So I am sitting here at the Forrester Exeutive Strategy Forum 2005 in Boston - and was half listening to "Ginny" Rometty, an SVP of IBM Global Services - when something she said finally grabbed my attention. As you can guess - it had to do with innovation - and she was talking about a recent string of mini-conferences IBM had been holding. During these meetings, it emerged that 50% of business executives ranked Innovation as the no.1 most important business capability to growing their businesses. No real surprise there, except that the next thing she mentioned was that she'd identified 3 (yes, only 3) different ways in which you could innovate - Product Innovation, Process Innovation, and Business Model Innovation.
Those of you who have read my comments in the past will know that Imaginatik has done work in the past that has identified more than 20 different ways in which you can innovate (btw - apologies for those of you who requested that paper via the research@ e-mail, turns out the paper wasn't publicly publishable in the format we had, and I simply haven't had the time to sanitise it to be able to send it out to you!). However, it got me thinking about that paper - something I brought up whilst chairing the innovateEurope 2005 conference in London recently (which was fantastically succesful by the way - outstanding speakers, some real deep insights from some of the world's leading innovators - the conference notes and video will be available soon, and I'd strongly reccomend that those of you who were unable to attend to purchase it from the conference website (http://www.innovateeurope.com) - and pay special attention to Art Fry, Ray Buschman, Dean Bellefleur, Mauro Pennella, Ciaran McArdle - hell all of them! Just a lot of great content there!) .
During one of my mid-session blurbs (I always like to give people some discussion topics during breaks - for discussion upon the return, I thought I'd challenge people to come up with as many different types of innovation as possible. Figuring that a group of lead innovators would come up with some interesting answers, I was shocked then with the very first answer I got from the audience upon their return.
"2,192" replied Howard Smith of CSC
"2,192? Pretty exact number....why did you come up with that number?" (seeing as he wasn't carrying a sheet of paper as long as a toilet roll, I was assuming that he hadn't written them all up and counted them up...
"Because that's roughly the number of discrete business processes and functions that are used by the average business" he replied.
BINGO! The real answer is that there is no part of the modern enterprise that shouldn't be trying to innovate, to change, to improve in order to achieve some level of competitive advantage as you never know where the next real advantage is going to come from. Look at the most successful companies in the world - very few of them are still doing what they started off doing. Nokia started off in Forestry products are rubber boots - now in Telecoms. IBM started off making computers - now mostly business services. New products and new business models are just the tip of the iceberg - what about marketing innovation, launch innovation, knowledge innovation, resource innovation - and the myriad of other places that competitive advantage can come from? Innovate globally folks!