By Chuck Frey
Robert Tucker’s latest book, Driving Growth Through Innovation, is a powerful blueprint for transforming ad hoc, seat of the pants innovation into systematic innovation that can help to drive growth, profit and competitive advantage in your organization. This is one of the most important, insightful books on innovation that I’ve read in some time.
Using extensive real-world examples from 23 “Innovation Vanguard” companies — some of the world’s most successful and innovative firms — Tucker informs and inspires as he reveals their best practices and how your firm can adapt them to your needs.
Tucker begins the book by building the business case for systematic innovation: Why is it a survival issue for organizations today? Why do so many corporate leaders agree that innovation is a key strategic issue, yet have great difficulty in actually implementing systematic, pervasive innovation within their companies?
The problem with many corporate innovation efforts, Tucker explains, is that they are incremental or piecemeal in nature — which usually does little or nothing to enhance the bottom line. Incrementalism does not drive growth. For example, many companies limit their innovation commitment to developing new variations on existing product lines, while ignoring opportunities for business process innovation or to exploring “white space” opportunities — which lie outside of their current product lines or markets served, but which may offer the best opportunities for renewed growth, profitability and success.
What’s needed is a systematic and comprehensive strategy for innovation, and that is the focus of this book. Systematic innovation, according to Tucker, is comprehensive, involves all employees, is focused on an organized, systematic and ongoing search for future business opportunities, and is focused on delivering new value to customers.
In Tucker’s quest to deconstruct the DNA of systematic innovation, he covers an impressive collection of key strategic innovation issues, including:
• How different corporate leadership styles and cultures can influence an organization’s commitment to innovation, or lack thereof.
• How to identify unmet customer needs and build market-leading new products around them, and
• Techniques for “future scanning” — “mining” emerging trends in an organized, systematic way to uncover exciting new business opportunities.
I found Driving Growth Through Innovation to be one of the most compelling reads I’ve had in quite some time. Several chapters that struck me as particularly insightful include these:
“Empowering the Idea Management Process” is a detailed description of eight successful strategies that Innovation Vanguard companies are using today to solicit ides from all of their employees, collect them, evaluate them and turn the best of them into new products, services and business models with unprecedented efficiency. In my opinion, idea management is one of the most important strategies that companies need to learn about today, yet very little has been written about it. I think it’s great that Tucker has shed some light on this important strategic concept.
“Fortifying the Idea Factory” outlines a series of strategies that organizations can use to increase their odds of coming up with winning product and service ideas. As Tucker explains that, “inventing the future will always have an element of serendipity to it. Breakthroughs can never be commanded from the top, nor churned out on deadline… innovation vanguard companies make a concerted effort to cultivate conditions were happy accidents are more likely to occur. They are reinventing ideation so that greater numbers of ideas funnel into their pipelines and advance via their idea management processes toward implementation.”
￼”Taking Action in your Firm.” The last chapter of Driving Growth Through Innovation challenges the reader to jump start innovation in your organization — no matter what your job title or position is. Tucker also explains how to cultivate a small but passionate group of like-minded individuals, with whom you can share ideas and develop the first draft of a systematic innovation strategy for your company. This chapter also includes a valuable outline for mapping out an innovation initiative, complete with insightful questions that can help you to put your plan together.
Tucker does a terrific job of clearly and compellingly explaining the systematic innovation methodologies used by the extraordinarily successful Innovation Vanguard companies, and provides readers with one valuable insight after another into how to make these principles work for you.
Driving Growth Through Innovation is highly practical and inspiring book, a field guide to successfully implementing systematic innovation that should be on every entrepreneur and innovation manager’s bookshelf, yet at the same time a compelling manifesto for change in how most companies approach innovation. I highly recommend this book!