| Login
Wednesday , November , 21 , 2018
You are here:  BSC Basics  >  Blog

The Institute Way Blog

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Four Things I Wish I’d Known - Part 4

By: Gail S. Perry

Innovation Isn’t Mysterious

I was so excited – I could not believe that one of my professional students had agreed to show me around his workplace. You see, he was part of a skunkworks operation for a well-known technology company. I was giddy with anticipation.  What would I see? This was going to be so cool!  I’d long been fascinated with, but intimidated by, the topic of innovation. It seemed so mysterious and confusing.  How, exactly, does it work? 

Imagine my disappointment when he greeted me in the lobby of a very boring suburban office building, took me through minimal (and very typical) sign-in at security (I was expecting a full body scan and intense interrogation), and then escorted me to his workspace – a beige cubicle in the middle of a cubicle farm.  What?! I was expecting brilliant colors, yoga balls, trampolines, solid walls of whiteboards covered in cool ideas, excited voices and maybe even some rock music. 

I looked around the silent office, everyone heads down in their own cubicles. I studied every piece of paper pinned to his cubicle wall, every book on his desk.  I even asked him to show me something he was working on and he pulled up a technical drawing.  He obviously thought I was being ridiculous to have been so excited to come and see such dull, normal-looking work.  I finally admitted that I expected something so much more exciting where ideas are being thrown about, energy is vibrant, and somehow a break-through idea is born!  I expressed my disappointment. And he explained that this is not how innovation typically works in real life.  

I’ve since studied much on this topic and innovation really boils down to some simple concepts that I wish I’d known all along. It’s “easy” to innovate if you know what it means. 

There two main categories of innovation:

Incremental Innovation – My student was working on incremental innovation, which simply means to take something that exists and make it better. We see it every day via incremental improvements in products or services.  The introduction of a new version of software to align to every-changing user needs would be an example of incremental innovation (sometimes this type of innovation is also called “sustaining innovation”).  In the government sector, an example of incremental innovation is automating services such as driver’s license renewals or Social Security applications using the Web – to use new technology to deliver mandated services more efficiently and effectively.

Disruptive Innovation – This is what I had associated the mysteries of a skunkworks operation. The truth is, all innovations are incremental: one idea combined with another idea to create something better. The term disruptive innovation applies when the resultant idea ends up disrupting the way things are done in an industry or changes consumer behavior. 

A well-known example of disruptive innovation is Uber. Uber used incremental innovation to solve a problem. Taxis are not always available when one needs a ride – especially in smaller or dispersed metro areas. People and organizations in those areas do have cars for hire (the first Uber drivers were actually taxi drivers), so that left one strategic problem to solve: how to connect the rider with the driver — how to “hail a ride” remotely. Smart phones, it turned out, were the key. Uber was born by creating an app that connects drivers with people who need rides.  Initially, it was simply incremental innovation – combining existing things in new ways. Why is Uber’s innovation now considered disruptive? Because Uber has disrupted the taxi industry by changing consumer behavior. 

Incremental innovation is a much more “manageable” process, and many large corporations, such as the skunkworks I toured, excel at it. And sometimes this process results in disruptive innovation which can become messy, unpredictable, and may even create conflicts within an organization as the breakthrough disrupts entrenched interests and ways of doing things.  This is when things get exciting.  But sadly, not in the way I had envisioned. Innovation is not so  mysterious after all.

Read Part 3 of The Four Things I Wish I’d Known here.
Print
Gail Stout Perry

Gail Stout PerryGail Stout Perry

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way. With a career spanning over 30 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, she enjoys speaking, training, and writing, sharing her experience with others. She currently is the Chief Strategy Officer and VP Americas for Corporater.

Other posts by Gail Stout Perry

Contact author Full biography

Full biography

Gail is co-author of The Institute Way. With a career spanning over 30 years of strategic planning and performance management consulting with corporate, nonprofit, and government organizations, she enjoys speaking, training, and writing to share her experience with others. She currently serves as Chief Strategy Officer & VP Americas for Corporater. www.corporater.com

Gail became interested in operations, efficiency and patterns as a toddler struggling to participate in her mother’s kitchen.

“I tried to explain to my mother how to better organize her kitchen. She was wasting motion plus the kitchen wasn’t user friendly to me, its newest user who could not reach the things I needed to be self-sufficient—so, she had to help me. Mom could have saved herself work if she’d accepted my recommendations.”

During her career in aerospace and defense, Gail developed deep experience in operations, finance/accounting, information technology, human resources, purchasing/inventory management, manufacturing, engineering design, and sales and marketing. Today she consults with Fortune 500 companies, large military commands, government agencies and nonprofits.

“My diverse experience helps me be a better consultant by bringing new ideas and solutions to my clients when I see a connection or pattern to something I’ve experienced or observed in another industry/sector. There are common denominators, operations and issues across organizations. Just last month, I heard the same operational issue from a Fortune 150 and a city municipality—two organizations that couldn’t be more different.”

With clients in diverse sectors all over the globe, Gail’s adept at quickly understanding business models and cultural norms, and creating a positive impact. Prior to joining the Institute, Gail owned and operated Perry Consulting LLC, a North Texas firm focused on providing performance improvement consulting services to the nonprofit sector. It was in this role that she first realized the transformational power of an integrated strategic balanced scorecard while working with her client, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, to improve its strategic planning, performance management, budgeting, and employee alignment processes.

“I’ve learned how to quickly absorb information and get my head around an organization, what it does, how it does it, its key processes and challenges, and learn its unique culture and language. And I have a way of explaining things that makes the seemingly complex simple.”

x

Name:
Email:
Subject:
Message:
x