Is Innovation Now The Lifeblood To Survive?

David Kung, VP of Product Strategy at Oblong Industries Inc., wrote a great article this week in Forbes. The article was titled, Why Chief Innovation Officers Must Bridge the Collaboration Gap. The article is a nice, quick read, I would recommend checking it out. While the prospect of innovation is certainly exciting, it can be equally daunting considering what changes must be made to adapt. Every company is vulnerable to the winds of change regardless of the industry, size or your market share. According to George Castillon, even large organizations tend to fall short when it comes to successful innovation. He released The Journal of Product Innovation & Management in 2013 that estimated nearly 49% of large companies would receive a failing grade in innovation.

So what is innovation? Frankly, I think next to strategy, innovation might be one of the most overused words within the business vernacular. I feel that, Scott Berkun, blogger and author, has one of the best definitions: “Innovation is significant positive change. It’s a result. It’s an outcome. It’s something you work towards achieving on a project.”

When I consider the innovations that will have the largest impact on our clients at Beatha Group, I see two primary factors that will likely influence the senior care landscape. The first factor is cultural. Boomers will turn the notion of consumer demand on its head, whereas Millennials will shape how we will serve older adults in the future. These cohorts will most certainly accelerate our usual product-to-market cycle of 12 to 36 months to perhaps half that amount of time. From a technology perspective, we are seeing an emerging and converging set of solutions across multiple disciplines. Including, but not limited to natural language, machine learning, cloud-computing, blockchain, and virtual/augmented reality.

While Kung’s Forbes article touches on the need for a Chief Innovation Officer and a physical space to innovate, there are three other critical elements that must be considered to fully realize organizational innovation.

Let’s recap what the article suggests on the CIO and physical space followed by our suggestions:

1. Build the rationale for a Chief Innovation Officer

The good news… we are starting to see a new role of innovator at the c-level table. These roles should challenge conventional wisdom and bring fresh ideas to the table. The more ideas, the better. The key will be in pressure testing the viability of each solution. These ideas are not simply limited to new product and services. They could also represent the way employees work, collaborate and communicate.

2. Create a physical space that fosters innovation

Kung references an interesting environment that PwC uses, aptly called the “PwC’s Innovation Space”. “It immerses collaborators in content and data on multiple large screens. Streaming video, whiteboard sketches, and presentations can be rearranged easily via gesture, touch, and personal devices. This physical space allows remote users to collaborate on the editing, annotation, and addition of new content in real-time. All of this can happen simultaneously, giving unfettered control to multiple collaborators sharing the space together at the same time.”

3. Implement a cloud-based communication and collaboration platform

You cannot expect to innovate if the very infrastructure your employees utilize on a daily basis was something build over 20 years ago. We are all familiar with the typical yet entirely unnecessary excuses. My favorite, “I’ll have to get back to the office before I can send you the latest version”. “Instead, you must move to either Google G Suite or Microsoft 365 to fully maximize the potential to collaborate with your peers anywhere, on any device at anytime.

4. Deploy a rapid delivery model to test your hypothesis

The “how” is also crucial. Gone are the days where you take a traditional waterfall approach with sequential phases. A rapid delivery model should be adopted. We have found that a combination of Agile and User-Centered Design are often the most powerful methodologies. The key to encourage the need to “fail fast” and iterate until you get it right. Don’t forget to be incredibly inclusive to consider perspectives and input from a cross-functional team.

5. Bake change into the DNA of your culture

This might be the single most important factor. You can have a handle on the four previous points, but you will undoubtedly fail if this isn’t something that is an integral part of your culture. Organizations must hire, measure, and reward for innovating. All innovation is rooted in change. Therefore, you must determine where the current resistance exists and take the appropriate actions. Unfortunately, this may require parting ways with some of your leaders.

The New York Times has described innovation as “the crucial ingredient in all economic progress—higher growth for nations, more competitive products for companies, and more prosperous careers for individuals.” I tend to agree.

The key is to simply jump in with both feet. Don’t worry about messing up. It’s about journey. Fail, Learn, Succeed.

What is your take? Would you define your organization as innovative? If not, what is holding you back?