A recent report we published, written by Cass Business School highlighted the challenge many of us face: that the inability to turn ideas into new products, services and strategies, at the pace required, is putting organisations at risk of failure.
The report, entitled Innovating in the Exponential Economy, explores the gap between where ideas originate and how they are executed within businesses across EMEA. It reveals the need for a culture of greater risk-taking and experimentation, but not ‘knee-jerk’ moves, and how current incentives have led to a culture where ‘quick win’ initiatives are rewarded over more strategic ones – despite the greater potential benefit of the latter.
It also highlights that many business decisions are reversible and waiting on ideas to be fully developed before beginning to execute can be detrimental. The unpredictability and pace of change means organisations can’t wait for certainties before committing to new ideas. These ideas need to be flexible enough to change in the face of different priorities and threats – relying on experimenting and improvising, rather than fully developing an idea and then implementing it at scale.
One of the organisations looking to tackle this issue head-on is Amadeus, one of the largest IT providers for the global travel and tourism industry. Its Head of Research, Innovation and Ventures, Marion Mesnage comments on the report methodology and how her team puts the principles into action “Our approach to innovation is not just about the ‘big idea’. It is about how we can execute ideas that help our customers to create more value for their business by doing things more effectively, more creatively and more easily.”
Mesnage adds that, “An important IT development is the advent of Cloud. This technology fundamentally changes how travel providers and sellers relate to their customers.”
Some other notable takeaways from the report include:
- Executing on great ideas requires critical timing – too early or too late in pursuing emerging opportunities can be equally damaging – and maintaining strategic focus to safe-guard against ‘shiny new toy’ type distractions.
- Changing behaviours require organisations to transform their strategies and goals in ways that are aligned with the underlying values and assumptions of employees, which exist largely at an unconscious level.
- For innovation to succeed, risk taking – and sometimes failure – is unavoidable. However, many traditional risk management systems are no longer fit for purpose. Simply measuring what is most tangible – such as that invested in innovations (money and time) or the outcomes of innovations (number of new products) – can restrict innovation. Measurement should be able to change with the strategy, to ensure ideas are not disregarded before they can deliver for the business.
The report’s author, Professor Feng Li, Head of Technology and Innovation Management at Cass Business School, neatly concludes on the findings: “The shift to digital has forced organisations to think differently about how they are organised, how they bring ideas to the table and the way they deliver and measure these. The future is difficult to predict and many new ideas risk becoming obsolete before they are implemented. It is the combination of leadership, culture and technology that will turn great ideas into reality at the pace required.”