What is crucial to achieve great innovation? Well my gut instinct has always been that it must be something a long the lines of:
Open ears & eyes + insight + focus on customers + creativity + resource + flexible product development + technologies
So I did a word cloud of every article from Unilever, P&G and RB I’d read in the last five years on innovation to see if they broadly agree with my thoughts. I mean these companies should be the ones leading brand innovations with the marketing minds, resources, agencies and global networks at their disposal – so they should have plenty of valuable stuff to say on the issue. They do.
This is what I found:
What comes out loud and clear, is that more important than anything else is an attitude from the top down to be innovative.
An attitude that says the customers are at the heart of what we do.
An attitude that says we are trying to achieve something greater than sell products.
An an attitude that says we will try and grow our business by understanding people better and meeting their needs.
Are Unilever, P&G, Reckitt’s doing this? – in pockets all of them are, yes.
Unilever and P&G based on my experience more convincingly than RB right now. But do all these mega brands have the right attitude to achieve great innovation, I’d say certainly yes and that is half the battle. The right people with the right attitude right at the top.
To end with a quote from Havard Business Review from Michael Schrage:
Emphasizing heroic inventors and innovators like Henry Ford and Steve Jobs while glossing over and effectively anonymizing the individuals and institutions who made their innovations into markets distorts reality and cheats the truth.
The most important link in the innovation value chain is an innovative customer. That is, a customer ready, willing, and able to adopt, adapt — and maybe even pay for — an innovative offering. Just as you don’t have a performance without an audience, you can’t have innovation without customers.
This innovation impetus differs markedly from Eric von Hippel’s “lead users” or Geoff Moore’s “chasm crossers.” Those concepts are important but they don’t address the everyday reality and opportunity for innovation. The essential question is who are the customers that come with the problem sets and parameters that push you to rethink, or redefine, your business? Which customers and clients does your firm celebrate as innovation partners — and why?
Read his fascinating article on innovators here http://blogs.hbr.org/schrage/2010/09/do-you-have-the-right-customer.html