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Innovation Weekly

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Innovation Weekly: Disruption, Paranoia & the Indispensable Need

Why Entrepreneurs Should Care Less About Disrupting and More About Creating

This article is a brief review of Tim O’Reilly’s latest book entitled WTF? What’s the Future and Why It’s Up to Us. It features an excerpt of Chapter 16 of the book which discusses on why entrepreneurs should shift their focus from disrupting the status quo to creating new markets and possibilities.

The excerpt explains 4 ways to achieve this: First, entrepreneurs should focus on what they value the most; no, it’s not the bottom line. Instead, Tim encourages its readers to have “big hairy audacious goals”. Secondly, entrepreneurs should create more value than they capture. This essentially means that entrepreneurs should always strive to give back more value and serve more people, instead of having self-serving goals.Thirdly, entrepreneurs should focus on the big picture and long-term outlook: what is the role of your entrepreneurial drive in making the world a better place. Fourthly, entrepreneurs should aspire to have an unwielding idealism in order to set an example to oneself and others.

Complacency or Innovation: You Decide

“Only the paranoid survive”, a quote made famous by Andrew Grove of Intel Corp. will be more fitting if changed to “only the paranoid innovate”. Complacency can happen to any businesses, particularly when business is doing well. All indicators and metrics are glowing and nothing can seem to go wrong.

This is particularly true with customer experience. Businesses tend to get complacent with their customer experience, especially when all customer-related goals have been met. But customer experience is a journey, not a destination, and to stay ahead of the competition, you need to continually innovate. Why? Because the landscape is always changing: customers change, customer needs, desires, and expectations change, and the business itself changes. As Tom Fishburne of Marketoonist says in his : “If you want to remain number one, you have to think like number two.”

4 Ways Leaders Can Get More from Their Company’s Innovation Efforts

A recent McKinsey study points out that although 84% of C-suite executives think that innovation is important for growth, only 6% of them are happy with the innovation performance of their companies. This huge gap between expectation and result is partly because that most companies regarded innovation as tertiary rather than an indispensable need.

Another reason for this gap is that innovation can be slow and difficult to measure. Unlike other conventional strategies, innovation tends to move in an S-curve, moving at a slow pace until it bursts exponentially. Thus, innovation might go against C-suites’ interests for linear and measurable growth. However, C-suite executives can follow these four recommendations in order to improve innovation performance: 1. Don’t get trapped in your P&L; 2. Focus on problems, not ideas; 3. Classify the problem before you decide on a solution; and 4. Build for the few, not the many.

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Innovation Weekly: How it Works, Post-It Notes & Slow Adoption

Data From 3.5 Million Employees Shows How Innovation Really Works

This article is based on a 5-year longitudinal study of 154 companies and over 3.5 million employees on their use of an idea management system called Spigit. The system was used for different purposes by different companies; some use it for process innovation, others for product development, and so forth.

The key finding of the research is that the higher the ideation rate (number of approved ideas by management divided by number of active users of the systems) in a company, the higher the growth and net income. This is hardly surprising, because this indicates that the company is not risk averse to new ideas, and are more likely to execute on them. However, the researchers point out, contrary to popular beliefs, that there are 4 conditions that must be met in order to sustain high ideation rate: Scale (more participants), Frequency (more ideas), Engagement (more people evaluating ideas), and Diversity (more kinds of people contributing).

What Do Post-It Notes, Amazon Drones and Gmail All Have in Common?

Post-It, Amazon drones, and Gmail may look like three seemingly unrelated products, however they are the fruits of innovation born out of the same key underpinning: intrapreneurship. What makes intrapreneurship so powerful is that the route to innovation is reversed. Whereas conventional method commands a top-down approach, intrapreneurship is a bottom-up movement.

The article goes on to explain a three-step approach on how to encourage intrapreneurship, and the importance of creating a company culture that looks beyond short-term goals, such as quarterly earnings in order for intrapreneurship to flourish which in turn will foster innovation within the organization.

The 30 Year Rule – How Long Does Innovation Take?

This article boldly claims that as a ‘rule of thumb’, major innovations generally take 30 years to catch on. Just observe the past, the author continues, and one will see a recurring pattern that this rule of thumb holds true. From Edison and his electric distribution system in 1882, to Xerox’s ‘Mother of All Demos’ in 1968, up to the first successful experiment of quantum computing by IBM in 1993. All of which took or will take roughly 30 years to be impactful.

On a side note, there are endless articles/videos explaining why sometimes ostensibly useful innovation are slow to be adopted by the general public; one good example is this video by HBR. However, not many articles attempt to draw a conclusion that it will take roughly 29-30 years for the next major innovation to have an observable impact.

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Innovation Weekly: Necessity, Market Enablement and Agility

Necessity is indeed mother of invention—regardless of resources, study shows

This article addresses a common misconception that people who live in extremely low resource environments are unable to create impactful innovation. The whole article is based on a case study research by the University of Notre Dame and Lulea University of Technology, which focuses on the concept and impact of “jugaad”—literally means “hack” in Hindi. Jugaad or “frugal innovation” is a concept prevalent in India where resources are scarce. The whole concept of jugaad relies on what the researcher called as “assertive defiance”, an unwillingness to be limited by the lack of resources, thinking, and behavior. The types of innovation that come out of these resource-scarce environment are so unique that it can only be thought out of scarcity and necessity, useful daily innovation from a natural water cooler to a gas-based water pump.

Innovation Requires Market Enablement

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum; it requires an ecosystem where competition is widespread. However, as the market segment becomes mature, key players will dominate and begin to limit the movement of their competitors. Eventually, smaller players will only end up getting acquired by market leaders. This is not ideal for innovation.

The article argues that instead of controlling the market, market leaders should enable the market, by sharing technologies (IPs) and enabling competition. In this way, they can influence the market even further, and also grow their market segments. One good example of this is the smartphone industry where more than 200,000 active patents are shared and innovation is flourishing. New market segments in IoT, AR, VR, autonomous vehicles, deep learning, and AI should also follow suit.

The Case Against Agility

This article attempts to persuade readers to be caution against agility, first-mover advantage, and minimum viable product. Agility can be good in volatile times, but may be counterproductive in complex and uncertain situations. The first-mover advantage is an outright myth; giants like Google, Amazon, and Facebook weren’t the first to market. MVP is simply not viable for high tech companies, such as GE, or Boeing.

As a conclusion, the author offers three suggestions of how we can improve the way we create products and services. Firstly, ask these two questions: “If we are wrong, how quickly can we fix this and at what cost?” and “What’s our policy for testing the core idea at each stage?”; secondly, create simple messages to make your case; and thirdly, search for the “just right” middle between speed and tardiness.

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