By Patricia Jacoby
Senior Editor, Marketing
Frost & Sullivan

Recently, Frost & Sullivan hosted a complimentary Webinar Week Series: Innovation, consisting of 30-minute daily webinars with a members-only discussion afterwards. These informative sessions were led by industry thought leaders who shared strategies and best practices of organizations taking on the very real challenges we currently face. Now more than ever, the ability to adapt to all that has and will continue to change is paramount.

Here are some of the essential take-aways from the presentations:

June 22nd – Powering Innovation with a Process Driven Gut

Richard Sear, Partner and Senior Vice President and Chief Solutions Officer, Frost & Sullivan

In parallel with the growth of the digital world, innovation is increasingly seen as a prominent driver of growth in competitive and challenging business environments. In this webinar session, Richard Sear, Partner and Senior Vice President and Chief Solutions Officer, Frost & Sullivan, leveraged over twenty-five years of experience in the field to analyze the (sometimes conflicting) results of a recent Frost & Sullivan Innovation Survey Assessment. His goal was to provide participants with insights and mechanisms that included a process-driven innovation approach; one that ensured that innovation would bring value to the organization. Richard shared that he hoped there might be two or three things stated that would inspire or spark an idea with participants, and help them determine where and how to focus innovation efforts at their own companies.

Key take-aways from the survey results and analysis included:

  • Although 72% of respondents indicated that their companies’ executives are either driving or significantly driving innovation within their industries, most companies are only keeping pace with change (not leading it)
  • 72% of respondents suggest that their companies’ executives are driving innovation in their industries, while only 47% believe the same of traditional competitors
  • When asked, “On which areas of innovation is your company focused?” business model innovation received the least attention from companies across all business models. This finding was troubling to Richard, as business model innovation is usually where the most significant and financially rewarding innovation occurs

Richard stated that he believed a “process-driven gut” is what is truly needed to drive innovation in companies. He underscored the need for a clearly defined innovation process in the enterprise, one that included assessment criteria. As stated, “You should be able to show me the process and methodology.” The innovation process should include empowerment across the organization and a platform and system for exploring new ideas and opportunities.

The Innovation Continuum and the Technology Innovation Continuum were also briefly discussed. As noted, USAA achieved a maturity level of 4 on the continuum. This was attributed to senior executives being very involved in the process, as well as the encouragement of an innovation mindset across the company, and a centralized system for both accepted and rejected innovation ideas. Not surprisingly, Google has a maturity level of 5 on the innovation continuum. This was attributed to a  hands on, dedicated innovation process, strong idea generation mechanisms (including openness to failure) organizational alignment, and CEO support and involvement in innovation overall.

When selecting innovation growth opportunities, it’s important to engage the entire enterprise to achieve the vision, especially the C-Suite, which is often focused on other things. Stage gates, collaboration and seed funding were key themes for mitigating risks. Finally, in an ideal innovation scenario, there is visionary leadership and agility supported by a framework that allows for change and evolution, and a process that supports this.

June 23rd – New Customer Problems in a Post Pandemic World: How to Identify Changing Needs and Take Action

Alex Goryachev, Managing Director/General Manager – Global Co-Innovation Network and Employee Innovation Programs, Cisco
Hayley Horn, Data Scientist, Insights & Strategy, Interstate Batteries
Hardy Simes, Innovation Product Manager, Office of the Future, HP

The global pandemic has created significant uncertainty for both consumers of solutions as well as executives. In this session, three innovation experts tackled that uncertainty, answering questions posed by Moderator Richard Sear, Partner and Senior Vice President and Chief Solutions Officer, Frost & Sullivan. Collectively, they examined the need to provide a focus on the areas that will require a “reset” and explored how that reset should be actioned. They also discussed whether end users have changed their requirements, and what to do about it.

How does innovation cope with these dramatically changing times? Responses included:

  • Innovation is to be present, listen and execute. We are rapidly prototyping and testing new solutions with our customers.
  • There is a triaging of innovation. We need to maintain the infrastructure and prioritize matters at hand.
  • Don’t get too ahead of the curve or overcorrect…it may change.
  • It’s easier to meet with customers now.

Has there been a fundamental change in consumer responses? Is there a new normal for innovation?

