"Successful, growing organizations often focus on driving out the operational inefficiencies they maintained during their start-up phase, and unintentionally erect barriers to innovation as they become ever more efficient and profitable."
Braden Kelley, author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, is no stranger to innovation. He was the founder of Blogging Innovation, the internet’s fastest growing innovation community. He has recently teamed up with another innovating authority Rowan Gibson (who penned the forward to this book), who have collaborated on InnovationExcellence.com.
Stoking Your Innovation Bonfireis a distillation of his original blog, and is an invaluable resource for managers looking to break down the barriers that prevent innovation in their companies and organizations.
Move Innovation to the Centre
"You have to make sure that stakeholders know not only that innovation is important to the organization, but also what innovation means in their organization and how they can participate."
Is innovation at the centre – the heart – of your company? If it isn’t, it should be. Your employees must recognize that innovation is not only valued, but is a priority in your organization. “Otherwise,” as Kelley writes, “how can stakeholders be expected to make any significant changes?” (10)
As most of us know, humans are naturally resistant to change (doubly so in business, where failure can mean termination). To circumvent this fear, a clear innovation vision must be articulated (complete with a plan) by the senior leaders. As Kelly explains, “An effort to move innovation to the center is best led by the CEO, but it requires the support and involvement of the senior leadership to tell the stories to employees and customers about what the organization is trying to achieve, what innovation means to their organization, and how the employees and other stakeholders can participate.” (10)
An innovation vision is fluid and always changing, depending upon the marketplace’s needs at any given time. That said, there are a few places we can start in creating our own.
Innovate for the Future Present
"The ideal is to design a product based on customer insights appropriate to the time of the product launch to maximize the useful life of the customer insights."
In researching Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire, Kelley spoke with ethnographer Cynthia DuVal who advised ethnographers and researchers involved in innovation “to consider the timeline of the development process when extracting insights.” (56) This is critical to success because “if you’ve got a 12- to 18-month product or service development process to go from insight to in-market, then you should be looking not to identify the insights that are most relevant today, but the insights that will be most relevant 12 to 18 months from now.” (56) This is innovating for the future present, anticipating what your consumers will need at the time when you plan to launch your product or service. This kind of innovation isn’t easy, and necessitates flexibility in case the insights you have predicted are a little off the mark. But almost all of the leaders in any particular field (Apple, for instance) have mastered this. Those who haven’t have fallen behind, many irretrievably so. The trick for innovating for the present future is to get to know your customer well and learn to think one step ahead of them.
What is your customer asking for? What can you extrapolate from that to identify what they mightwant in the future?
Accessing the Voice of the Customer
"The man or woman stitching up your clothing has no idea whether the stitching method worked well for you, or if you were happy with the product. They only know whether they made their daily quota and how much failed Quality Control. If the persons stitching up your clothing had access to the voice of the costumer, would they do their job differently? Would they feel differently about their job?"
In today’s business world, the employee class is largely disconnected from the voice of the customer. A consumer’s thoughts on a product or service, whether they loved it, were generally satisfied but thought it required improvement, hated it, or otherwise is typically relegated to the company’s marketing or customer research department. Kelley would argue that this detachment between the employee class and the consumer is not conducive to innovation and the creation of a quality product or service.
“Today’s customer benefits from marketing developments such as mass customization, mass personalization, and micro-segmentation. In addition, they have unrivaled access to communication channels to make their preferences known.” (47) I found the example that Kelley provided, and quoted at the beginning of this insight to be a good one. I’ll offer another. My favourite holiday film, A Christmas Carol, starring Alastair Sim was released two years ago on Blu-ray by VCI Home Entertainment. While the quality of the film on Blu-ray was miles ahead of the previous standard definition DVD incarnation (especially for a 60 year old film), there were still many problems with the video and audio that could have easily been avoided. As Kelley writes, today’s consumer “has unrivaled access to communication channels”. Today’s home video enthusiasts are especially savvy. Gone are the days when you blindly picked up a movie off the shelf; today there are reviewers to tell you if a film has been properly presented on home video. The said reviewers pointed these flaws in their reviews of A Christmas Carol, which deterred many from purchasing the film. Consumers in turn voiced these problems on such online forums as the Home Theater Forum and Blu-ray.com, and on VCI’s Facebook page and through their customer support e-mail address. This year they’re releasing the film again on Blu-ray and have vowed that they have gotten their product right this time. If they don’t, you know consumers will be using these online outlets to make sure their voices are heard.
Simply stated, Kelley is an advocate of allowing anyone in a company to access to the voice of the customer – for the betterment of the company, the employee and the consumer. As Kelley himself asks, “what do you have to lose?” Nothing!
Who in your company is interacting directly with the end user? Are there other people that should be? (The answer is “yes”, by the way.)
Braden Kelley’s Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire is a small book jam packed with invaluable information on how to ignite innovation and is a vital tool in helping erode the barriers to lasting innovation. Throughout the text Kelley provides many helpful illustrations, diagrams, and graphs, as well as more than 30 pages of appendices to get your innovation juices flowing. He even went so far as to establish InnovationBonfire.com for the overflow of material that didn’t make the final manuscript. (Where you can be sure there’s plenty of opportunity for user feedback) Simply put, Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire is a must read to help you and your team get innovating, and stay ahead of the competition.