There are global brands and companies that are well known for bending the curve of the whole economy through their innovative service and consumer products offerings. Nokia, Amazon, Microsoft, Kodak, 3M, Apple, and Tesla are among the names I can easily recall here. Whoever adapted to changing market needs faster survived – while the rest succumbed. I don’t need to name and shame any specific ones here. Different companies have different models to run their innovation process. However, I would like to talk about a few of the innovation models created by some of these companies that are my favorites.
Two pizza model: Amazon uses the “two pizza model,” which refers to having a team size that can be fed with only two pizzas. Smaller teams lead to more effective communication among team members, ensuring effective communication between departments also. The members know which team to contact and collaborate with for each specific project. It simplifies the workflow and reduces the time taken by the team. Along with this, it also ensures that assignments are delegated according to expertise.
Skunkworks: Skunkworks was a secret project that Lockheed Martin worked on. The project focused on disruptive innovation in the field of aviation. Leading specialists among various branches were pooled together to research and develop highly innovative technologies. The project focused on drastic improvements instead of incremental changes. The skunkworks project has a top-down power structure, and the project manager has complete control over the project.
3M: Employees can pursue a career in innovative companies because they provide forums to submit their innovative ideas. Innovative companies encourage their employees to give out of the box suggestions. Using the collective intelligence of its employees, 3M has become the top innovative company.
"Crafting the secret innovation sauce for your business"
The secret sauce is not so much about being secret, but rather creating the right balance of ingredients. As I see it, the key ingredients of a innovation are as follows …
Diversity in the team: Diversity in team members can definitely be a good thing. Having a diverse set of individuals in a team will encourage out-of-the box ideas. Moreover, effective communication and bonding among team members can improve the overall efficiency of the team.
Thinking out of the box: Borrowing from former Apple boss Steve Jobs in “Think Different,” studies show that “thinking differently” or “out of box” is more like a muscle – you can develop it over time. Most market leaders have adopted this strategy to create innovative products like the iPhone.
Setting up an innovation fund: This can include earmarking an innovation fund of around 1% to 3% of revenue, along with gaining feedback (invest back) in the innovation engine to create new products, service models, automation, and designs. Collaborating with researchers and startups and running pilot projects can also prove to be valuable here. Research and development must be seen as investment to maximize its growth in the long term. The companies that remain at the top keep continued innovation at the core of their marketing strategy. They keep improving products regularly and aim to give their customers the best possible product with the integration of a variety of cutting-edge technologies. This gives customers a reason to buy their new releases, which solidifies their positions as market leaders – something Nokia learnt the hard way.
Fail fast: This is the best advice that can be given to an entrepreneur. Fail fast refers to small failures that lead to big successes. In most of the big corporations that we see today, a number of decisions are made where it is close to impossible to predict their long-term impacts. As long as the net outcome of all decisions is positive, you will be making progress and moving forward. The point of the “fail fast” strategy is to make small failures that will eventually guide you to that one huge success.
Jugaad or the Hack: In India, Jugaad refers to utilizing the resources at hand to get the job done. It doesn’t have to follow any set guidelines, but the project must be completed however possible. For example, Skunkworks (the division of Lockheed Martin mentioned previously) utilized smaller agile teams to harness all the resources necessary to bypass most conventional procurement and manufacturing processes.
Be Agile: Small is a new big in the startup world. Bringing agility to the workplace with smaller teams and achievable goals in the short term is a clear way to create successful services and products. It divides the big picture into a few achievable objectives and assigns small sections to different teams. It promotes collaboration between the team and enhances the overall efficiency of the workplace.
Always look at the bigger picture while starting your innovation journey. Be agile, be humble, be open to criticism, expect the unexpected, think differently, and don’t shy away from the little hacks available in your daily life. The companies that focus on providing customers a product that will indeed make their lives easier are always more likely to succeed.
Every innovation model I’ve talked about has its pros and cons and we can’t compare them directly. Furthermore, innovation models are situational and dynamic – a proper understanding is required before adopting an innovation model. Whichever model you choose on your innovation journey, do remember that there is always room to mix a little “secret sauce” of your own into it.
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