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- Innovation: The Classic Traps
Every few years, innovation resurfaces as a prime focus of growth strategies. And when it does, companies repeat the mistakes they made the last time. Never a fad, but always in or out of fashion, innovation gets rediscovered as a growth enabler every half dozen years.
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Every few years, innovation resurfaces as a prime focus of growth strategies. And when it does, companies repeat the mistakes they made the last time.
Never a fad, but always in or out of fashion, innovation gets rediscovered as a growth enabler every half dozen years. Too often, though, grand declarations about innovation are followed by mediocre execution that produces anemic results, and innovation groups are quietly disbanded in cost-cutting drives.
Each managerial generation embarks on the same enthusiastic quest for the next new thing. And each generation faces the same vexing challenges—most of which stem from the tensions between protecting existing revenue streams critical to current success and supporting new concepts that may be crucial to future success. A typical strategic blunder is when managers set their hurdles too high or limit the scope of their innovation efforts. Quaker Oats, for instance, was so busy in the s making minor tweaks to its product formulas that it missed larger opportunities in distribution.
A common process mistake is when managers strangle innovation efforts with the same rigid planning, budgeting, and reviewing approaches they use in their existing businesses—thereby discouraging people from adapting as circumstances warrant.
Companies must be careful how they structure fledgling entities alongside existing ones, Kanter says, to avoid a clash of cultures and agendas—which Arrow Electronics experienced in its attempts to create an online venture.
Finally, companies commonly undervalue and underinvest in the human side of innovation—for instance, promoting individuals out of innovation teams long before their efforts can pay off.
Most companies fuel growth by creating new products and services. Yet too many firms repeat the same growth-sapping mistakes in their efforts to innovate. For example, some companies adopt the wrong strategy: investing only in ideas they think will become blockbusters. Small ideas that could have generated big profits get rejected.
For years, Time, Inc. Only after Time decided to gamble on a large number of new publications did revenues rise.
Other companies err on the side of process-strangling innovations by subjecting them to the strict performance criteria their existing businesses must follow. At AlliedSignal, new Internet-based products and services had to satisfy the same financial metrics as established businesses.
Budgets contained no funds for investment—so managers working on innovations had to find their own funding. The consequences? Retrofitted versions of old ideas. To avoid such traps, Kanter advocates applying lessons from past failures to your innovation efforts. And add flexibility to your innovation planning, budgeting, and reviews.
Your reward? Better odds that the new ideas percolating in your company today will score profitable successes in the market tomorrow. Remedy: Widen your search and broaden your scope. Also create a portfolio of promising midrange ideas. And fund a broad base of early stage ideas or incremental innovations. Remedy: Add flexibility to planning and control systems. For instance, reserve special funds for unexpected opportunities.
After executives at the struggling UK television network BBC set aside funds in a corporate account to support innovation proposals, a new recruit used money originally allocated for a new BBC training film to make a pilot for The Office. Remedy: Tighten the human connections between innovators and others throughout your organization. Convene frequent conversations between innovators and mainstream business managers to promote mutual learning and integration of new businesses into the organization.
Create overlapping relationships—by having representatives from mainstream businesses rotate through innovation groups or innovation advisory boards. Identify people who lead informal networks that span innovation and mainstream groups, and encourage them to strengthen those connections. Remedy: Select innovation leaders with strong interpersonal skills. He chose a mixture of employees from other units who could be ambassadors to their former groups and new hires that brought diverse skills.
Innovation is back at the top of the corporate agenda. Never a fad, but always in or out of fashion, innovation gets rediscovered as a growth enabler every half-dozen years about the length of a managerial generation. Too often, however, grand declarations about innovation are followed by mediocre execution that produces anemic results, and innovation groups are quietly disbanded in cost-cutting drives.
Each generation embarks on the same enthusiastic quest for the next new thing and faces the same challenge of overcoming innovation stiflers. Over the past 25 years, I have conducted research and advised companies during at least four major waves of competitive challenges that led to widespread enthusiasm for innovation. The first was the dawn of the global information age in the late s and early s, an era that introduced new industries and threatened to topple old ones.
Entrepreneurs and foreign competitors imperiled established companies on their own turf. Information technology was beginning to evolve from the clunky mainframe to a consumer and desktop product, and companies such as Apple Computer made Silicon Valley garages the new base for product innovation in the United States. High-quality Japanese products, such as the Sony Walkman and Toyota cars, reflected not just good product design but also innovations in manufacturing processes that forced American giants to create their own programs to generate new ideas faster.
The second wave was the pressure to restructure during the takeover scare of the late s. In Europe, restructuring was associated with the privatization of state-owned enterprises now exposed to the pressures of capital markets. Companies created new-venture departments to make sure they captured the value of their own ideas and inventions, rather than allowing a behemoth like Microsoft to arise outside the firm. Financial innovations were the rage: leveraged and management buyouts, derivatives and other forms of financial engineering, or financial supermarkets combining banks and nearly everything else.
The restructuring era also favored products that could be instantly global: After defeating a hostile takeover bid in the late s, Gillette boldly and successfully launched Sensor Excel shaving systems in the early s, in identical form worldwide, with a single advertising message. Third was the digital mania of the s. The promise and threat of the World Wide Web drove many established companies to seek radical new business models.
Brick-and-mortar companies were at risk for extinction; many rushed to create stand-alone Web ventures, often unconnected to the core business and sometimes in conflict with it. Eyes were on the capital markets rather than on customers, and companies got rich without profits or revenues.
AOL bought Time Warner, put its name first, and proceeded to destroy value rather than create innovation. The current wave of innovation began in a more sober mood, following the dot-com crash and belt-tightening of the global recession. Having recognized the limits of acquisitions and become skeptical about technology hype, companies refocused on organic growth.
