It bubbles and bursting with books, reports, articles and posts around innovation and entrepreneurship. Mass Communicators are like a swarm of locusts destroyed the concept of innovation. It’s time for reclaiming the concept. Read my and Maria Sporres new and last innovation trend watch of innovation here.
Today it was officially launched that I will start up as the CEO of Sweden’s largest Apple Premium Reseller, really looking forward to that! Will be great fun. If you like, have a look at the press release (swedish).
MORE ACTION Sweden and Scandinavia is innovating with a goal-oriented leadership and open environments. That is good, but to maximize the innovation power Sweden and the Scandinavian countries need to add a little bit of MacGyver.
For some time, we have measured and evaluated a large number of companies’ and organizations’ innovation ability with a completely new concept for innovation measurement.
It has proven to be major cultural differences between regions and countries; in Sweden and the Scandinavian countries, for example, we have a goal-oriented leadership and open environments which include a lot of discussions. At the same time we are lacking a bit of MacGyver: for those of you remembering the TV series the hero who makes bombs out of bamboo sticks and some sugar, or builds a vehicle with a Swiss army knife.
Basically, business development and successful innovation work are about accomplishing activities that give something in return and ignore the others. For Lean Startups, this is made by a learning process, and for MacGyver, who in this context symbolizes entrepreneurship, by utilizing the resources at hand.
Both can be seen as role models for how companies with a minimum effort manage to drive their innovation and development to a level which really gives results.
Hurdlers and Great by Choice
According to IDEO, a world-leading innovation and design company in Palo Alto, hurdlers are one out of ten competences/personalities needed in order to drive innovation work effectively.
A hurdler is a person who can do anything out of nothing, and quickly as well. Or, to quote from Jim Collins’ new book Great by Choice, “firing bullets and then fire cannonballs once you know what’s on target”, and preferably in combination with an extreme endurance or what Jim Collins refers to as the 20 miles march.
A successful concept has been systematically and persistently working toward targets, in combination with shooting small-bore until you hit and then bring out the big guns. However, this also requires a certain kind of culture and personality.
In the measurements we have made recently, it is evident that endurance, extreme belief in oneself and having the guts to do much out of little are characteristics that distinguish winners. Characteristics which in combination with the things we are good at in Sweden, namely dialogue and goal-oriented leadership, become a fusion that really gives innovation power. Especially on the level required for rapid growth and success in a global market.
However, according to the measurements we have made, Swedish and Scandinavian companies are not culturally good at doing much with little, thinking very highly of themselves and never giving up. A call to all Swedish and Scandinavian firms: let’s find the MacGyver’s among you and give them the space they need. Set the ”Jante law” aside.
One of the very big trends right now is so-called Lean Startups, where you enter the market quickly and build with standard components. The focus is on continually learning in small rapid iterations.
Typical features are minimal costs, developing cheaply and taking help from customers and other external partners in order to develop what the market wants. This, combined with a goal-oriented leadership, collaboration in open environments, dialogue and some really effective hurdlers is a recipe worth applying and following.
An exciting example of the recipe above is Dropbox, where the founders by applying the Lean Startup methodology went from 100,000 users to 4 million users in just 15 months. Good entrepreneurs, understanding of people’s needs, a substantial drive and a present learning process have made Dropbox to a success story.
Today new companies are being started with business models and distribution channels which we have never seen before. Globalization has created a new golden age for those who help themselves, see the possibilities and are able to mobilize the right work methodology. This combined with finding the company’s inner core and exploit it fully leads to success.
What do customers really want? How do we know that we are making progress in our product development? Questions that sound familiar? Thinking “Lean” is not only for startups; any company wishing to perfect its innovation capacity could learn from the simple principles of the methodology.
The story of Ziperall – a Swedish Lean Startup
We have had the pleasure of working closely with the founders of Ziperall.com; some young entrepreneurs who went from idea to complete concept within two months, and in less than four months went from break even to selling tens of thousands of garments just in Sweden.
What is the secret? The idea? No, the product is far from unique. The secret is more likely a “MacGyver” and a structured innovation environment with good infrastructure, as well as a genuine interest and understanding of how people function and make decisions.
The company was started as a spin-off to the “DI Gazelle” winner and “A Great Place To Work” company Estate Europe. The garment has literally taken the world by storm. In this moment, a Ziperall is sold through (referring from) Facebook every minute…
How offers become almost impossible to copy
WHAT ARE YOU SELLING? By understanding what you are actually selling, you can find your unique abilities and become sustainably competitive.
