Mr. Harsh Mariwala, chairman, Marico Industries, believes his corporate social responsibility is spreading the message of innovation as the practice of innovation can build the Nation. He believes that innovation flourishes in an open, empowering culture, a prototyping culture. ‘We give a new business idea to a team and empower them to implement it. We then remove the escape button’. Like the Greek leader who burnt all the boats and bridges once his army was on enemy territory. The commando force was infused with a do or die attitude; there was no way back -- the only way was forward to victory.
‘The idea is first incubated in an Incubation cell. They report directly to me for 2 years. It is dismantled once their role is completed. Today, for example, the Kaya Skin Clinic is a flourishing new business. Each of my product teams identifies their innovation agenda as part of strategic planning.’
‘We are driven by our concern for the environment, and preventive natural good health. To us a customer is a person with constantly rising aspirations. Our suppliers are our partners in business.’
‘“We believe in orbit shifting innovation. To be acceptable, innovation should translate into cash flow. We have experienced that in our company.’
Create a steering committee to lead and co-ordinate the Innovation Initiative.
The Chief Innovation Officer is usually the chief executive. He is supported by the Innovation Champion and at least two members of top management. This committee will conduct monthly reviews. They will ensure smooth process flow while inspiring the teams to deliver results.
The duties of the Innovation Champion will be as follows.
• Ensuring that innovation spirals meet regularly.
• Organizing training of the trainers and others on an ongoing basis.
• Regular follow up to ensure that tasks agreed are carried out.
• Facilitating collection of monthly reports and preparing a consolidated report.
• He will handhold teams, encourage and promote innovation across the company.
The steering committee meets once a month to review and take corrective action. Footfall in the working areas and daily workplace meetings can encourage greater commitment and engagement.
The launch should keep the whole organization informed and excited about the plan. The floor should be kept open for those who would like to participate. All teams can meet to gather forces for implementation. The management of innovation depends on the structure created to institutionalize it. Sustained innovation should be recognized as a critical element in organizational structure. Large companies have now finally begun to recognize this. They should ensure that support is provided for innovative projects with potential.
The 6M is a template and a blueprint to think ideas through. It can be used with every tool and helps teams to separate the positive from the negative. Each of the six key elements of a business can be analysed, identifying the feelings of all stakeholders. For example, invite all employees to write on post-it slips what the pluses and the minuses in the company are as per the table given below
6M Positive (+) Negative (–)
Do not be afraid to ask questions even if it makes you look ignorant—nobody is expected to know everything. John Adams wrote about the greatest “quantity” of human happiness. The special challenge will be to give people innovative thinking tools to create communities.
The metamorphosis model of organizational development describes the organizational life cycle of companies which passes through cycles of growth and decline:
Emergence – Growth –Decline – Death
The first phase is often entrepreneurial and innovative with a sudden burst of energy capturing a new space in the market. This creative phase is terminated in a leadership crisis. It was Schumpeter who said, ‘It is rare for anyone always to remain an entrepreneur throughout the decades of his active life.’ This cycle then progresses from entrepreneurship to an organization that becomes slow and complacent.
By focusing on innovation, you may rescue an organization in the declining phase of the organizational life cycle. Re-innovation or renovation becomes important when an old, traditional company goes into decline. It provides the inflection necessary to leap frog over the down hill phase. Every organization has to prepare for the abandonment of everything it does - Peter Drucker
Indian management is often conservative and insists that people work nine to five and stick to the knitting. Few companies have what IBM called ‘wild ducks.’ Conformity has been a central value of Indian life. All wild ducks are tamed to conform long before they reach the workplace. Innovation comes from people. Technology is only a tool that may enhance it. People and their invisible minds are key. Thinking tools are a mechanism to teach creativity. This requires exploding myths about obedience and stereotypes about ‘good’ managers who do not rock the boat by asking inconvenient questions.
It also involves promoting, nurturing leadership styles. Just as the quality movement in Japan started in society and slowly built up into a tidal wave overwhelming industry, the innovation movement too needs to start with a change in social values. Innovation is a customer based and employee respecting philosophy that has benefited many modern organizations. It is also a tool that can shape organization culture into a happier, more humane, friendly place. An Innovation Star sustains and nurtures innovation spirals and the innovation process that is critical for success.
