in business building, innovation

Why you will die unless you start doing this one thing

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This is a quick cautionary tale of how prioritizing the day-to-day operations and forgetting about your long-term health can cost you dearly….ultimately your life.
It’s written for Enterprise leaders and CxO’s but feel free to consider this relevant for your personal and professional life. I do.

The importance of innovation

We all know innovation is somewhat important. The question is how important? And why is it important, specifically?

Answers may be self-evident:
* Innovation is critical to developing new products
* Innovation is critical to driving down the cost
* Innovation is critical to engage new types of employees such as Generation Y
* etc.
Answers likely roll off your tongue.

STOP!

My challenge to you is contemplating the grave impact of failing to innovate. What do you think are the real, long-term consequences, as evidenced by data, of not-innovating (enough)?

How corporate leaders struggle to survive. The average lifespan of the S&P firm

Do you think companies are living longer or shorter, compared to 50 years ago?

failure to innovate

This graphic is a clear indication that: Unless you refresh yourself, continuously, you are likely to be disrupted and killed.

What #1 obstacle to enterprise innovation

With the necessity of innovation being obvious in the data, why do companies still fail to innovate at a pace necessary for them to survive the digital natives and challenge the disruptive forces?

What is your organization’s biggest obstacle to transforming in response to market change and disruption?

When asked what the biggest obstacle to transforming and innovating was, 40% of Enterprise leaders responded that it was “Performing the day-to-day decisions that essentially pay the bills, but undermine the stated strategy to change”

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Research with Executive leaders indicate that the #1 reason why enterprises fail to innovate is quite simple: The Day-to-day operations get in the way.

It’s like eating fast-food to nurture you through today’s crazy schedule, forgetting to get your rest, or spending too much time at work and loosing touch with the family. Corporate leaders forget to prioritize the Box 2 tasks….ultimately costing them dearly.

The #1 reason why innovations realized fail?

Assume enterprise leaders know the importance of innovation AND actually executive on innovation. This alone should set your company apart from the rest and guarantee success? Not necessarily.

Innovation is hard. Very hard. In fact, most innovation dies before it’s realized. Over 90% of startups fail, as do most enterprise innovation efforts.

What do you think is the #1 reason for failure, according to lots of research through the years?

The #1 reason why startups fail is that they fail to build something that people want

It’s quite easy to come up with ideas, but do customers care enough to pay for it? I don’t know about you, but I clearly remember the massive failure of Webvan, the online grocery retailer that burned through billions of dollars in less than 2 years. They built the solution. They found a mega-market (although margins were lower than they had planned for). But they failed to deliver true product-market fit, in a way that delighted customers.

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The challenge of delivering successful innovations can be summarized as follows: Finding a problem worth solving, that is big enough for the business to care, and can actually be built with the resources available.

What doing it right looks like?

These requirements manifest in:

  • Executive support,
  • KPI’s across the business
  • budgets and dedicated resources assigned to innovation
  • Nurturing of a culture of innovation, to include some level of failure acceptance

Most importantly, the process requires a Human-Centric, innovation type process, that forces the innovation resources to be:

  • customer obsessed and in touch with customers’ true needs
  • focused on running in Lean-Startup fashion, to enable you to quickly close the build-measure-learn loop
  • identifying markets that are large enough that your innovations will have material value to your business.

Conclusion

As discussed, three things are critical to successfully delivering innovation in the enterprise:
1. The CEO and Board Of Directors need to make innovation a top-priority.  

2. Leadership needs to take a long-term view and execute on innovation while still running the existing business.

3. Enterprise leaders must follow an innovation process that delivers delight for customers, that drive material impact to the business, and that is feasible and can be built with the pool of available resources. 

Innovation is hard, but it cannot be forgotten. My advice: Get started. Learn fast. Get better. Survive.