My new world frequently involves me in situations and events I haven’t experienced before. Actually, more than that – situations I never would have ever predicted I would be involved in. This last week I was invited to attend an internal Global Marketing Meeting and hand chance to participate in a session on segmentation and targeting. It was highly engaging. Very thought provoking. And a great opportunity to meet with many new colleagues in person.
There was lots of discussion about ‘iWords’. And not iPhones or iPads! Innovation was one ‘iWord’. A great word for a marketing organization to think about. In fact a great word for any organization to think about.
Some years ago I was invited to participate in a workshop on‘Managing Innovation’. I was sceptical. Not about attending a training course – I am a firm believer in the benefits (personal and organizational) of being trained. Learning and practicing how to do anything better or quicker or both is only ever a very good investment of my time. But Managing Innovation. Really? I wasn’t even convinced we knew what Innovation really was…let alone how we could be trained to manage it.
Innovation = Ideas + Plans. These were the first three words on the first slide on the first morning. I was hooked. I couldn’t believe it. Such a simple and yet accurate definition of a word used by so many of us in so many situations with so many implied meanings.
The beauty of this definition was how it positioned innovation as being all about impact. Innovation is not simply coming up with ideas. Innovation has to have associated plans to put those ideas into action. It is only when the idea is implemented that we get innovation. A list of ideas is just that – a list.
During the workshop we worked on methods to encourage idea generation. But we also spent time on how ideas can be developed, assessed and ranked in terms of implementation and potential impact. For example, an amazing idea that will take 5-10 years to implement is of less value than a good idea that can be implemented in 5-10 weeks.
I also realised why groups are so often important when it comes to innovation. Some people are naturally good at coming up with ideas when presented with any challenge or opportunity. Others are more skilled at shaping, or assessing or ranking. And yet more excel at development of viable implementation plans. A great team has all of these skills embedded. A good Manager of Innovation will ensure that any team has representation of all these skills.
The intriguing aspect of this model for innovation (and the reason I thought about it again at last week’s Marketing Meeting) is that the developing, assessing and ranking is – arguably – the most important component. We never really know how impactful, or valuable any idea will be until it has been implemented and made available. This is the moment of judgement. Will it work and achieve what we want or need? Will it sell? Will anyone want it, or want to use it? Successful implementation of an (apparently good) idea that does not meet a need is not innovation.
So the decision on which idea + plan to implement (or which to put on hold) is of pivotal importance to any organization. We can’t do everything. We have to make decisions. We need to be right.
Marketing then, is so important since target user data should always guide what we do. But once we do it – we need marketers to have great ideas + plans about how we promote what we have.