“Innovation success remains as elusive as ever. Even when firms come up with great new ideas and follow them up with great implementation, failure is not only possible but likely. How can we do better?”
Wide Lens, page 5
In Wide Lens, Ron Adner provides a new methodology and set of tools with which to plan innovative projects. You will see the blueprint for success more clearly, using a wider lens. This new view doesn’t eliminate obstacles or dependencies; it merely lets you see them while there’s still time to do something about it. You will then be able to more accurately assess the risk and chart the course for your projects accordingly.
“This book is about seeing interaction between your own execution risk and the risks that are introduced by your ecosystem partners,” explains Adner. “It is about how to revisit your strategy to proactively manage these interactions and, in this way, drive better outcomes.” You will find examples of excellent execution of truly innovative products that were first to market, yet doomed to failure. It’s only upon examining them with a wide lens that the causes are readily evident. Had these companies looked at all the pieces that relied on external partners and assessed their risk, they could have identified and planned how to solve these problems before it was too late.
As Adner explains, “it is no longer enough to manage your innovation. Now you must manage your innovation system.” Wide Lens is the perfect toolkit for learning how to do that.
Shift Your Focus
“Choosing to focus on the ecosystem, rather than simply on the immediate environment of innovation, changes everything – from how you prioritize opportunities and threats, to how you think about market timing and positioning, to how you define and measure success.”
Wide Lens, page 6
Steve Jobs was a true pioneer and innovation leader, a serial creator of successful products. He demonstrates in multiple examples what it takes to succeed in an interdependent world. And with good reason, for it wasn’t really the products that he created that were so revolutionary, but the way he created an ecosystem that produced the successes. In fact, in only one case was his product—the iPad—the first to market. The iPod and iPhone arrived much later than the competition in the same arenas. But as you will see, innovation is not about arriving first—It’s about making sure an ecosystem is ready at launch time.
When you manage a project that relies on adoption chain partners delivering important pieces to your innovation, by assessing the entire ecosystem you will realize just how critical to success their efforts really are. Including ecosystem challenges doesn’t really change the scope of your innovation project, it changes the extent to which you include external risk as a piece you actively manage. “A narrow lens will leave you focused on execution risk, prone to ignore the implications of co-innovators and adoption chain partners,” Adner says. Using a wide lens to assess your innovation transforms the key strategic choices you make to achieve success.
“The value blueprint is a map that makes your ecosystem and your dependencies explicit. It lays out the arrangement of the elements that are required to deliver the value proposition—how the activities are positioned, how they are linked, and which actor is responsible for what.”
Wide Lens, page 84
Traditional project planning would utilize a supply chain model and a very linear sequencing of events and producers along the way. However innovation requires fully mapping out your ecosystem and assessing for each segment or partner the two types of risk associated with innovation ecosystems: Co-innovation Risk and Adoption Risk.
To map out your value blueprint, you’ll identify who the final target of your innovation is—your end customer. Identify what your own project is that you’ll deliver. Identify each supplier for the inputs into your project. Also identify every partner who would touch your product or pass it on before or after it arrives to your customer. These won’t necessarily be in a sequential order, so it’s also important to identify when each partner is involved. “Huge allocations of resources and deep wells of talent on their own cannot make up for red lights on the path to success,” writes Adner. “If your value proposition requires multiple parties to collaborate, building a deep understanding of the structure of collaboration is critical.”
“While managers have rich processes in place to assess and manage their own execution challenges, they do not fully understand their dependence on their partners’ co-innovation challenges”
Wide Lens, page 38
Wide Lens will help innovators see hidden dependencies which lead to better strategies. Key to achieving this is understanding the Co-innovation Risk and Adoption Chain Risk which tend to remain unseen in traditional strategy. Co-innovation Risk is “the extent to which the success of your innovation depends on the successful commercialization of other innovations”; and Adoption Chain Risk is “the extent to which partners will need to adopt your innovation” before it ever arrives to customers.
On your value blueprint you will want to identify the risks throughout the ecosystem for each element and ask questions such as “How able are they to undertake the required activity?” and “How willing are they to undertake the required activity?”
Wide Lens includes these and other valuable tools to enable your decisions to be more informed ones. In some cases the better decision will be to simply pass and devote resources to another idea that has a greater chance of success. In either case, you will expand your perspective to identify risks that might have been overlooked completely or examined after it was too late. No matter what, after reading Wide Lens you’ll never look at innovation, project planning, or your likelihood for success in the same way again.