Innovation… what are we really talking about?

James Hourn On 01 February 2016

Innovation… what are we really talking about?

The term innovation is suddenly everywhere. Mr. Turnbull has set an entire political agenda around it and says he wants an “ideas boom”. The business pages are full of stories of start-ups, accelerators and digital success stories. My 9-year old daughter was given a school design project this term which encourages kids to “innovate”.

For those of us that have pushed it, we know that innovation can be challenging for established businesses. It takes courage and leadership to drive innovation. It can mean questioning long established beliefs which not everyone wants to hear. It takes discipline and competence to deliver sustained innovation and to manage change effectively.

In The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton M. Christensen, showed us that companies often miss the next wave of “disruptive innovation” as they are entrenched and reliant on the traditional business practices and models. Read more here. This is why the existing taxi industry was never going to develop Uber that turned their world upside down.

At JobReady, we are highly focused this year on how we can strive to be better and move the dial on innovation. With difficult business conditions, many of our customers are asking us to deliver more innovation than ever through our software and to directly assist them with business transformation projects.

All this has me asking what exactly do we mean by innovation and how do we achieve it successfully, sustainably and in a relevant way for our businesses?

At a conference I attended earlier this year, the futurist, Craig Rispin, introduced some thinking on innovation by the group Doblin. Through research into breakthrough businesses, they have found that there are essentially ten types of innovation. They argue that most businesses focus primarily on product innovation, which is only one part of the picture. In fact, product innovation is often too easily copied by competitors and does not always lead to sustainable success.

I have found Doblin’s model really useful in thinking about where to seek out new innovation. It can also act as a compass for where to look for opportunity in what can seem like a chaotic environment.

So here are Doblin’s ten types of innovation and a quick summary of each:

  1. Profit Model – how to charge for your product or service, “in most industries the dominant profit model often goes unquestioned for decades.”
  2. Network – who to partner with and how to leverage the specialists in other organisations.
  3. Structure – how you organise your businesses assets, both human and hard.
  4. Process – how you produce your main product or service, AKA your “special sauce”.
  5. Product Performance – how to increase the value to the customer in your product and service, both new and via updates.
  6. Product Summary – how to best bundle your products and service together (think Qantas flights and the Frequent Flyer program).
  7. Service – how to enhance the experience of using your product or service.
  8. Channel – how to connect your offerings to your market and customers and to make it as “delightful” as possible to buy from you.
  9. Brand – how to resonate with your customers and be remembered and preferred over your competitors.
  10. Customer Engagement – how you bring compelling interactions to thrill your customers.

Read more about Doblin’s framework here – https://www.doblin.com/ten-types/

So how can we use the model to set us on the pathway to industry leading innovation?

Larry Keeley from Doblin asserts that, “The best possible approach is where top leaders build what we call an Innovation Intent, a clear, measurable mission for innovation”.

And here’s another idea – choose just 3 of the above types on innovation. And start pulling them apart with your team for the next 90 days and start to reimagine how you go about business and maybe achieve that precious commodity – truly game changing innovation.

Marc Washbourne

Managing Director, JobReady