Making innovation core to your business: Necessary but not easy

Innovation | Marketing Donut

We hear all the time that companies must be constantly innovating or else risk losing to better resourced or more aggressive competitors or to disruptive technologies and business models. And the reason is clear; there’s evidence all around us. Blockbuster, Kodak, Blackberry and Compaq are just a few iconic brands that went bust from a failure to respond to competition. Yet there are also many examples of companies that have not only survived, but thrived, innovating their way to success. Apple, McDonald’s and Lego come to mind.

Dr Marcus Powe has been helping leaders implement and embed innovation systems for many years. His research, teaching, mentoring led to him being awarded Australia’s Best Entrepreneurial Educator a few years back by then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  Marcus shared his thoughts on what it takes to introduce and sustain an innovation system in an organisation in a recent webinar for Massey Business School.

“The first thing you should do is have a look around your company,” Marcus says. “Do you see a focus on best practice and quality? Aggressive uptake of leading edge technology? Continuous incremental improvement? Or, the development of new capabilities and original ideas? If not, you’ve got a problem.”

To be successful, innovation systems have to have commitment from the highest levels of management. Marcus argues that, “CEOs don’t necessarily lead innovation, but they do drive it. They have to get involved at key points, especially at creation and launch.” An innovation champion and innovation team are critical, but everyone must be involved. “You can’t just delegate innovation to the innovation department.”

A related principle is that innovation is not a separate strategy, but must be core business, linked to corporate goals. That means that all management must get involved in creating the vision for innovation and it means that developing a learning culture in the organisation is vital.

While there are identifiable steps to guide an organisation’s journey in implementing innovation systems, there are also many roadblocks along the way to overcome. Barriers to creativity include habits, fear, prejudices and blind acceptance…with fear being the most destructive of these. And some of the barriers to innovation are insecurity, tribalism, politics, and an unwillingness to take risks – with politics being top of that list. All these can be overcome, of course. But if it was easy, we wouldn’t have the Blockbusters, Kodaks and Blackberrys of the business world.

Marcus is working with Massey Business School to enhance our MBA programmes and to help us to help New Zealand businesses contribute to a thriving, prosperous and sustainable future for New Zealand.

Listen to Marcus explain his 8-step plan for implementing successful innovation systems, along with the main barriers that get in the way to success.

 Marcus Powe, PhD founded EIC Growth Pty Ltd to help CEOs and leaders implement, embed and measure creativity and innovation systems that result in enterprising behaviours. He specialises in the growth of for-profit and not-for-profit organisations that operate in the turbulence of national and international market places.