Can you be Methodical about Innovation…
What is the most common word that people use to describe successful companies? Most likely, the word that you’ll hear again and again is ‘innovation’. In this advanced and competitive business environment, innovation (defined as ‘the introduction of something new to an existing idea, product or service) can quite possibly make or break companies. Maybe what I’m about to say is ironic given that we’re speaking of innovation and I’m not putting forth anything new, but in order to be successful in today’s world, you’ve got to be innovative. We all hear it, we all know it, but how many of us know how to go about it?
How does one bring on innovation? Is there a particular method or does it occur on an ad hoc basis? It’s actually hard to say – there are a number of individuals and businesses that swear by an innovation method, but it’s just as common for individuals to wake up with a great ideas and figure out ways to make them happen. Read the two differing cases to see how innovation can occur in very different ways.
Case 1: Following an innovation Method: Proctor & Gamble
With P&G’s large product portfolio and their worldwide reach, it’s a no brainer that they occupy the 24th spot in Forbes’ list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2012.
For one particular and well known product, P&G had the help of Continuum, a global innovation and design company, to come up with a revolutionary way to clean your floor. Continuum’s Phase Zero process (which was also behind the creation of the Reebok Pump and is now an integral part of the company’s strategy) involves understanding the context behind the product they are tasked to innovate using deep-level design thinking. Thanks to the innovation method of Phase Zero, we no longer have to waste precious time cleaning our mops because we have P&G’s Swiffer.
Case 2: Ad hoc innovation: 3M and the Post-It note
When you want to make sure that you don’t forget something, what do you do? Easy; write it on a Post-It note! Even as people move into the digital age, Post-It notes have demonstrated their staying power with computerized and tablet versions. Let’s face it, a yellow Post-It note is a simple yet effective way to make us remember things.
The creation of the Post-It is actually serendipitous. Art Fry, a scientist from the American multinational conglomerate 3M, was singing in his church choir when he became frustrated that the piece of scrap paper that he was using as a bookmark for his hymn book kept falling out. After experimenting with the adhesive and names (a possible name for the product was the ‘Press n’ Peel’), Fry and 3M eventually launched the product that most offices come fully equipped with: Post-it-Notes.
Back to my original question: is there a particular method of innovation or does innovation occur out of the blue? Both cases of P&G and 3M demonstrate that both can hold true. Starting with an open mind is a pre-requisite to innovation. Once teams establish that mindset, they can choose a path of innovating in a structured way (such as Phase 0) or opportunistically as they stumble upon the need.