Innovation execution

Strategy & Leadership

ISSN: 1087-8572

Article publication date: 6 September 2011



Randall, R.M. (2011), "Innovation execution", Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 39 No. 5.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Innovation execution

Article Type: Editor’s letter From: Strategy & Leadership, Volume 39, Issue 5

Of the seven articles in this issue, four tackle the topic of innovation execution – skills to identify the emerging opportunities, the capabilities needed to successfully compete, the talent to recruit, the mindset to explore market unknowns, tools to discern and develop what customers really want and best organizational practices. The table of contents will give you an overview of the approaches of the authors, but in this letter I’ll present a few of the ideas in the articles that are especially useful and memorable.

Improving management’s innovation capability.First of all, the broad topic of innovation execution is surveyed in a wide ranging interview “Vijay Govindarajan: innovation coach to the developed and developing world” by S&L Contributing Editor Brian Leavy. Govindarajan, widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts on strategy and innovation, shares what he has learned from consulting with some of the world’s leading companies. He explains, for example, the concept of reverse innovation, where unique low-cost business models developed for products in developing countries can be adapted to niche markets in developed nations. Call your travel agent! The developing world is your new innovation lab! Govindarajan also explores the relationship between the core business (The Performance Engine) and the innovation team. He advises, “Every innovation initiative requires a special kind of team and a special kind of plan. The special team is actually a partnership between a Dedicated Team, which is dedicated full time or nearly full time to the project, and the Shared Staff, which supports the project while sustaining its Performance Engine responsibilities.”

Design thinking tools that promote successful innovation.In a case study, Jeanne Liedtka, a professor at the Darden School at the University of Virginia, examines the mindset of two managers charged with guiding innovation initiatives. One embraces his project’s unknowns and uses five learning tools – journey mapping, rapid prototyping, assumption testing and customer co-creation – to conduct experiments with customers and retailers. “He assembled a cross-functional team to ‘follow customers home’ – to eat with them, work with them, and basically be involved in all aspects of their lives … Throughout their research the team focused on one question: ‘What could we be doing for the consumer that would really make their lives materially better?’” The other manager is skilled at analysis and searches for the big technological win. Place your bets!

Learning visionary skills for product development.Can managers train themselves to put to use the unique talents of the great business visionaries like Robert Fulton, Andrew Carnegie and Bill Gates? New research suggests ways that all managers can practice the intuitive scenario thinking of the great industry pioneers, explains Stephen Millett in “Managers as visionaries: a skill that can be learned.”

What innovation capabilities will your company need in 2021?Two Accenture consultants, Armen Ovanessoff and Mark Purdy, identify five mega-sized economic opportunities on the distant horizon, show what leading companies are already doing to prepare and suggest how companies can develop the innovation capabilities to take advantage of the emerging trends. As an example, “EMC chose to structure innovation through worldwide Centers of Excellence [that] work across products to solicit the best ideas from the brightest worldwide talent against the most important or intractable engineering challenges throughout the firm – in other words, they expand knowledge locally, and transfer it globally.”

And don’t over look the excellent articles on these other topics:

  • Strategic Issues Management in turbulent environments.

  • Social media hooks up with customer relationship management.

  • Why strategic decision makers need to learn the margin of safety principle.

Good reading!

Robert M. RandallEditor

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