GE, for instance, is committed to double-digit growth from within. For its part, IBM is seeking innovation by tackling difficult social problems that require—and showcase—its technology solutions. A good example is World Community Grid, a nonprofit IBM created that aggregates unused computer power from numerous partners to give AIDS researchers and other scientists the ability to work with unusually large data sets. Customers and consumer markets have returned to center stage, after having been temporarily crowded out by other obsessions.
Companies are seeking new categories to enrich their existing businesses rather than grand new ventures that will take them into totally different realms.
Each wave brought new concepts. Approaches to innovation also reflected changing economic conditions and geopolitical events. And, of course, innovation has covered a wide spectrum, including technologies, products, processes, and complete business ventures, each with its own requirements.
Still, despite changes to the environment and differences among types of innovation, each wave of enthusiasm has encountered similar dilemmas. Most of these stem from the tensions between protecting revenue streams from existing businesses critical to current success and supporting new concepts that may be crucial to future success.
These tensions are exacerbated by the long-known phenomenon that important innovations often arise from outside an industry and beyond the established players, creating extra pressure for companies to find the next big concept quickly.
Consequently, a large body of knowledge about innovation dilemmas has arisen. Yet despite all the research and literature, I still observe executives exhibiting the same lack of courage or knowledge that undercut previous waves of innovation. And, repeatedly, companies make the same mistakes as their predecessors. Innovation goes in or out of fashion as a strategic driver of corporate growth, but with every wave of enthusiasm, executives make the same mistakes.
Innovation can flourish if executives heed business lessons from the past. The potential for premium prices and high margins lures executives to seek blockbuster innovations—the next iPod, Viagra, or Toyota Production System. Along the way, they expend enormous resources, though big hits are rare and unpredictable.
The rival, of course, gained dominant market share by being a first mover. Likewise, Pillsbury and Quaker lagged the competition in bringing new concepts to market and, as underperformers, were eventually acquired.
During the period before Don Logan took the helm in , almost no new magazines were launched. Not every offering was a blockbuster, but Time had learned what successful innovators know: To get more successes, you have to be willing to risk more failures. A related mistake is to act as if only products count, even though transformative new ideas can come from a range of functions, such as production and marketing.
A new executive, who believed in opening the search for innovation to all employees, joined the company. After a meeting discussing the need for change, a veteran factory worker, who had joined as a young immigrant and still spoke with a heavy accent, tentatively approached the new executive with an idea for ending the breakage.
The company tried it, and it worked. Similarly, because managers at Quaker Oats in the s were too busy tweaking product formulas in minor ways, the company missed numerous opportunities in other arenas, such as distribution—for instance, taking advantage of the smaller, health-oriented outlets used by its Snapple beverage acquisition.
Ocean Spray boasted a more eclectic innovation strategy than that of its rivals, including idea forums to explore innovations in any domain and open to any employee. Early in its history, the U. One Intel breakthrough was in marketing: It treated computer chips like potato chips.
But by marketing a component directly to consumers, Intel gained enormous power with computer manufacturers, which had little choice but to put an Intel Inside label on every machine.
Similarly, Cemex, the global cement company based in Mexico, has used widespread brainstorming to generate innovations that create other sources of value for a product that could easily become a commodity. Those innovations include branded, bagged cement and technology-enabled delivery methods to get cement to customers as fast as if it were a pizza. When a company is both too product centric and too revenue impatient, an additional problem can arise.
Perversely, such projects may raise costs in the long run. While a failure to encourage small wins can mean missed opportunities, too many trivial projects are like seeds sown on stony ground—they might sprout, but they do not take root and grow into anything useful.
If new ideas take the form not of distinctive innovations but of modest product variations, the resulting proliferation can dilute the brand, confuse customers, and increase internal complexity—such as offering a dozen sizes and flavors of crackers rather than a new and different snack food, a problem Kraft currently faces. A second set of classic mistakes lies in process; specifically, the impulse to strangle innovation with tight controls—the same planning, budgeting, and reviews applied to existing businesses.
The inherent uncertainty of the innovation process makes sidetracks or unexpected turns inevitable. The reason upstart Ocean Spray could grab the paper-bottle opportunity from large U.
Utah Adoption Search
Foster Children Bill of Rights and Foster Parent Bill of Rights are designed to inform foster children and foster parents of their rights within the child welfare system. Many children's bill of rights provide that they must be posted in a place where children will see them and include provisions requiring foster children to be informed about why they are in foster care and how the process will proceed. In addition, participation in extracurricular or community activities, efforts to maintain educational stability, access to guardians ad litem, access to mental, behavioral and physical health care, access to or communication with siblings and family members are major features of the foster children's bill of rights. Included in statute in 14 states is the requirement that foster parents use a reasonable and prudent parenting standard, particularly when making decisions regarding foster children's participation in extracurricular or other activities. Also, during the legislative session, ten states introduced fifteen bills six enacted either seeking to enact a bill of rights or otherwise extending or defining the rights of foster children and parents including independent living services for older youth, educational consistency and enrollment, foster child input into evaluations of out-of-home care placements, and extracurricular activities. The box allows you to conduct a full text search or use the dropdown menu option to select a state.
Innovation: The Classic Traps
The Adoption Record Search Program helps adopted persons get information about themselves and their birth relatives. Medical and genetic information on birth parents and members of their families This includes routine health information and any known hereditary or degenerative disease. A copy of the impounded birth certificate the birth certificate on record before the time of adoption. The law specifies conditions and protections under which a search may be conducted. The law:.
Last Updated: April 18, References Approved.
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