4 Most Critical Innovation-Related Challenges

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About two weeks ago, we shared a post about our Minneapolis Meetup, co-hosted with 3M: Behind the Scenes of Corporate Innovation.  Since we believe the content, insights, and learnings from this meetup are valuable, we will use the next three weeks to present some of this information to you:

  • Today we will share the 4 most critical innovation challenges, as expressed by our 40+ participants;
  • Next week, we will share with you our new 7 Elements Model with which you can analyze your organization’s innovation pulse and plan your innovation strategy;
  • In our third installment, you can read about some common myths and traps, and how to avoid falling victim to them while establishing a culture and practice of innovation.

Back to the meetup: prior to attending, participants were asked to list their three most critical innovation-related corporate challenges. In brief, there were 24 respondents, who identified 67 challenges, many of them later confirmed by the rest of the attendees.

SIT’s facilitation team analyzed these responses and detected four main buckets, which are arranged below according to frequency of appearance in participants’ responses. Quotes from the survey are also given to further demonstrate and highlight the relevance of these themes.

 

4 Critical Innovation-Related Challenges

 

1. How do we de-risk our innovation efforts

Companies are accelerating their front-end efforts; they are producing more ideas and launching more development projects. However, they feel that this only exacerbates the stress of having to decide where to allocate development resources, how to select those products or services with the highest probability of success, and how to manage their launches.

SIT’s take on this: The shift toward more agile-minded approaches, often through Lean Startup, should in principle alleviate this stress, since LSU dictates that instead of focusing on de-risking a specific “big” idea, one should test numerous MVPs and quickly pivot based on the results of “experiments”. But it

seems to us that although many companies have officially adopted an LSU process, they find it difficult to wean themselves off the habits of testing and seeking a high level of certitude for each specific innovation before launch.

“Lack of external leverage; too many options to choose from makes it even more difficult.”

 

2. How do we change our company’s culture/mindset?

 

The most common task these days goes way beyond launching a product, or even an entire product line. Key words are “culture”, “change” and “transformation”. The desire is to find ways to influence the entire organization, change strategies and business models.

SIT’s take: We’ve seen this process evolve in the past 24 years, from attention to a specific local result such as solving a problem or launching a single product, to the demand to generate an entire pipeline and roadmap, all the way to the current situation, in which CEOs and top management either realize the need or are pressured by their boards or stakeholders to lead transformational changes in their organizations. This can often lead to futile high-profile and costly changes-for-the-sake-of-changing, but, if well managed by a committed management team, can truly transform and invigorate a company.

“Focusing on long-term development, not the “right now”.

“Internal cultural shift necessary to transform our business model.”

 

3. How do we accelerate / acquire speed and agility?

 

Companies are not only pressured to change, but to change faster. This obviously places additional demands on managers, often accompanied by stress.

SIT’s take: a paradox ensues, whereby managers are expected to lead profound transformations, rather than superficial change, which requires time and patience; but, since the environment changes at an ever-accelerating pace– requiring rapid and immediate adaptations–there is less patience and resources for profound long-term change processes to take place.

“Innovation takes time to hatch. How do we innovate with the fast-paced environment?”

 

4. How do we listen and get closer to our customers?

 

After 30+ years of constant effort to get closer to the client, listen to the Voice of the Customer, observe, empathize, research and analyze, companies still feel that true understanding and insights tend to elude them, and therefore are searching for novel approaches.

SIT’s take: although true that innovation is useless unless it addresses a customer need, it is a mistake to believe that true innovation is born just from listening to VoC. We believe that being attuned to your customers is a necessary but not sufficient condition for innovation. Instead, we recommend a combination of: a) breaking the more-of-the-same-VoC mold by engaging with your customers proactively through co-creation exercises; b) using structured innovation methods to come up with initial ideas that are in turn validated with customers.

“Doing adequate research to uncover new problems.”

“Lack of customer interaction for directed innovation.”

To summarize, we found, not surprisingly, a high level of congruence between the most pressing innovation-related issues in a wide variety of organizations and positions. In the next two posts we will relate, respectively, SIT’s approach for dealing with these issues and some common traps and misconceptions when going about it.

Amnon Levav

Co-founder & Managing Director of SIT (Systematic Inventive Thinking)

Amnon spent the last 22 years in 30+ countries, helping people and companies determine their future by imagining viable alternatives to their current way of thinking and doing. Amnon’s experience ranges from startups to multinationals, and he is especially passionate about social innovation

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