Innovation Engines

By Jim Euchner, RTM Editor-in-Chief and VP, Global Innovation, Goodyear

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”

—Steve Jobs

Successful growth companies are powered by effective innovation engines. Each of these has its own logic and its own sources of competitive advantage. P&G, for example, is well known for its Connect + Develop open innovation program. What makes the innovation model successful for P&G, however, is not just open innovation, but its fit with the overall profit engine of the corporation. Once P&G identifies new offerings, it uses its technological capabilities to refine and make them cost-effective, pulls them through its well-established channels, and applies its world-class consumer marketing capability to drive adoption. C+D is effective at P&G because it is embedded in this larger innovation engine. (I talked to Gil Cloyd about Connect + Develop in my Conversations interview with him, in RTM’s July–August 2012 issue.)

Intel, on the other hand, is known for researching, developing, and making significant investments in emerging technologies that have the potential to drive Moore’s Law. The new technologies create the next generation of performance, and the company’s commitment to early exploitation drives cost leadership, volume, and profitability. A focus on emerging technologies is at the core of Intel’s innovation, but it would not work without the commitment to investment. (Craig Barrett discusses some of these issues in an interview that appeared in our January–February 2010 issue.)

Apple is well known for design. Although it claims that customers don’t know what they want until you give it to them, its foresight is based on deep customer insight. Apple’s overall model, however, also requires the abilities to exploit capabilities and technologies developed by others and to work with ecosystem partners to establish entirely new business models. Design is a vital tool, but it is only effective as part of the larger model.

Clearly, one size does not fit all. Successful growth companies use (and continually refine) tools that capitalize on their overall capabilities and support their business strategies. Too often companies seek to emulate the success of one innovator or another by adopting piece parts without awareness of their systems implications. The result can resemble an attempt to improve an automobile engine by incorporating parts of other high-performance engines: it just won’t work well.

Nevertheless, managers need to learn from others—to enable them to do so, in fact, is the driving mission of RTM. But the learning has to rise above the level of the specific tool and consider the context that helps decide what to do when. The articles in this issue of RTM may help.

Inside the 2015 July-August issue of RTM:

Capitalizing on Emerging Technologies: A Path to Creating Opportunities in New Markets
Irene Spitsberg, Michael J. Verti, Sudhir Brahmandam, and George W. Coulston describe a framework for identifying and developing new opportunities based on emerging technologies.

Creating Innovation Capabilities: MoInlycke Health Care’s Journey
Tove Weigel and Keith Goffin show how one company developed a capability in deep customer insight.

Selecting Early-Stage Ideas for Radical Innovation: Tools and Structures
John Nicholas, Ann Ledwith, and John Bessant report on a study exploring the strategies innovative firms use to identify and nurture promising ideas for radical innovation.

Visualizing Roadmaps: A Design-Driven Approach
Clive Kerr and Robert Phaal demonstrate how a systematic, design-driven approach to roadmap formulation can help communicate strategic and tactical insights more effectively.

Also, I interview Barry Jaruzelski, senior partner at Strategy& (formerly Booz & Company) about “What Really Matters for Innovation.”

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