Be sure that you have put in place a sustainable model for consistent Innovation. Once the returns from innovation start to pour in, the organization should focus on maximizing the returns through routine implementation. Harvesting is a mechanical and essential process. Use an Innovation Center to provide the foundation for a long-term initiative. Large, tradition bound, successful organizations, tend to prefer the stability that formalized procedures provide. Even though most companies accept the idea of innovation being important for success, most are not committed enough to practice it on a long-term basis. This book provides the underlying processes required to make it work on a sustainable consistent basis and demystifies the process for use across the organization.
Management is bottom-line driven. Usually extremely result oriented in the short term and often losing faith in concepts very quickly. Innovation is a concept that requires a long-term buy-in and takes time to be fully ingrained in the organizational culture. Consistent, long-term commitment and long-term implementation is key to making the climate of innovation a way of life. The benefits of an innovation intervention in very early phases are intangible. Long term top management participation and commitment is key to success. A critical mass of participants in a company practicing Innovation Tools (IT) is essential to demonstrate financial and process quality impact. Innovation practices, besides leading to continuous improvement, also result in quantum shifts in the business, leading to unprecedented profits. But patience and the Bhagavad-Gita principle of ‘Do your work without expecting results,’ are required. Organizational variables like quality of work life, teamwork, tolerance for new and disruptive ideas and unimpeded communication are required to make innovation initiatives work. Deploying the time, budgets and people required to make these initiatives work, requires management buy-in. Innovation champions are critical to carry through long-term initiatives.
Innovation Melas celebrate the spirit of innovation. The most innovative new ideas are studied and applauded. In short it is a day to enjoy, inspire and celebrate corporate innovation and honour the imagination. It is a great way to provide a holistic view of events, while celebrating innovation publicly. Inviting a customer to provide his point of view could create a special wave of excitement.
It is a banquet for the imagination: well loved, proven ideas rub shoulders with exotic new imports. Half completed projects call for volunteers. Implemented ideas are paraded and honoured. Case studies in the market are presented, competitions and quizzes stimulate participation. Problem owners call for consultants to tame their problem projects. Everyone rolls up their sleeves to tame wild ideas.
Top management provides recognition rewards and support. The most interesting wild new idea, which does not, at the moment, seem implementable, is chosen for taming. This is a mega event which involves the whole company. It is a chance to showcase the best ideas, while reviewing and revisiting all the thinking tools. The innovation Oscars and the Innovation Hall of Fame can flow out of this event.
Let your people look at this note and reflect on the ideas presented.
No innovative idea can be perfect when it is conceived. It has to be refined and perfected on the run. The only certainty in this endeavour is uncertainty. More than 80% of germinal, out of the box, ventures start off by following the wrong strategy. Like a kite adjusting to gusty winds, adjustments have to be made, based on customer feedback. Some companies spend so much time working on the ‘perfect’ product in their laboratories that all their funding runs out. Others find that the ‘perfect’ moment for the launch never comes.
e-bay started with almost nothing. As Mag Whitman, CEO, e-bay put it: ‘Its better to put something out there, and see the reaction and fix it on the fly…….we are better off spending six days in the lab, putting it out there, getting feedback and then evolving it…….’
Ideas shaped in the market, in response to changing customer aspirations and fashions are very difficult to copy because of their dynamic changing character. The best time to do this is of course when everything is going really well. Organizational energy is high and innovation is like a kite we fly just because we are in high spirits and want to know if we can be even better than the best.
Make sure that a log book is maintained by every innovation spiral. Weekly meeting minutes can ensure a smooth flow of information. Regular reports from each spiral ensure that the activities planned are moving smoothly. Monthly reviews can help in providing valuable feedback and opportunities for expanding participation. They also ensure top managements’ attention to projects.
Formal feedback should be provided to problem owners, who bear the brunt of implementation in unfamiliar territory.
Rewards should be an integral part of the system. Innovation should be part of the individual’s measurable job description, not just something he does if he feels like it.
* Have a talk on innovation by a Company CEO who has practiced it.
