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Innovation is a Group Sport

 

There can be no doubt that bringing new products and services to market successfully
requires the broad cooperation of many very different teams beyond just the ideas
merchants. Marketers, product and service designers, programme managers, IP
lawyers, distributors, advertisers, supply chain managers, producers and packagers
all have to be factored in. In the most successful cases teams are working in parallel,
kicking off processes that are vital to successful implementation long before the
finished product has been decided. Boeing created the 777 and had it certified on
both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously. It is no longer cost-effective to allow
isolated design phases and research to hand over an idea in search of a market.
Today, ideas are developed and refined in conjunction with multiple stakeholders –
customers, retailers, users, salespeople. Trust and flexibility are vital. Successful
organizations create cultures of trust and enable flexible networks that promote
mutual understanding, rapid learning and the ability to change course mid-stream.
Competitive advantage can be described as the ability to learn, innovate or
continuously reposition with respect to the competition.
Complex program management requires many threads to operate in parallel.
Alignment between these parallel processes is enabled by interaction and
communication. Successful organizations, whether formally constructed or networks
of affiliated companies, need to work hard at enabling both the relationships and the
communication required. The best managers actively design opportunities to do so.
As we move to a networked economy the concept of the linear supply chain has
transformed into that of the non-linear value web. Successful organizations are able
to identify the members of their value web and create opportunities where all these
resources are working in harmony, and focused on a single goal – getting the products
or services to market on time, on budget and desirable to the consumer.
IBM, Sony and Toshiba are working together on new IT products, Sony-Ericsson
have had to work together to stay in the market, and have been innovative as a result.
The micro-projector (soon to be found in every mobile phone) is a joint production
by multiple specialist technology companies. However, open innovation practices are
not only limited to extending the traditional boundaries of the organization into its
value web. Today, everybody within the organization who has a stake in the outcome
of a project has a voice. This requires a different way of organizing projects; and very
large-scale events or Design Labs are where the work is being done.
Collaboration, both formally and informally arranged, has significantly increased
within organizations as a tool for strategic development, innovation, corporate
education, and problem-solving purposes. Alongside collaborative practices, action
research, activity-based systems and participatory media development are being
employed as organizational processes for enabling active employee engagement. We
call such approaches collaborative authored outcomes.

As a system moves through the cycles from innovation, proof of concept, piloting,
testing to production, marketing and distribution, the qualities and skills required of
teams change. These phases have their own distinct personalities and qualities and it
takes a savvy manager to promote the context, attitude and environment that are
required for each team within each phase to be successful. During innovation phases,
teams function best if they are:

* autonomous;

* configured with the best members for the task;

* connected to customers;

* connected to your value web;

* skilled in disciplines associated with innovation;

* incentivized;

* measured.

Each phase in the lifecycle requires different skills to take the lead – in principle
moving from the unstructured to the structured. Even self-organizing teams need to
recognize that the leaders of creative phases are usually different from the leaders of
piloting, testing, production and distribution phases. An important thing not to lose
sight of though, is that as the baton changes hands, the teams are still checking in
with customers and the entire value web. Rapid iterations and feedback cycles are
best at all phases. Empowerment is vital – understand the acknowledged experts in
the teams and let them make the decisions. Let packaging experts decided on
packaging, let the logistics specialists decide on distribution, let designers make the
design decisions. Flatten the hierarchies, and enable decision-making.

 

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