Capgemini Consulting, in conjunction with HSM, the sponsors of the World Innovation Forum, conducted a survey of more than 375 executives on the subject of innovation. Traditionally, it seems that companies have used periods of economic downturn to cut back on the untested, focusing instead on ways to maintain the status quo at a lower cost. Given current global economic conditions, we were eager to find out whether innovation had lost its appeal. Would our respondents have similarly cut back during the current recession, we wondered?
We were pleasantly surprised to discover that this was not the case, especially for companies that consider themselves leading innovators. In fact, now more than ever, innovation is seen as a critical business priority, and a “must-have” to position for future recovery. As one interviewee described it, innovation is a matter of “organizational sustainability.” Leading innovators overwhelmingly agreed that they were using the current economic downturn as an opportunity to fundamentally transform their businesses.
Perhaps more important than the fact that companies were continuing to innovate was the extent to which innovation has evolved as a core principle for many businesses. Our interviews with successful innovators confirmed our hypothesis that successful innovation is embedded in the corporate DNA, rather than being treated as an extraordinary add-on by the organization.
Innovation leaders stressed the importance of organizational factors in supporting innovation: creating a learning organization; supporting a culture that encourages risk taking; rewarding smart failures as well as successes; encouraging continuous customer conversations; establishing formal innovation processes, and infusing employees throughout the organization with the spirit of innovation. None of these ideas is new. However, the challenge is to operationalize and execute on these concepts. Our respondents agree that while this is difficult, it is critical to long-term survival.
Some have fundamentally restructured the way their organizations do business to support innovation. Others propose new partnership models to support open source innovation and new methods of ideation and experimentation. Still others are making creative use of the global labor force and new collaborative tools to better serve their customers.
And it is all about the customer. Our respondents consistently agreed that innovative companies are always looking outward, focusing on how to better serve their customers’ needs, including currently unmet-, and even as yet unknown-, needs. New tools, technologies and media make it easier than ever to communicate with customers, and the most successful innovators are taking advantage of them to maintain meaningful customer conversations.
Innovators are also engaging customers earlier in the development process, shifting from a top-down research and development model to a bottom-up, decentralized model that takes advantage of customers’ first-hand insights. By creating constant conversations with their customers and practicing proactive listening, companies are better able to position themselves to be truly innovative."
We see that it becomes vital to see Innovation as a holistic approach to create future business value. With my team of Business Innovators a new Strategic Business Innovation approach is develeoped. We incorporate Business Model Innovation on strategic level with Operating Model Innovation and Commercial Innovation on a tactical level.