Sitting on the plane home from Monaco and have just, together with some Bearing colleagues, run our innovation management program at Monaco’s business school and the MBA program of Luxury Goods.
All the big brands send their business developers to this program, and business development is what it turned into – for all of us. The trip led to reflection, and it all started with a discussion about Lady Gaga planning to pour blood and other more compromising body fluids into her new perfume.
So what am I selling?
Not long ago, an unnamed person in the Harley-Davidson’s group executive board, said that what they are actually selling is the opportunity for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through a small town and scare people.
I asked the same question to the MBA students at the Luxury Goods program, i.e. what they are actually selling. It was obvious that the question was not new to them, but it still sparked debate and discussion.
New technology has entered the scene and it is no longer about expensive products impossible for ordinary people to buy, but even more about identity, recognition, lifestyle and building your own personal, individual brand. Technology becomes a part of the luxury to express oneself and to be special.
Somewhat incisively you could call it techno-avant-gardism, in which new technologies and channels in all forms become key elements for positioning oneself.
Examples of things that we probably will see more of are shoes communicating with our mobile and giving us updates on how we move, and smart solutions on how to easily scan body measurements for custom-made deliveries of clothing, furniture, vehicles and experiences of various kinds.
This is good news in a business where you no longer can create exclusivity with the price. More and more people can afford to buy luxuries at the same time as copying has made it very difficult to justify high prices. Identical copies with a nearly equal quality will sooner or later enter the market.
Basically, it has always been about identity and positioning, and this is what the luxury goods industry is selling in the reality. The price is irrelevant to most people. There are great opportunities for innovation in this field.
How do I avoid being copied?
Perhaps you remember how IKEA was copied in China? An entire warehouse, including the dress code of the employees, was copied. What is not as simple to copy is the DNA of a company, the inner mechanism, viewpoint, leadership, culture, personalities, knowledge, skills, relations, locality, creativity and working methods.
All of these mechanisms, often called capabilities, make up the basis to create value for customers – mechanisms that are difficult to copy. This is the mother of inventions, the very fine mechanics and the source.
By asking myself questions about what I am really good at, what I am actually selling and what the customers perceive that they are buying, I can begin to innovate my business model. Then I am also able to generate values that are difficult to copy. This is also the key to success for the luxury industry.
The automotive industry is working hard on new business models, such as Toyota who is experimenting with offering a monthly car including everything. Recently, several car makers have launched ”branded” cars with luxury brands like Gucci, one of them is Fiat. That is an innovation of the customer experience.
Creating a luxurious feeling or exclusivity is not enough. Consumption as such is one of the important keys where customers are offered to take a stand, belong to a group and its values. The group must not be too large, but still large enough to be recognized.
Social Innovation and sustainable thinking is emerging, business leaders shifting focus using social and sustainable thinking sharpening their competitive advantages. Interested reading more? Have a look at our new trend watch at http://www.dfkompetens.se/trendspaning/veckans-entreprenorskap/2011-08-01_social/index.xml
Joseph Schumpeter, the guru of innovation, addressed the process of innovation with his theory of creative destruction and his definition of entrepreneurs as people who combined existing elements in new ways to create a new product or service. Social innovation is a new potential megatrend, however with roots back in the 60′s and related to strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that meet social needs such as working conditions, education, community development and health that extend and strengthen the civil society. The term is used in many ways and related to innovations such as microcredit and internet based distance learning as well as social entrepreneurship.
