As I have been working on researching what is necessary to create a successful innovation pipeline in an organization one theme has consistently been mentioned – the necessity for strong leadership. Many involved note that Leaders who drive innovation work need to be stronger leaders and have fewer deficiencies than their peers running core business segments. Because innovation work does not share the same scorecard as core businesses it is much more difficult for innovation leaders to measure their team’s performance, understand the many roadblocks to their success, and monitor the team’s emotional state.
Last month Inc. magazine ran an article titled “Why Silicon Valley Loves Failure” about how failure has moved beyond a buzzword in the land of Internet startups. The author (Eric Markowitz – @EricMarkowitz) shared the story of mid-’90s entrepreneur Kamran Elahian. Elahian had custom plates for his Ferrari F355 made with the word “Momenta.” Momenta was the name of a company that he founded in back 1989. Great, so what you say? There are thousands of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who drive around with their company’s name on the vanity plates. The interesting point was that Elahian chose the name of his previous company that had already gone bankrupt back in 1992. When ask why he chose his failed company, Elahian responded with “It’s to remind me not to be too proud. Unlike other entrepreneurs who put the names of successful companies on license plates, I decided to put my biggest failure. That way, I have to be reminded of it every time I get in the car.” He had moved beyond accepting his failure to being proud of his failures (see my post on the idea of a having a Failure Resume).
A couple of days ago I heard about another amazing example of a “child” showing us their own power of creativity to drive innovation and I thought about a recent experience playing a game with my son . A child’s ability to create a hypothesis, test, and verify process is no less than an adults and it may be improved since they are not bridled by the fear of failure. This year we have seen a couple of the most astonishing medical inventions come from work of teenagers! How do we continue to create an environment where they are able to discover, explore, and create? If their current pace of innovation continues maybe we will need to start referring to them as the MD-Generation?
Almost nine years ago I had reentered the retail business after a fourteen year hiatus. The company I joined was just beginning a zealous journey to focus on the customer. The entire organization was determined to be more “customer centric” in every decision they made. They had gone so far as to identify six demographic target profiles that they were going to cater to. The goal was to get intimately familiar with each of these customer segments so that we could offer them the “best” and most appropriate goods and services. Some of those goods and services were already available but we were not aware of which customers needed them or why. In other circumstances we needed to be more innovative and seek out or create new products or service offerings. As we sought to delight the customer, we assumed that they would reciprocate by buying more or at least more profitable goods and services.
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