  • Big change in stakeholders in the enterprise; there are new stakeholders entering conversations now.
  • It’s exceptional to see more stakeholders…harder at first but maybe there will be a better product in the end. The exposure is good for innovation, which was often marginalized in the past.
  • There are accelerated responses. Per consumers, we are examining what the culture of working from home means to business and technology.
  • There is more C-level engagement…companies spinning up teams, bringing in executives.

How has the C-level engaged?  Looking for quick returns? Or focused on pre-COVID goals?

  • There are more agile conversations…less hierarchy in meetings. Also, there are now more diverse levels of people at meetings (horizontal model).
  • Executive teams are traveling less. They are asking, “What can we do now?” “What needs to change?”

Have C-suite beliefs changed because of COVID-19? Can you comment on the innovation pipeline, i.e. opportunities or clouds in the future?

  • We are re-prioritizing. The new reality breaks old ways of thinking; innovation will change forever.
  • You may need to pivot fast, so be prepared to innovate quickly.

Has the pandemic changed talent? Has it changed the innovation environment?

  • Our focus is now widening to geographically diverse employees and communities.
  • Now, everyone wants to help with innovation and there is more communication, up and down the organizational ladder.
  • Distinctions between consumer and the enterprise are changing. The overarching final question: What are we solving for?

June 24th – Generating Solutions for Long Term Success and Customer Loyalty

April Bertram, Business Development Director, IoT, GOJO Industries Inc.
Michael O’Connor, Ph.D., Director, Strategy and Project Management, Medtronic
Sharon Parsons, Associate Director, Product Design/Development, Humana

Growth is increasingly difficult to achieve and as such, solutions must be generated to be as anti-fragile as possible, leaning on data to assume a position of ongoing assessment. Solution generation must be focused on rapid incubation and testing to tease out optimizations and drive higher customer loyalty.

In this Wednesday webinar, three innovation experts discussed their successes and challenges, including how to align solution generation to success metrics and best practices in incubating solution testing in light of rapidly changing environments.

Moderator Richard Sear, Partner and Senior Vice President and Chief Solutions Officer, Frost & Sullivan, opened the webinar by referencing the need for rapid responses during the pandemic and asked the panelists to share a few recent lessons learned. The panelists shared that they had seen an increased need for agile responses, as well as the need to look outside of the organization for help. This included forming partnerships and an increased reliance on a virtual network. The need to align with existing and new partners, including universities, and in some cases even competitors, was echoed by all. Following up on the replies, Sear asked, “”Has the meaning of the word “agile” evolved during COVID-19?” “Has it helped the innovation function?” The panelists all agreed that the definition of agile had recently evolved and that they had ramped up decision making, and worked fast to move into new markets…perhaps more quickly than they had previously thought possible!

Another key take-away: remote working will continue, and companies will need to enable and become comfortable with remote productivity. One challenge will be maintaining a company culture virtually. To do so, supporting technologies like video will need to be top notch.  A 3.0 hybrid of virtual and in office working was also discussed. This will be a new, innovative model, and it was recommended that metrics be a part of the plan.

The challenge of balancing existing corporate goals with new, pandemic related customer demands was also addressed. One panelist stated that they were definitely dealing with new requests, but were also trying to stay true to previous strategies and pre-existing long term projects. Another shared that they were impressed with the leadership and evolving strategies in their organization during this trying time. Yet another added that they had seen amazing support for the company’s customers and employees too. This included acquiring masks for all employees, waiving virtual telehealth copays and even delivering meals to those in need.

Technology innovation was also covered, including the use of real-time data to help doctors and blue tooth technologies being implemented to take temperature and blood pressure. There will definitely be more virtual experience innovation that includes technological disruption. These initiatives are being accelerated. As noted, data will continue to become more critical as it leads to more informed decisions. Applications might include real-time location services that can assess building occupancy to support crowd control and cleaning protocols with the end goals of safety and health; positive and long-term solutions.

June 25th – Agile Research & Development Strategies to Drive Higher Success Rates

Paul Campbell, Former Chief Innovation Officer, W. L. Gore & Associates
Evren Eryurek, Ph.D., Director of Product Management, Google Cloud, Data Analytics, Google
Jeffrey Worsham, Global Lead, Technology & Innovation, Northrop Grumman Corporation

To understand the future of research and development (R&D) is to know the form and function of R&D in the innovation process. This session examined the way R&D must evolve, remain agile, and respond to customer needs as well as innovation efforts.

