Monthly Archives: August 2016

Innovate Like Google

An organization that practices world-class innovation is marked by three things. It invests human and financial resources in innovation, it uses best-of-breed innovation tools and techniques, and it chooses a single definition of innovation to apply across the firm. Google is a great example to imitate.

Google’s 20%-time policy allows engineers to work one day out of five on projects that they – not their bosses – select. Would you divert 20% of your engineering budget from customer projects to projects that generate no revenue? Google is happy to do so.

Google is also known for its scientific approach to innovation. World-class scientists conduct groundbreaking research. Small teams are formed to assure that projects move quickly without bureaucratic interference. New product ideas are tested through rigorous experiments. Does your company practice innovation as a science?

Everyone at Google knows what innovation means. The organization’s mission is made clear to workers at all levels. Values such as learning, organizing information, and entrepreneurship are promoted. The goal of innovation is to create applications that will make customers’ lives better. Do your leaders, mid-managers and workers all know what innovation means in your company?

You don’t need billions of dollars in revenue or market capitalization to innovate like Google. If you invest strategically in innovation; practice innovation in a disciplined, scientific manner; and adopt a single definition of innovation for everyone on your team, you’re on your way to success.

Related reading: How Google Innovates

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Posted by on August 29, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Anthropology and Innovation

In world-class innovation, our goal is to invent a solution that will create value for customers (external or internal). Most new product development departments share that goal: to create a new product that customers will purchase.

Martin Lindstrom, the #1 branding consultant in the world according to many sources, analyzed American consumers’ preferences for canned pasta sauces and discovered that there is no single pasta sauce that will satisfy all consumers. Instead, he identified three groups of sauce buyers. Each group valued a different quality of the sauce, such as chunkiness or stickiness.

Lindstrom reached his conclusion by combining anthropological research with sophisticated data analysis. The pasta sauce brand that engaged him used his findings to launch new varieties for the three consumer groups. The result was a huge gain in market share and profitability.

Innovators can learn much from Lindstrom. For example:

  • Challenge your own wisdom. Your customers most likely understand your product differently from the way you understand it.
  • Look into your customers’ heads and hearts. Use ethnographic and empathetic research to learn what drives and motivates them.
  • Experiment prolifically and rigorously. Only well-designed, controlled experiments will yield reliable data upon which to base managerial decisions.
  • “The value of innovation is in the insight, not the idea.” I teach this consistently. Those who apply it, benefit consistently.

Lindstrom has documented his work in seven books. I plan to study his techniques, and I recommend that you do the same.

Related reading: A Not So Elementary Exploration of Brand Insight

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Posted by on August 17, 2016 in Uncategorized


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Innovation that Succeeds

Innovation is supposed to make your organization more successful. That may mean higher profits, happier customers, productive employees, or any other measurement you use to determine success. Why then do some companies reap the fruits of innovation while others encounter disappointments and failures?

The keys to successful innovation are easy to learn but not always easy to implement. To be a world-class innovator, you need three ingredients: 1) a single definition of innovation that is shared across your organization, 2) the right level of investment of human and financial resources, and, 3) world-class innovation tools and techniques.

Some organizations cut corners in one or more of the three areas, so they do not gain all the benefits that are available. Others make a good faith effort to excel in all three areas, but some of their projects stall due to issues in their corporate culture or their corporate hierarchy.

Another simple way to keep your innovation projects on track is to ask the right questions. Recently, Steve Glaveski published a list of 11 innovation questions, such as, “Can we test it relatively quickly, economically and effectively using our existing networks and ability to prototype?” and, “Will it cost less to deliver than people are willing to pay for it?”

The three keys listed above and the questions from Steve Glaveski’s list are signs that you take innovation seriously. A serious approach to innovation – one that includes planning, monitoring, investment and evaluation – will succeed far more often than an unorganized, underfunded innovation effort.

Related reading: 11 Questions to Ask Before Starting an Innovation Project


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