‘An innovation calendar is a must for every company’

By Nandan Singh

As a president of The Innovation Resource, a research and innovation consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, California, US, Robert B Tucker has worked with companies including IBM India, Satyam, Nokia, American Express and Citibank to deliver growth and innovation. His numerous books include the international bestseller Managing the Future: 10 Driving Forces of Change for the New Century. Tucker spoke on growth through innovation at an event organised by CNBC TV18 in Mumbai on Tuesday.

Can innovation ever be systematic?
A Yes, we can never systemise the grand innovative idea. But, an innovation calendar is must for the company, where people meet and ideate about disruptive models.

Remember, we are not talking about solving current problems but finding future disruptive models, where we introduce new or improved products, processes, and strategies that create new value for our customers and for our firm. For example, if you give children matches to play, chances are that they might strike a light.

How does one harness talent of younger staff?
The curiosity of the younger lot is a great asset to the organisation. Also, you need to have lot of ideas to have a grand idea. We need to harness this curiosity by encouraging them to think.

Google has an intranet where every employee can post the ideas. Toyota gets a million ideas a year from its rank and its files. A manager has to manage them from his heart. They don’t care how much you know, but they care for about how much you care about them.

Should innovationbe an original idea?
Innovation may not be an original idea after all. See, a product innovation, as Sam Palmisano of IBM said rightly, could be copied by your competition. But a business model innovation can be a lot tougher to react to. It could be the opportunity to provide greater convenience such as Virgin Atlantic providing on air message.

It could be opportunities in entering new markets; to rethink how and what you customise for customers; to change how your products and services are distributed to customers such as eBay; to capture uncontested market or to take on a customer problem.

What should product innovation lead to?
They should provide a superior solution, enable benefit, resolve contradiction and create a unique value proposition, but above all, it should create new needs.

Tell me, can we live without a cell phone today? Whether it is product or business model, today it’s become very important to identify the unarticulated needs of the customer.

For that, we need to get out of office and meet with customers regularly; read voraciously-it is one of the top sources to stimulate your creative juices; set up a system that helps you gain an early warning on trend, technologies; experiment with new customer-observer methods; identify and cultivate visionary customers.

Innovators are like Vacuum cleaners. They seek more information from surrounding, read a lot, and have a voracious appetite for innovative ideas. Procter & Gamble have 50% of the ideas coming from the customers

How does one rebound from failures?
Innovation is not just about praising and rewarding success; you have to reward the failure too. You have to lavishly praise people who ideate and encourage them to think differently. Promote people who have had intelligent failures.

Their idea may not be commercially viable or may have cost the company a considerable sum, but, remember they are the ones to who have the potential to come out with that one grand idea, which could prove to be a disruptive model for the business.