by Cyndee Miller
Innovation has an odd rep, tied to a rather romanticized notion that it rests with only a small cadre of some bleeding-edge R&D types.
That’s just not how it plays out in today’s hyper-competitive world, though.
Innovation must become an “all-the-time, everywhere capability,” said author Rowan Gibson, the opening keynote speaker for PMI EMEA Congress. “It must become a corporate way of life.”
Absolutely. But how do you actually do that?
“We have to become trend surfers,” he said, people who make change work for them rather than against them.
So, project management friends, Mr. Gibson has a big question for you: “Are you up there riding these waves of change? Or are you lying on the beach waiting for the tsunami to hit you?”
Don’t get swept away. Trend surfers know they have to go with flow, not stay chained to the past.
“What if the dominant conventions in your field, market or industry are outdated, unnecessary or just plain wrong,” he said.
That leaves you oblivious to new ways of thinking—the kind of thinking that could very well end up changing the whole project landscape.
The world’s largest taxi company doesn’t own a single cab. The world’s largest retailer doesn’t stock a single product. “Ten years ago this type of business model would have been unfathomable,” Mr. Gibson said.
That’s not only possible. Uber and Alibaba have made it reality.
It’s not just the upstarts. Every company has core competencies and strategic assets. They just need to figure out how they can repurpose those resources into new growth opportunities. Disney, for example, wasn’t content with only having its live characters and shows taking a starring role at its theme parks. They used those skills to create a cruise ship model, a travel agency and even some smash Broadway hits.
“Most companies don’t do this,” Mr. Gibson said. “Most companies define themselves by what they do—we’re a bank, we’re a software company, we’re a supermarket—rather than by what they know.”
They’re missing out by not connecting the dots between their competencies and their customers.
“Innovators search for unsolved problems and unmet needs or wants,” said Mr. Gibson, pointing to the lowly paint can. The heavy, hard-to-carry and even-harder-to-use object hadn’t been redesigned since its debut. Paint manufacturer Dutch Boy launched a project to redesign the container in a way that put the customer first. Their new paint “can” is made of plastic, and has a screw top, a handle for carrying and a spout for pouring. “In just six months, the new package tripled their sales and tripled the number of retail outlets stocking their product.”
To move ideas from mind to market, make it about the customer—not rules and regulations. This may be a rough one for project managers in the thick of the action on innovation projects. But ideas need time to grow, so try not to impose too stringent of a process.
Are you ready to ride the wave?