. These influences negatively impact strategic thinking, innovation and business alignment to goals.

Creating New Opportunities

Strategic and savvy competitors have traditionally done very well coming out of economic downturns, and slow to adjust companies have been the victims of indecision, tired thinking and market misalignment. Following an era of pull back, opportunities open up for those who can take advantage of the disruption created by the downturn by seeing the new needs of their customers and the change in the competitive landscape.

Business leaders need to be addressing the following questions:

What should our strategic direction and priorities be?

How can we stimulate creative thinking and spawn innovation within the organization?

How can we accelerate and improve business strategy alignment and organizational decision making?

How can we profoundly understand Business Financial Consultant our customers changing needs?

Creativity and Innovation

A recent IBM study of global CEOs found “creativity as the single most important leadership competency for enterprises.” (1) Creativity leads to innovation in products, services and the way business is transacted and the way a business model is transformed. In today’s complex global business environment, creativity and innovation are a must for long term survival. Not only that, but innovation creates both revenue growth and increased profits. This was confirmed by a Harvard Business Review study of the business launches of about 100 companies where “14% of the launches, the true value innovations, generated 38% of total revenues and 61% of total profits.” (2)

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Dr. George Land recognized this need in his book, Grow or Die,decades ago, long before the complexity of today’s global business environment. Dr. Land’s research and concepts have been incorporated into a process that unleashes the creativity in a company’s management team to bring innovative results to strategic planning.(3) The process can also transform customers into creative partners that lead to product and process innovation. Through collaboration with Dr. Land, leading consulting firms have incorporated this process into their management consulting services from strategic planning through project implementation efforts.

Backwards from Perfect

Most management consulting approaches focus on the current business processes and identify gaps between the current state and the desired state. This approach creates a culture where patching or adjusting the existing processes and systems are done to achieve our goals. If our vision was to own a Mercedes SL55, could we get there by making improvements to our Chevrolet Camaro? We may be able to make a Camaro perform more like a Mercedes and even change its exterior characteristics, but it will still be a Camaro. Taking advantage of breakthroughs in science-based creative thinking methods and changing our perspective to put ourselves in the future with a vision that we have achieved our goals, better prepares us to understand what we must do to get there. This approach opens the door for advancing creative thinking to develop innovative ideas and strategies to achieve the vision.

Accelerated Strategy, Alignment and Planning Methodology

To put these concepts to work for a company, a multi-element planning process is required that involves people, process and proven technology. It starts with the key people from an organization who have the vision, experience and involvement in decision making. The next step is to release and capture the creativity of those key people. Research has proven that a person who has reached the age of 30, has lost 98% of his creativity since childhood due to the rules and constrains placed on them as they grow and enter the work force. Dr. Land’s exercises and techniques unleash the pent up creativity of the key people leading to maximum involvement in generating a flood of useful ideas by intersecting creativity with experience.

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The volume of ideas, solutions, constraints and enablers that are generated with the new found creativity must now be analyzed and evaluated to find the high impact strategic solutions that will propel the company to its vision. This is accomplished with skilled facilitation and the use of powerful analytical technology. We are now on the way to elicit solutions to complex issues including:

Creating new business possibilities for products and services

Formulating strategic directions

Innovating for maximum customer value and ROI

Achieving buy-in and ownership Product Management Consulting Rates of decisions

Redefining business processes

Defining information needs

Designing and selecting information systems

Assessing business risks

The incorporation of electronic idea collection and analytic systems has existed for several decades to support these types of strategic planning efforts. The author was an early adopter and has incorporated several of these systems into our management consulting practice over the years. FarSightPro, developed by Dr. Land, has emerged as the most sophisticated of these tools and is the foundation for our current management consulting practice. These tools accelerate the decision making process by stimulating thoughtful comparison of ideas and strategies simultaneously to all participants. It creates results that transform chaos to order and bring clarity to needed focus and direction. By gathering every participant’s thoughts without the suppression of expression that can occur in group discussions where dominant players are participating, new cards are on the table for consideration. In fact, the results provide the ability to focus the discussion to the high payoff, important topics, strategies and new possibilities. Most importantly, the entire strategy definition and decision making process will be accelerated and the team will feel more aligned and empowered to execute on the ideas and strategies from their participation.

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Following this methodology allows an organization to be exceptionally nimble in the current business climate of constant change. Usually change processes are very difficult, but when the people involved create those changes themselves, innovation and transformation can flow swiftly and effectively.

Conclusion

The current economic conditions are improving and large enterprises are already preparing for the recovery by moving forward with opportunistic strategic projects and initiatives. Mid-enterprise companies must act with the same urgency. The use of accelerated methods to re-evaluate business strategy and initiatives, identify customer’s emerging needs in rapidly changing environments, re-prioritize projects and implement changes will separate the winners from the losers in today’s complex business environment. Mid-enterprise companies need to begin this process now before they are overwhelmed with operational challenges created by the current state of their business as a result of downsizing and adjustments during the recession.

References

1. IBM Institute for Business Value, Capitalizing on a Complex World (May, 2010) 3

2. W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne, Harvard Business Review, Value Innovation, the Strategic Logic of High Growth (July-August, 2004) 3

3. Land, George, Grow or Die, The Unifying Principle of Transformation, (Random House, 1974), (Dell, 1976), (John Wiley & Sons, 1982), (Creative Education Foundations, 1986), (Leadership Press, 1996)

By Michael Hawksworth, President, MSS