Implement like an Innovation Star. This is the day to make a final presentation to all the teams in the presence of top management. Get feedback from all stakeholders and respond to concerns. It is a good idea to leave the plan to be studied by all participants. Each can peacefully reflect on it, internalize it. This is the time to get the resource budget cleared.
All participants and stakeholders must now receive a clear communication on what to expect. Here it is important to note the process-- communication has to be long term, continuous and consistent. Human resources professionals and problem owners must ensure that the necessary training modules are implemented and their efficacy measured.
Management systems implementation should now kick in. The management information system to ensure clear measurement of action should be available to all players. The website and other internet support systems should be properly administered by a webmaster to ensure the seamless flow of information where possible. A regularly produced e-bulletin would help.
Knowledge, information and wisdom are important. ‘Know How’ is essential, but ‘do how’ is just as important. Teams by now have dived into the messy business of how to implement what they have chosen as solutions. They have created plans and strategies and worked co-operatively and negotiated the best route to take. Action now becomes the priority.
During implementation review the outcome. Be aware of the end before you take the first step. Unify your teams by hitching them to the ultimate goal.
Top management should inspire and empower the teams to action. A team bonding exercise getting everyone to see a bird’s eye view of the exercise is critical.
Review the Resource for every team. Consolidate the reviews if the resources being used are adequate.
Study the impact on the expected outcome. Ensure that the process is moving towards the final outcome: reducing costs, increasing revenues, improving customer satisfaction and ensuring greater employee participation.
Organizational Culture has the great Emphasis on Innovation. Without the oxygen of support and applause, ideas often die in infancy. The creativity improvement program can be the foundation that enables all other company programs to be effective. There are a number of steps to ensure that the program encourages innovation.
A small bank, which did not have the funds to pay for expensive real estate, came up with the idea of using other people’s premises: schools, petrol pumps and super-markets. Then they moved seamlessly into a growth path, starting thousands of ATMs and mobile banks. Today, they are one of the largest banks in India.
More recently, many banks have introduced the concept of 24-hour direct banking with business being carried out by anonymous people at the end of a telephone. This is neutralizing the competitive advantage, which established banks enjoyed by virtue of functioning from prime sites in Mumbai.
Leadership and consumer relevance are the top drivers of innovation. There are two essential ingredients for successful innovation: Leadership and Consumer Relevance. Innovative processes do not begin in the R&D laboratory. They are initiated with a mandate from the highest level of the corporation. Identifying the consumer’s needs is an equally integral part of the innovation process. Ensuring employee participation in planning and a complete buy-in into innovative strategy is critical.
At Unilever, top management strongly believes that innovation has to be closely linked to the business strategy.
Innovation is more likely to occur in a melting pot of exotic diversity. Homogenous groups are less likely to spark off innovative ideas. Corporations that celebrate diversity and respect it are more likely to create a stable of innovators. Using an inexperienced outsider or a naïve resource can create major breakthroughs in traditional industries. In some cases, companies that network with competitors have benefited more in terms of innovation.
Productivity depends on performance feedback, as does innovation. 360-degree feedback provides young innovators the opportunity to give their bosses clear feedback on a less than conducive environment. A system to clearly map individual competencies and provide consistent, timely feedback, can result in providing appropriate training when required.
The immigrants of diverse races who moved to the USA, created a dynamic flow of new ideas and thus helped in forming a leading economy.
Dr. Rekha Shetty is Managing Director of Farstar Distribution Network, a unique consultancy company devoted exclusively to innovation and creativity under the brand name Mindspower.She is an author, an entrepreneur and an original thinker. Her long term Innovation Initiative, using 47 thinking tools helps in a steep increase in profits, reduction in costs, while improving customer satisfaction levels and employee participation levels. She is a consultant to ICICI Bank, Ashok Leyland Ltd., Hyundai Motors Ltd., TVS Group, TI Group, Durgapur Steel Plant, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. and other blue chip companies.
In her very first assignment in United India Insurance, she developed a nationally acclaimed advertising campaign. During the last seventeen years, she has specialized in the field of Creativity in Management and developed her own management brand, Mindspower. She was one of Asia’s first women District Governors for Rotary International and was awarded Rotary’s highest Award – Service above Self.
Her fourth book “Innovate! 90 Days to Transform your Business” is under print and will be released by Penguin during May 2010.