3/29/2012 12:39 PM
Book Review by Kendra Brosseau
“Companies can’t survive without innovating. But most put far more emphasis on generating big ideas than on executing them – turning ideas into actual breakthrough products, services, and process improvements.”
In the book, “The Other Side of Innovation,” by Chris Trimble and Vijay Govindarajan, the authors provide clear guidance for developing innovative ideas that cannot (or should not) be developed within an organization’s day-to-day operations (i.e. the organization’s Performance Engine). The authors elaborate on two kinds of "teams" in most firms. The Performance Engine; or the portion of the business focused on the day to day execution of the business - creating products, shipping products, etc. This portion focused on earning profits, performing consistently and efficiently. The other type of team, the one focused on leading innovation projects, is called the Dedicated Team. The authors note that many things that this team does are in direct conflict with the Performance Engine. The Dedicated Team talks about "breaking all the rules," which, "sounds like breaking the Performance Engine.” There is direct conflict between the goals and expectations of the two teams.
For those in product management, leadership and executive roles who guide, influence or support innovation, this book provides a great foundation for converting ideas into impact and provides the “how to’s and roadmap” for taking the initial steps.
“The Other Side of Innovation” is well researched and encompasses 10 years of effort, interviews and information. When you layer in examples of real companies and how they’ve addressed innovation initiatives, it provides the insight required to tackle the hard questions and debunk the typical myths often heard in business.
Ten Myths of Innovation
- Innovation is All about Ideas – the importance of the BIG idea is over-rated; the other side of innovation – execution – is just as important. Ideas are just the beginning.
- The Great Leader Never Fails – great ideas are often associated with great leaders, but organizations are much more powerful than individuals. Look broadly to build teams to drive innovation. There is nothing simple about execution.
- Effective Leaders Are Subversives Fighting the System – the hero mentality is bad for innovation. It takes teams and broad organization commitment to make innovation happen. Humility is a great attribute of the effective leader.
- Everyone can be an Innovator- this is the opposite of the “hero” model, but because most innovations require resources and focus, it doesn't make sense to pursue hundreds of ideas at once. This does not preclude small improvements within one’s own sphere of responsibility.
- Innovation Happens Organically – the idea that innovations are driven from the bottom up – unfortunately, organically formed teams usually lack the resources and mandate to get things done – especially as priorities change.
- Innovation can be embedded inside an Established Organization – perhaps as a framework for “continuous improvement,” but out of the box innovation often challenges existing rules and culture, and a separate team is required to make it happen.
- Catalyzing Innovation Requires Wholesale Organizational Change – in reality, innovation does not require extensive organization change; it requires targeted change.
- Innovation Can Happen Only in Skunk Works – isolation rarely makes sense; nearly every innovation should leverage some existing resources – hence some day-to-day contact is necessary.
- Innovation is Unmanageable Chaos – on the contrary, innovation must be carefully managed.
- Only Startups Can Innovate – large problems often require the resources of large organizations.
I would recommend this book to product management professionals and those who are involved or chartered with innovation. I would also recommend it to entrepreneurs and executives who question innovation’s value or how to initiate an effective effort. “The Other Side of Innovation” will help refine your thoughts on how to engage, manage and formulate the action side of innovation. This book is an in-depth look at the principles established in “How Stella Saved the Farm.” If you are looking for further understanding of those concepts, this book will elaborate nicely on the points brought forth in that book, and help you to refine exactly what you need in your business.
So what’s missing when companies try to convert innovation into something real? The following short list highlights six basic elements that should be addressed in making innovation happen.
- Divide the Labor: Understand the limits of the day-to-day organization (Performance Team) to drive innovation. What are the team dynamics and considerations that will not interrupt the rest of the organization while researching, refining and validating the idea? How do I move an initiative forward and what organizational issues should I consider to not impact the existing “performance engine” and the company’s current success?
- Assemble a “Dedicated Team” to execute on the innovation. Act as though you are building a separate company from scratch.
- Manage the Partnership: How do I manage internal partnerships, cross-stakeholder planning and gain the executive influence to take the innovation effort forward?
- Formalize the Experiment: Establish clear hypotheses. Talk about what you don’t know. What’s the process and actions required to “seek the truth” and what deliverables are required to validate a good idea and ensure the company, organization and team will support it? Focus on learning, not on results.
- Break down the Hypotheses: What process and actions do I need to consider once an experiment is proven? Create custom scorecards to track results. Focus on great conversations, not great spreadsheets.
- Seek the Truth: Beware sources of bias. Expect predictions to be wrong. Create a framework for accountability.