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Monday, July 14, 2008

Achieving Innovation

Innovation....the more I hear about it, the more interested I am in knowing what it is & how to achieve it.
Innovative strategies are being thought of inorder to deal with rising oil prices, to breakaway from clutter in Fmcg category inorder to stand out & be noticed, to have a business model to be profitable as early as possible in aviation business, to develop green products at the same time keeping their cost of production low, to develop highly cost effective water filter inorder to provide safe drinking water to people living in slums. Some of the companies which have focused on Innovation Include Whirlpool which allocated $45 million inorder to embed innovation into its culture & find ideas to develop new products. The revenue from innovative products for Whirlpool increased from $10 million during first year to $760 million at the end of 5 years. Southwest airline focused on business model Innovation and is still the preferred airline of many.
CEO’s of companies, Ministers, educational institutes & even U.S Presidential Candidates wants innovation to be prime focus inorder to provide new & unique solutions to present economic, social & business issues. Innovation is also being looked as the only way to create high value by Creating new products & services.
But how can we define Innovation or lets say what is Innovation. Well let me start by defining what to me is Innovation. To be simple, Innovation for me stands for Identifying Oppurtunity & designing products/services accordingly. Oppurtunity may be a scope to cut cost which means inviting kaizen/lean expert to implement lean tools to cut cost (Eg: GE six sigma drive), Opportunity may be a scope to enter new markets due to change in laws & thus expanding business, Opportunity may be able to notice customer's unmet needs and come up with new products & services (eg: Sony walkman). So again putting it simply, Innovation is simply looking for opportunity & seizing it. But as they say simple things are the most difficult to be achieved, so innovation which is of utmost importance to companies across the globe is difficult and is more sort of a mystery having dozens of methodologies to achieve it.

But after close examination, I have noticed that the following points should be followed inorder to Innovate:

1. Always be on the lookout for problems: One of the things I learnt from Kaizen is that, one should always be on the lookout for problems. A correct problem noticed provides a chance to innovate much faster. I think Innovative companies or Individuals focus a lot more on Identifying Problems of both customers and non customers with current services & products. A problem can be as simple as leaking pipes which gave Pidilite idea of making M-seal thus catering to new customers. Makers of OXO kitchen equipment noticed problems with current kitchenware and developed a beautifully designed OXO kitchen tools & housewares. Owners of Cirque du Soleil noticed problem with existing circuses & theaters & converted circus experience into amazing dramatical experience. Makers of yellow tail noticed the problems with existing wines as being complex & boresome to drink & made yellow tail, a simple & fun product. Tata’s noticed the problem faced by many Indian middle class families to travel using two wheelers in all seasons because of affordability factor & thus undertook the challenge of developing world’s cheapest car ‘NANO’. Forsche’s (Mumbai cab service only for ladies driven by ladies)owner Revathi Roy noticed the growing female workforce in the city was not being looked after well so she decided to start up with Forsche.
The underline point is Managers of the 21st century need to shift their role from that of just providing solutions to being excellent at noticing problems. A simple problem being noticed like huge waiting time at checkout counters of retail store can provide immense opportunity to retail manager to innovate & come up ideas to make business out there (eg: retail companies can sell space near checkout counters, etc)

2. Re-form/phrase your response regarding what you do: I have noticed that once you reform/rephrase the answer to the problem, new answers keep coming which can unlock immense opportunity.
For Eg: Let us take the example of future group. If 5 years ago someone asked what they are into, the response would have been that they are into fashion retail brand development & operation. But the moment guys at Pantloon re formed/re phrased their response that they are not just a fashion retail brand developer & operator but are into a business of building buisnesses at every touchpoint of customers, I think thats when they unlocked their true potential of opening many lines of business be it restautants, logistic company, mall development company, having ice cream parlors, future capital business, Telecom & IT, etc. Thats how pantloon shifted away from red ocean to blue ocean and are now into plethora of businesses existing under umbrella brand of FUTURE GROUP.

3. Know latest trends: I think one should know the latest trends(not just of one’s industry) which can serve to be useful in developing products/ service & finding that opportunity within your own industry. One of the latest trend recently was networking. Networking with customers & creating products became another big trend which involved customers directly into product/ service development process. Can this trend be used by fashion retailers to develop next season clothes, by networking with customers service providers can include customers to develop new services, restaurant owners netwoking with clients to develop new receipes thereby adding customers personal touch to whole process and making them have fun too........
Innovation will act as the only source for survival in 21st century. The above mentioned points will help companies to continuously innovate and be ahead of competition. But as one’s company says


So start the process of Innovation within your organisation.