MT Masterclass - innovation

What is it? There's nothing new about innovation. Adam's fig-leaf, the wheel and man-made fire were all historically significant examples of it. In business, innovation has long been regarded as a silver bullet, an essential step to beating the competition and winning market share.

Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

But often, businesses have been managed almost as if to stamp out the potential for new ideas. No wonder Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, in their classic work In Search of Excellence, described the action required before innovation can take place as: 'Ready, Fire, Aim.' 

Where did it come from? It is human nature to innovate. Experimentation, trying and failing, is how progress has always been made. We have an irresistible urge to discover the new new thing for fear of being left behind. Business leaders are not the only people to exploit this. Tony Blair didn't storm to power at the head of something called Same Old Labour.

Where's it going? The bursting of the bubble and the end of the subversive new economy have done little to calm businesses' appetite for innovation. It's hot. The Work Foundation's recent report on high-performance organisations highlighted creativity/innovation as one of the five key pillars of success. It's receiving academic attention too.

In his books The Innovator's Dilemma and The Innovator's Solution, Harvard's Clayton Christensen identifies 'disruptive' or 'sustaining' innovations that shake up or develop the market for specific goods and services. All through the value chain are areas where more money could be made with innovative solutions. The message is: look for products and markets where complacent incumbents are failing to innovate successfully. And disrupt them before someone comes along to disrupt you.

Fad quotient (out of 10) Eight and rising.

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