In short, they forgot about the competition and expanded their horizons. Etihad inspired a new way of thinking and created a new market, serving new customers with new needs. Competitors are already looking to the incremental innovation opportunities; Emirates is launching its own ‘bedroom concept’, British Airways is sprucing up first class on jets entering service next year and Air France is offering privacy curtains in their La Premiere suites. Seek out external experts. Managed poorly, innovation results in short-term, tactical, pedestrian ideas that fail to revolutionise categories and deliver long-term growth. To manage innovation well, companies need to strive for fresh thinking, visionary outlooks and imaginative foresight. Historically-biased viewpoints and firmly entrenched inward perspectives all limit a company’s ability to seek out non-traditional, transformational innovations. Companies don’t suffer from a shortage of data. In fact, it’s the very opposite; the challenge is how to translate that data into real insights that spark change. Bringing in industry or technology specialists, bloggers, commentators and observers, academics, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and consultants is vital to challenge beliefs and help companies to do things differently. Without an outside spark to ignite fresh thinking, companies will consistently fail to tap into the holy grail of truly transformational innovations. These are just some of the challenges we all face when trying to be truly innovative. All of them are issues we identified after many years working on innovation projects.
We recently worked with a well-known software company, they were two thirds of the way through a new product development programme but progress had stalled, with the above reasons all playing their part in this malaise. We were tasked with reigniting the programme.
Firstly we helped them better understand the original insight that was driving the new product development and more so clarify from a user perspective the product enhancements that resonated with their customers. The focus then moved on to implementation, we drew up a road map, work streams were developed and responsibility allocated with champions identified to drive individual streams. Knowledge dissemination became the final piece of the jigsaw. To be successful work streams require key data and insights to enable them to deliver against their objectives. Developers need information to direct their work, strategy teams need key facts and figures and the communication teams need to understand what the key messages are around the new product. A period of data analysis was needed, key information extracted and presented to each team (often via workshop) in a clear and engaging way. Everyone now understood their role and responsibilities, each team was armed with the right information. With our help the new product got to market on time and it was indeed a success, but it could have been so much easier.