In this episode of In Process: Conversations about Business in the 21st Century, hosts Evelyn Ashley and John Monahon of Trusted Counsel speak with strategist Susan Reed about innovation. Reed is the founder and CEO of EdgeDweller, which for 30 years has transformed organizations and individuals through front-end innovation practices that are powerful, practical and proven. She and the team at EdgeDweller have helped launch more than 150 products and services for 122 brands representing more than 25 industries. EdgeDweller specializes in creating high impact programs for corporations, strategic business units, nonprofits, individuals and small groups. Reed is passionately committed to driving up profitability while sustaining high growth through insightful analytics and intentional creativity.
Disruptive thinking and making it safe
According to Reed, there is a love-hate relationship about disruptive innovation. She believes the key is actually about learning how to make the planning process and the ultimate launch safe. Businesses can reduce the risks and better develop the ideas by working within the organization, or with consultants such as EdgeDweller, to better formulate those ideas and develop very incremental paths to get to the launch. Reed says, “We create those ideas but show organizations a very incremental path to get there from where they are today. So if you can prove it in step one, you move to step two. That’s the only way, until you see it through.”
In one of our most popular podcasts to date, Reed discusses how to reach innovation faster. In essence, one needs to get rid of bad innovation habits. Check out her guide for innovation don’ts to effectively speed up your innovation success.
Innovation Don’ts (according to Susan Reed):
1. Never, ever start with ideation
Starting with ideation is the least effective path to implementation of innovation. And this is very often where we start. “Really?” you ask. Unfortunately, most organizations don’t have success decision metrics in place, hence, there is no agreement on what equals true innovation if you start off with ideation. As a result, little if anything will get implemented.
2. No more one offs
As we all know, things move very quickly in this day and age. So if you believe that you can create an innovation and then give it an incremental upgrade, it’s going to be out of date before it even launches. It’s important to realize that you’ve got to have that long-term plan that requires a series of actions that need to happen behind the first innovation.
3. Forget skills-based or cross-function based teams
The idea behind this statement is that if you use these types of teams, you will only receive incremental ideas, versus real innovative ideas. These teams are working in this space daily; hence they know the rules and boundaries.
4. No more fun fest creative extravaganzas
While clearly not intentional, you are setting up your organization for failure if you don’t have a way to capture ideas and implement the really good ones that are suggested. Having an idea party or meeting will lead to frustration. You’ll end up in a worse place than you were when you started. Reed also refers to this don’t as “the rise and fall of excitement” - it is just that.
5. Never tell people that the innovation project starts with R&D or customer insights
Companies are beginning to realize this. A recent study showed that these practices are actually limiting growth and innovation. So while experts agree that organizations need R&D and customer insights, they recommend that you wait until future states are created, then use it for the feasibility of those ideas, to support them.
So are you ready to innovate or do more of it? Susan Reed recommends the following: Have a serious conversation on how you define innovation, what you’re willing to do and really understand that and communicate it very clearly to your team. Everything is based on that. When you articulate what it is you’re going to do, make sure that it’s going to work. Also remember that most initiatives don’t have a chance of working. “That’s crazy too.”
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