At last week’s Women of Innovation awards, the keynote speaker was Dr Gina Colarelli O’Connor, Associate Professor of Marketing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management & Technology. Dr. O’Connor talked about some work she had done over the years to study how innovation happens. She spoke about fostering an environment of continual innovation.
She is an author of Radical Innovation: How Mature Firms Can Outsmart Upstarts and Grabbling Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation and is part of a research group that studied innovative product development at more than 30 companies over a
10 year period. What she found became the basis for the two books. She talked about 3 major areas of innovation.
The first is Discovery: allowing someone to think about something differently, explore options, fail, try again, and look for a new way. Is your company empowering that?
The second phase she referred to was Incubation. Once the seed of an idea has been planted, is it given rich, fertile ground in which to grow? There’s a incubation period that is needed to let the idea marinate and grow and develop and expand and contract, often times businesses are so eager to bring something to market, that they don’t look at the full marketing potential or application that some piece of innovation can bring to something that is outside of the current scope of services or core competencies.
The third area, Acceleration, has to do with quickly being able to monetize something, to make it large enough and impactful enough to make a difference in the marketplace. Resources are needed to make this happen, and she talked about companies who excel at innovation and deal with all 3 of those aspects.
She also talked about the senior management skills need for each of those phases of innovation, and how certain skills are needed in Discovery that may not be needed for Acceleration and what is needed during the Incubation phase would be different from the other 2 phases.
It’s an interesting look at innovation and how it is fostered in companies. It made me wonder about other companies. The audience tonight was a highly technical innovative audience. Those attending have full-time jobs engaged entirely in discovering something new, bringing to market something innovative, something different. That may not be your full-time job, but how do you instill those qualities of innovation into your company every day? Do you foster an environment that encourages discovery? If someone does have a good idea, do you nurture that idea? Do you allow it to incubate? And are you making resources available for good ideas to come to market in strong, impactful ways?