Welcome to Innovation Contrarian

Welcome to Innovation Contrarian 5.00/5, 1 vote Welcome to Innovation Contrarian, a blog for comments and opinions about innovation and ideas. The content you will find here represents our personal opinions formed by our experience working together with (usually large) companies on their innovation projects. We intend that our content will be unconventional, and occasionally perhaps even provocative or controversial. At the same time, we hope that it will be useful and entertaining to our readers who are involved with...

Innovation: Running Before You Can Walk

Innovation: Running Before You Can Walk 4.50/5, 4 votes   It has become fashionable to look to “Big Innovation” as a silver bullet for solving competitive challenges. All too often, we are asked to help clients develop ideas for radical or even disruptive innovations in order to protect their market position or create growth. During the course of the project, we then discover that the client has neglected to correct even fairly basic problems in their product or service which disappoint customers and impede sales. In such cases, it seems more efficient to solve these small issues before moving on to more challenging, risky and expensive innovation projects. I recently flew from the UK to the USA. The title image shows the reverse sides of my boarding cards from the outbound and return flights. The red boarding card is from Virgin Atlantic, the white one is from a different airline (which shall remain nameless). Which flight would you look forward to more? Printing a friendly message in the fleet colours earns you points with your customers and costs next to...

Beware the White Spaces!

Beware the White Spaces! 4.43/5, 7 votes Innovate in the white spaces! is standard advice on innovation strategy. At first sight, it appears to make good sense. However, it can mislead companies into pursuing minor innovations and thereby miss much more important opportunities. Innovation Opportunities in White Spaces One commonly-seen piece recommendation in innovation strategy is to “seek the white spaces”. This idea is to analyse the offers that are available on the market and to identify gaps. These – so the conventional wisdom – are promising opportunities for creating new offers, since the gaps may represent an as yet unserved customer need. The concept is easily visualised using a standard two-dimensional diagram as shown in the title graphic. The market for a given category of product is mapped according to two dimensions, showing all offers by the focus firm or its competitors. For example, if the product were horse-drawn carriages, Dimension 1 might range from sporty on the left to comfortable on the right, and Dimension 2 might range from two seats at the bottom to six seats at the top. In this fictitious example, there is a white space containing two- and three-seater carriages that are neither exceptionally sporty nor exceptionally comfortable. Conventional wisdom now suggests examining this market segment with a view to developing a product for it. Of course, it may well be true that there is an unmet demand for this type of product, in which case the new product will have a good chance of success. Looking in the Wrong Place The danger inherent in mapping out the market in this way is that...

Idea Competitions: Why They Send the Wrong Message

Idea Competitions: Why They Send the Wrong Message 4.67/5, 3 votes Idea competitions are short-term projects in which companies ask their employees for ideas and then reward the best of them. These ideas are typically for new products or product improvements for improving competitiveness or boosting sales. Idea competitions are routinely recommended by consultants and manufacturers of idea management software. However, they are a double-edged sword, because they rarely produce the intended results and in addition send negative messages. Here are three negative messages that you may be communicating to your employees when you hold an idea competition: Innovation is something out of the ordinary in this organisation. Having ideas is not part of your job. By submitting an idea, your contribution is complete. Trying to maintain innovation with one-shot activities is not sustainable. Instead, innovation should be a constant activity carried out by the majority of the workforce. Anything that needs additional incentives will be interpreted by most employees as additional work. Most people don’t have innovation written into their job descriptions. Secondly, ideas have virtually no value for an organisation – only successfully implemented ideas do. The road from having an idea – particularly an innovative one – to implementation is a rocky one, and employees who are prepared to take on responsibility for risky, tough projects are much rarer than good ideas. Organisations with an innovation-friendly culture are the opposite with regard to all three aspects. Everybody treats innovation as part of their responsibility, and they take the initiative to propose and develop ideas. One prerequisite for this is an innovation process that avoids the pitfalls...

Our Top 20 Killer Phrases

Our Top 20 Killer Phrases 4.44/5, 9 votes Anyone who has participated in an ideation workshop or an innovation workshop has likely experienced killer phrases. These are spontaneous – and almost always unfounded – negative reactions to new ideas and suggestions. They are so-called, because their (conscious or unconscious) goal is to sabotage a discussion or to prevent an idea from being considered further. Killer phrases occur when someone feels that their view of the world or that they themselves are being threatened. This happens particularly often when an innovative idea is presented, because innovative ideas almost always challenge the status quo. For that reason, killer phrases could well be used as an indicator of ideas that are particularly valuable and worthy of further investigation. Here is a list of the 20 most common killer phrases that crop up from time to time in our workshops: That already exists. That won’t work. That’s too expensive. Our customers won’t like it. We have no time for that. Be realistic! We will have to do some preparation first. We have no budget for that kind of thing. We can’t afford to make any mistakes. The board will never agree to it. That’s not my responsibility. That is too difficult. That would require too great a change. The market isn’t ready for that. Let’s just wait and watch for a while. We are not allowed to. That wouldn’t work here. Since when are you the expert? From many years of experience, I can tell you … There’s nobody here who could do that successfully. The best protection against killer phrases is having...

How Corporations and Startups See Each Other

How Corporations and Startups See Each Other 4.80/5, 25 votes This is a comment that will be appreciated by anyone who has worked both at a startup and a large corporation (or has tried to get the two to work together). This is what corporations are like: This is what corporations think startups are like: This is what startups are actually like: And this is how startups see corporations:   Image credits: 1 – cargolaw.com, 3 – armyphotos.net...

Innovation is not Compulsory

Innovation is not Compulsory 4.50/5, 8 votes This quote was inspired by W. Edwards Deming: Innovation is not compulsory, but then… neither is survival. Graham Horton...

Machiavelli on Innovation

Machiavelli on Innovation 4.50/5, 14 votes Niccolo Machiavelli wrote this observation about innovation 500 years ago. It is just as true today as it was then. There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arising partly from fear of their adversaries … and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had actual experience of it. Niccolo Machiavelli (The Prince,...