However, recently business people and academics started to connect the dots bring doing well together with doing business, i.e. making the cake bigger before slicing it up. An example is the Canadian center for Social Innovation who clam on their web that ‘The Centre for Social Innovation is a social enterprise with a mission to catalyze social innovation in Toronto and around the world. We believe that society is facing unprecedented economic, environmental, social and cultural challenges. We also believe that new innovations are the key to turning these challenges into opportunities to improve our communities and our planet.’ Read more at http://socialinnovation.ca/
Moreover, Michael E. Porter the Harvard University professor, also recently published paper where he explain why business leaders must focus on shared value – creating products and services that benefit not only the company but also society. Or as like to put it, make the pie bigger… Responsible and smart entrepreneurs understand to create value through actions beneficial for all. Without a working society and environment there is not much business to do. See Porter’s movie in one of my older blog posts http://www.penker.se/michael-e-porter-sends-csr-back-to-the-stoneage-now-it-is-time-for-real-entrepreneurship/
There is also a new book published on the subject, Social Innovation, Inc. by Janson Saul. It is about five strategies for driving business growth through social change. According to Janson there are five key drivers for social capitalism and capital market
- Corporations are more powerful than governments
- Consumers are more powerful than citizens
- Social issues are now business ideas
- Philanthropy has become a commodity
- The value of intangible assets is rising
Janson also point out five key path to success,
- Create revenues through submarket products and services
- Enter new markets through backdoor channels
- Build emotional bonds with customers
- Develop pipelines for talent
- Influence reverse lobbying
Another interesting trend is place management, also a kind of social innovation, focused on reinventing places, societies as well as business clusters around the globe. There will be blog posts about this exiting topic, and I can promise a lot of interesting material. The international though leader in the subject is Christer Asplund, co-writer to Philip Kottler and senior adviser at Bearing Consulting, who is also launching his new book this autumn.
Over the last year the key topics within the world of innovations has been impacted by social responsibility and sustainability aspects, which can be seen by analyzing the last 12 months of Google searching using Google Insights for Search. The top area of interest over the last 12 month has been
- business innovation
- open innovation
- innovation management
- technology innovation
- social innovation
US, Canada and KU is dominating all searches except from Open Innovation where Germany is leading. Open Innovation and Social Innovation is also the most top ranked searches, still growing, together with innovation management which also is on its way up. The global top searchers for innovation, in general, and over the last 12 month was;
- South Africa
- Hong Kong
Pretty much give an indicator of where things heating up within the area of innovation…
Last Friday we could read an interesting blog post by Scott Anthony. It was about four typical innovation pitfalls. Great article, and I like to comment upon it.
The first lie is that you can trust the feedback when asking customers, and instead go for what they do today or if they are ready to spend some money on a new idea (on an early stage). This is a very useful way of verifying the real need and according to my experience also to be combined with testing the market with different versions of the idea, of different markets and different prices will do the job even better. This is also how you build successful e-commerce solutions today.
The second lie is that you will ship in six month which do not happened often according to Scott Anthony which recommend to have a look at Scrum and go for incremental releasing. However, here I have some criticism. Many firms do actually have significant architectural issues due to this approach. Instead, put effort in building a sustainable and scalable architecture and then release increment by increment and in some cases even open up for external innovations as an accelerator of ideas and functionality. The architecture can also be released base upon a quick beta version without any forward-compatible promises and in stage two replaced with a stable long-term architecture where all old components are replaced.
The third lies it that the sales people say of course I can sell that. Could not agree more, no further comments needed.
The fourth lie is that executives are open to everything, they are not when i come to money. Always ask for a budget is Scott Anthony’s recommendation. Good point here, but I would actually give the recommendation to bring a client or customer to the meeting when the executives when presenting the idea.
It is a lot of buzz about green innovations and much talk about potential green washing. And we have seen it all before with pink washing and white washing. To understand whether green innovation is washing or not the question to ask is why it exists. To cover up? To gain short term winnings? To move the focus away from other issues? Or is it possible that it really might exist a long term market opportunity here?
Let’s start with low energy light bulbs. It reduces the consumption of energy, but it is also generating a number of new problems with ozone, dirty electricity as well as mercury. On the other hand, LED bulbs that do not have these problems, was probably invented as a result of the increased demand created by its predecessor. Moreover, it is interesting to notice how Philips, vendor of traditional low energy bulbs as well as LED bulbs, just announced that they will pump in 2 billon Euro into green innovation. Most likely due to past green success and increased demands.
Philosophically it is interesting to ask if it is ok to try to go green even if there are short term trade-offs that might even be worse than without it. Like with the case with low energy light bulbs. Or as with hybrid cars; which most likely increases the demand of green cars (now and in the future) but at the same time, considering the complete revolution and present technology, probably is worse for the environment then using the best available traditional technology.
Given above thoughts; How is it with the German stop of nuclear power. Will it, short term, create negative impact on the environment and business climate but long term impact and stimulate new innovations leading to a more sustainable society as well as a comparative advantage for a new green Germany industry? Time will tell.