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Overcoming challenges in an innovation imperative world – 2nd edition

Just a few weeks ago I highlighted how important innovation was and yet how disinterested everyone was in it: Innovation has never been more problematic or needed – 3 things you can do. I went on to suggest 3 ways in which you could address this challenge. Not more than a week later, this post came out on the World Economic Forum (WEF) site: Companies need innovation more than ever. Here’s how to measure it. It makes similar points that cover challenges and solutions. In my previous post I shared an example of a company tackling things the right way. In this post I’ll talk briefly about the WEF post and share another great example of a company doing things right.

So first a couple of things on the WEF post after sharing an image and relevant quote (in gray background) from the post here for easy reference.

In a recent survey of more than 200 organizations, 90% of executives said they expected the pandemic to fundamentally change the way they do business over the coming five years. This means that innovation will be driving growth for the near future. But even before the pandemic, executives said that the difficulty of quantifying innovation was one of the main reasons they were reluctant to invest in it. In the absence of an established methodology for measuring innovation, it often takes the market a long time to recognize it.

So the emphasis of this post is that innovation is hard to measure and that’s why its not prioritised. But from the image above you see that its not the only thing. Some of them I covered in my other post but there are more. The good thing is quantifying the issue because then you now what to do and there are some terrific suggestions from the author on how to do that (at least to address the measurement challenge).

The other thing it reiterates is the imperative for the innovation challenge to be nailed. My article also highlighted it so this absolutely corroborates it with lots of worthy references that you can see from the quoted text.

In conclusion I’d say that in essence a lot of the research and these articles (mine included) are aimed at those that are struggling or don’t get it and why they should. But actually, the point is not to get to that stage. Ideally innovation is ingrained in the business and you are not forced to address it because of a crisis or a disruption as is happening now with the pandemic. I have written about this before: Innovation is the why, change is the how.

Which brings me to that other company I have a good example of and to an important point.

Why innovating even when you are at the top of your game is important

The company I want to highlight in this post is Microsoft (disclosure). You could say Microsoft is at the top of its game and I’m not saying it just because I work there – anyone vaguely interested would recognise this from recent performance.

Yes it has been helped by the pandemic but it has also capitalised and anticipated well – I covered this briefly here: Microsoft leading the Future of Work.

I would argue that is because innovation and a lot of the things associated with growing innovation capability continues to be emphasised at Microsoft. To name a few: fostering a growth and learning mindset and culture, making innovation fun and purposeful, even with customers like it it does with its Hackathon efforts (good open innovation story here on that).

But I discovered a third I wanted to talk about. This last week we ran something called Microsoft Ready which is generally an employee only annual event we have been running virtually now for the whole company.

One of the sessions was run by Andy Pratt, former CEO of the Marsden Group and current lead of the Customer Innovation team in Industry Solutions at Microsoft. Microsoft recently acquired the Marsden Group, a leader in rapid industry innovation. Andy shared his team’s expertise around rapid prototyping, co-innovation, etc.

I cannot share any of the content I saw in the session until I clear that with Andy (if I get anything I’ll update here) but that’s not the point. The points actually are these:

  1. The acquisition shows the seriousness with which Microsoft continues to take innovation.
  2. Businesses tend to believe that the inner strengths and capabilities of the organisation will produce a sustainable future. Unfortunately, there is often a flaw in this “inside-out” only approach and sometimes you need to have an “outside-in” lens. You can do this with customers, consultants or through acquisitions.
  3. You still need a really good approach as all of the research points out and what I saw of the approach Andy shared was awesome. It was pretty much lean startup, design thinking and agile all rolled into one with a healthy dose of practicality. Mostly the latter was focused on how to ensure innovations land and expand or scale.

ℹ️ On the last point above, I really hope to bring you as much as I can of what Andy shared after I check in with him. So come back if you are interested – add a comment and when and if I do manage to update the post, I will comment on it and you will be notified.

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