When the panelists were asked, “How do you see the role of R&D evolving in business transformation?” the first reply was threefold: 1. We need to recognize the impact of digitalization. 2. R&D should conduct active and early exploration of new markets and address company challenges in finding new markets. 3. R&D must identify where to strategically focus, and possibly partner, i.e. universities or start-ups.

Focusing on core strengths and partnering when needed was emphasized. As noted, there is a trend towards specialization. (Versus “jack of all trades”) Asking challenging questions and encouraging internal and external cross-pollination can be helpful…sometimes it’s the shackles of internal thinking that thwart innovation.

Empowering teams of all levels was also discussed. The practice of breaking into smaller groups, ideally comprised of those closest to the problem was recommended. This often accompanies an agile mindset and flexible organizational process.

When asked about the challenges of developing and maintaining a structure that supports an agile approach, the panelists stated that agility is often more difficult in large organizations. One participant noted that “forcing” smallness to break down challenges can help.

Creating extensible and configurable micro-solutions that can be pieced together and configured to make new offerings quickly without “reinventing the wheel,” simply adding a “secret sauce” at the end to make a new offering, was also discussed.

One panelist cited the global challenges he faced overseeing a 2000-person team spread over 30 sites in 30 countries and cultures. The enterprise was agile, but there was still a need to adjust the organizational mindset and allow teams to “own” small pieces of the pie, i.e. “sometimes a seven member team can get the job done!” He shared that there was an element of turning challenges into a game, as well as reinforcing connections and shoring up communication.

The discussion then turned to how to systemize team and small group empowerment and continuously engage employees. All agreed that self-organizing teams need a basic status tracking mechanism; one where colleagues and managers can see activities, progress and the status of tasks. As noted, “Don’t police, but give tools, then create a visible dashboard and go over goals.” The concept of aligning incentives with agile initiatives was also discussed. This could be a component of individual and team performance assessment.

June 26th – Best Practices for Successful Innovation Implementation

Susan Lucas-Conwell, Executive Vice President, CSIRO US
Mohan Nair, Senior Vice President, Chief Innovation Officer, Cambia Health Solutions

Written by Susan Lucas-Conwell, Executive Vice President, CSIRO US, and adapted from LinkedIn post

On June 26, 2020, Frost & Sullivan hosted a virtual discussion on Best Practices for Successful Innovation Implementation.” Panelists included Susan Lucas-Conwell, Executive Vice President of CSIRO U.S. and Mohan Nair of Cambia Health. The discussion was moderated by Richard Sear, Senior Vice President of Frost & Sullivan.

Of the many takeaways, the discussion repeatedly stressed the importance of the entire organization embracing the right mindset toward innovation. Without the CEO and C-Suite championing innovation and ‘walking the talk’ success will be elusive. Building the right internal mindset requires defining what success will look like and the KPIs used to measure progress.

Lucas-Conwell stressed that in most companies, innovation groups are often cost centers. Staying aligned to corporate strategy and the long term focus of the organization is critical. Nair stressed that the internal customer is often more important than external customers. Both panelists repeatedly emphasized the importance of culture as an enabler of success.

Not-invented-here (NIH) syndrome is a real barrier to success. Not just the CEO needs to buy-in to the innovation initiative; internal groups ranging from R&D, Engineering, and product development also need to buy-in.

The discussion turned to tools used to manage innovation efforts. CRM systems do not meet the needs and processes of innovation processes. CSIRO US uses StartGrid (https://corp.startgrid.com/) to manage contacts, connections, and sources of ideas. Nair shared that tools often come with their own processes, and both should be evaluated for fit. His organization uses idea management software, OKRs / balanced scorecards, SLACK, and video conferencing. While tools and frameworks are essential, they are just that – tools. The soft skills, internal relationships, and communications are the most important.

A question from the audience on how to build innovation into the core DNA of an organization revealed the absence of any silver bullet. Innovation inherently introduces change, transformation, and disruption to the status quo. Communication, trust-building, transparency, and making sure the innovation team has champions to support them in good and bad times are success factors that should be emphasized.

Lucas-Conwell stressed not to focus on ‘counting pennies.’ Adopting an overly managed operating focus takes one’s eye off the external landscape where small startups will rise to disrupt the market. Always look inside as well as outside.

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