When posed with a major (big) innovation effort, why do some people freeze? Is it the size that intimidates them? Yes in a way. But size is relative. If you have no perspective, then eveything can look big and daunting.
To build your perspective so that big programs aren’t so scary, you need to grow your innovation skill and experience. So what are the steps?
Incremental innovations have a bad reputation. Some in the innovation space look down on incremental innovations as the lazy way out. I don’t agree. They have a role when it comes to meeting the quick, short term needs for innovation enhancements to current offerings. Incremental innovations are low risk but allow the innovator to learn the skill of presenting an idea and getting it through the process.
Where organizations get themselves in trouble is by never going beyond incremental innovations. If you never take the next step, you never build your innovation muscle. Like exercise, if you don’t do something more strenuous, you will never build the muscle that will help to achieve your innovation goals.
Emergent innovations are those “next step” innovations where trends and/or behaviors in your industry give you a path to what is next. Emergent innovations are something new while based on a clear connection to the past and a logical future. This requires the innovator to learn the skill of pitching a complete idea, not just an increment to something already being done. Emergent innovations are lower risk since the idea is easily understood by the organization given the changes being experienced by the industry.
Game-Changing Innovation (Killer Innovations)
Game-changing (or what I call killer innovations) are those innovations that are significantly different to what everyone else is doing such that customers reward you with a margin premium. These are the innovations that change organizations and industries. To many, these kinds of innovations can be intimidating. To make them more manageable, think of them as being made up of incremental and emergent innovations with some other elements thrown in. If you break a game-changing innovation down into smaller elements, it looks much less intimidating.
Career-Changing Innovation (Society-Changing Innovation)
If you are lucky, you may get the opportunity be part of an innovation effort that changes society and your career. These are the innovations that everyone talks about for decades after they are launched. Some more “recent” examples include:
- Vint Cerf – One of the co-inventors of the internet
- Sir Tim Berners-Lee – Inventor of the web
There is a belief that these are random events where these people are “lucky”. Luck had nothing to do with it. I’ve spent enough time with Vint and Tim to know that they spent years and even decades exercising their innovation muscle to be ready to take advantage of the right idea at the right time.