Thursday, November 20, 2014

Reading :: Innovation Prowess

Innovation Prowess: Leadership Strategies for Accelerating Growth
By George S. Day

When I began reading this slim (107pp) book, I was initially unimpressed. The book is about how to accelerate your firm's organic growth rate, specifically by increasing the "innovation prowess" in your firm. But as I read the rest of the book, I realized how much valuable thinking was packed into this slim little volume.

"Innovation prowess is gained by combining strategic discipline in growth-seeking activities with an organizational ability to achieve the aspirations and intentions of the growth strategy," Day explains. Together, these allow a firm to grow faster and sustain growth more successfully. And they are sustained by three reinforcing elements:

  1. An innovation culture that encourages risk taking and exploration;
  2. The capabilities exercised through innovation processes for acquiring deep market insights, mastering the supporting technologies, and carrying out innovation activities better than their rivals; and
  3. A configuration of the organization and incentives that support and encourage growth-seeking behavior. (p.7)
Day depicts innovation prowess as a process that involves 1. setting the growth strategy, 2. expanding the search for growth opportunities, and 3. converging on the best opportunities—each of which involves feedback loops (p.11). 

To achieve innovation prowess, he says, "the management team has to agree on their beliefs and assumptions" (p.17) and avoid letting "small-i" innovation replace "BIG-I" Innovation in their firm (p.18). He provides several figures to help us conceptualize the feedback loops involved. For instance, figure 1-5 suggests how to integrate inside-out and outside-in thinking to ideate based on changing constraints (p.26). Figure 1-6 illustrates a continuum between inorganic growth ("buy") and organic growth ("build") (p.29), mapping growth mechanisms such as closed innovation, open innovation, internal incubators, external ventures, and mergers & acquisitions. Figure 2-1 illustrates 14 growth pathways, categorized as related to the value proposition (customers, offerings, value profile) or the business model (value-creating systems, value-capturing systems) (p.39). Figure 2-3 illustrates customer experience mapping (p.48)—perhaps the most useful illustration in the book. Figure 4-1 describes three organizational elements of innovation ability: capabilities, configuration, and culture (p.81). 

In each of these figures, Day helps us to conceptualize and categorize aspects of the firm that can lead to an innovation culture. The result is a well-developed, well-explained overview with great practical value. If you're interested in innovations, innovation culture, or value propositions, take a look.

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