One management concept being embraced in the corporate world now is innovative management. It is all about being creative to be able to stay ahead of competition. In short, growth, which is a sign of profitability and which also leads to profitability and sustainability, can only be effectively driven through innovation. Therefore, this text is very relevant to corporate growth.
“Driving Growth through Innovation” is written by Robert Tucker, president of The Innovation Resource, a consulting firm based in Santa Barbara, California. Tucker is a keynote speaker that is in high demand. A former adjunct professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, this author advises a lot international organisations on innovation strategy.
He says only companies that can consistently bring imaginative, value-added new products, services and value propositions to the market will survive and grow in a rapidly-changing economy. Tucker adds that yet, most companies today are frustrated by their inability to turn ideas into profitable realities. He stresses that their “innovation process” is almost an oxymoron. Tucker says in reality, “innovation process” is ad hoc, piecemeal, seat-of-the-pants and heavily reliant on happy accidents.
He educates that this is decidedly not the case at a small but rapidly-growing group of companies. This author illuminates that this is why in this text, he is taking you behind the scenes inside 23 Innovation Vanguard Companies to benchmark how they have revamped their innovation approach for growth, profit and competitive advantage.
According to Tucker, this text does not just describe their leading edge methods, but also shows you step-by-step, how to map out and implement your own 21st century innovation blueprint that will enable you to win new customers, grow revenue and sustain the momentum.
He assures that you will learn how to design and implement an enterprise-wide innovation strategy in your organisation; gain the competitive edge by discovering and fulfilling unmet customer needs; create a system to ensure good ideas do not get lost and discover product, process and strategy ideas that have the potential to become breakthroughs. The author adds that you will also learn how sell ideas internally and externally; overcome obstacles to achieve success in the marketplace; and involve everyone in the idea-to-implementation process.
The text contains ten chapters. Chapter one is thematically christened “21st century innovation”. Here, Tucker says there is an unmistakable feeling of excitement in the air in companies that are growing. He adds that people move about with a palpable sense of purpose. According to Tucker, the smiles are brighter, the handshakes firmer. Peer in on meetings and you see unbridled enthusiasm and passion, he expatiates.
Tucker says no wonder that growth in revenue and net earnings begets many wonderful, positive things to companies and their people. In his words, “Growth brings prosperity: higher salaries and bonuses and stock options and fringe benefits for employees and managers, and dividends and rising value to investors.”
He stresses that growth brings admiration and respect from peers and competitors in your industry, from the business media, suppliers and stakeholders. Tucker asserts that it means ability to give back to the communities in which the company operates. The author stresses that growth also means freedom from the frustration and agony of having to make difficult choices, of cutting staff, of watching credit ratings be downgraded, of painful pay cuts. It means you control your destiny, he adds.
Tucker educates that the vast majority of firms today are growing, but the problem is that they are not growing fast enough to keep up with today’s shareholder values, not tomorrow’s shareholder expectations. He stresses that higher rates of growth may be desired, but they certainly are not common.
Chapter two has the subject matter of leading innovation. This author admits that today’s leaders face a quandary because they must innovate, lest tomorrow the cupboard of new growth opportunities will be found empty. He adds that they (the leaders) also know that time is short, especially for the CEOs. While executive compensation has zoomed upwards in recent years, so too have stakeholder expectations, says Tucker. To corroborate his assertion, he quotes “Business Week” thus: “What is striking is not just the number of CEOs getting the boot but how little time they were allowed to prove themselves.”
Unless the CEO is able to raise the company’s stock price in the near term, he well realises that he may not be around to see the pay-off from projects that are in the development stages right now, Tucker says.
According to him, this preoccupation with short-term results has led to rampant cost-cutting, asset manipulation and ill-advised acquisitions. He says nevertheless, there is a growing realisation among boards of directors, Wall Street analysts and senior management teams that innovation must be a continuing priority regardless of who sits in the CEO’s chair. Tucker asserts that visionary leaders often go against great odds to sell customers on their ideas and win marketplace acceptance.
Chapter three is conceptually labelled “Creating the culture”. In the words of the author, “Changing a company’s culture is never easy. Yet the good news, based on our study of Innovation Vanguard companies, is that with the right leadership, cultures can be reshaped and amazing results can accrue…Culture refers to an organisation’s values, beliefs, and behaviours. It is transmitted through subtle cues, through employees sharing their interpretations of events, and largely through the behaviours and attitudes of leaders that signal what is expected.”
He explains that if an organisation values playing it safe, risk-taking is inherently discouraged. Tucker says if it values cohesion, loyalty to the company way, comformity, and blind obedience to authority, then it devalues their opposites. The author expatiates that if it hires people that comfortably “go along to get along”, then it devalues those who are inclined to challenge rules and boundaries. Tucker educates that if a culture is “cut-throat, competitive, and secretive, as the once high-flying Enron has been described after its collapse, it cannot be also humane, collegial, or open as well”.
He submits that a company’s culture may or may not be conducive to promoting innovation, adding that its reward system may be at odds with encouraging people to want to try something that may not work.
Tucker says it is easy for leaders to say to employees, “We want you to take risks, we want creative ideas bubbling forth, we want you to think outside that box, oh, and we also want you to make your numbers, and we don’t want failure.” He adds that the message that gets translated to the farther reaches of the organisation may be “make your numbers and we don’t want failure”.
In chapters four to six, he examines concepts such as empowering the idea management process; mining the future; and fortifying the idea factory.
Chapter seven focuses on the subject matter of producing powerful products. Tucker says in a recent year, consumer-products makers churned out more than 31,000 new products in the United States alone, including multiple varieties of everything from tomato to garbage bags. He adds that only few of these products will survive, and fewer yet will succeed.
According to the author, the most optimistic estimate is that only one in five launches will succeed; the most pessimistic, one out of 671. Tucker says many failures result from miscalculations about what customers need. The author stresses that the product is developed for all the wrong reasons and it was the CEO’s pet project. As he puts it, “The engineers fell in love with the ‘really neat’ technology and assumed buyers would too. Among the more egregious examples: Nestea’s Tea Whiz, a yellowish carbonated beverage…Ben-Gay Aspirin…..”
In chapters eight to ten, Tucker beams his analytical searchlight on concepts such as generating growth strategies; selling new ideas; and taking action in your firm.
This text is okay in terms of presentation. In short, effective communication is one of the stylistic strengths of the text. This is achieved through brilliant use of language marked by good diction and accurate punctuation. There is also logical presentation of ideas articulated in the text. Tucker makes generous use of quotes, at the beginnings of the chapters, to achieve conceptual reinforcement. He also uses quoted expressions (e.g. pages 72 to 75) to lend authenticity to his discourse.
However, one grammatical error is noticed. This is “… of watching credit ratings be downgraded…” (page 14) instead of “… of watching credit ratings being downgraded…”
Generally, this text is a treasury of brilliant innovative ideas for achieving growth. If competitors are edging you out of business, you do not need to seek spiritual intervention at the Bar Beach, Lagos, Nigeria here. With a copy of this text, you have an enduring solution to your predicament.
GOKE ILESANMI, Editor-in-Chief/CEO of http://www.gokeilesanmi.com and Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is a Certified Public Speaker/Emcee, (Business) Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker, Career Management Coach, Renowned Book Reviewer, Corporate Leadership Expert and Editorial Consultant.
For business discussion, reach him on +234(0)8055068773; +234(0)8056030424
Email: [email protected]; [email protected]