Just talked to a tired Jeneanne Rae who finished her Peer Insight service innovation conference. Starwood, York International, Service Masters, Siemens and other service companies were there. This is what she had to say: “People are now familiar with concepts. They understand the need for innovation. They know why prototyping is important. They get what constitutes design. The real discussion at the meeting was about something else—how to operationalize innovation. All roads of discussion led back to that place. How do you make your company into a systemic innovator? There is no common denominator out there, no shared understanding on how to do that.”
This is precisely what General Electric, Procter & Gamble and hundreds of other companies are struggling to do today. Operationalizing innovation is the central issue in the business world, and service companies industries as a group appear to other industries. And the trouble starts at the top. According to Rae “leadership is engaged to the point where they say they want it, but disengaged to the point where they provide the resources to get it. It’s hard to get $20,000 for a study. The leadership doesn’t get it enough to enable it, to make it go. There are incredibly talented, courageous people who beat their heads up against the wall because they can’t get the resources they need.”
So many CEOs and top execs appear to be only talking the talk but not walking the talk. They do the blah blah about innovation but don’t provide the juice—or leadership—to make it happen. This is fascinating, important and revealing. It explains a lot. Check out this interesting piece on innovation process that involves IDEO in CMO magazine on innovation. It starts with “Innovation may look casual. But behind every creative leap, there’s a real process at work.” Build it and new products will come.
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