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The business world is awash in ideas for new products, services, and business models. Thanks to creative ideation approaches such as design thinking and crowdsourcing, it has become incredibly easy and relatively inexpensive for companies to obtain a vast number of novel concepts, from both insiders and outsiders such as customers, designers, and scientists. Yet many organizations still struggle to identify and capture big opportunities. Some companies build their entire business based known dots. This we know as status quo: business as usual.

Why is this the case? Clayton Christensen, of disruptive innovation fame, and W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, the inventors of “blue ocean strategy,” have shown that big changes in society and technology fundamentally challenge the conventional understanding of what is valuable. Those changes render obsolete whatever criteria companies are using to identify customer problems they could address. To see which ideas truly have potential, managers need new assessment criteria.

Innovation survival is highly related to change management hence the disadvantages of innovation are relatively the same as the disadvantages of change. One has to get to grips with the paradigm shift, which takes effort and time, and then comes the associated dangers with change, untested effects, long term effects in particular can be a majorly dangerous aspect of innovation. The fact that it invalidates a previous system, there's often some wastage of infrastructure, both human and material, which was invested in the previous system. Finally people are resistance to change and innovation in general.

Despite all these issues, innovation has becoming more famous in South East Asia however the leaders are still America and few countries of Europe. 

Captured from Google Trends

The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge, a great book on this topic explains getting to the summit of innovating can seem like the fulfillment of a dream, but it is not enough. After the summit comes the other side of innovation— the challenges beyond the idea. Execution. Like Rainier, it is the other side of the adventure that is actually more difficult. It is the other side that holds hidden dangers. But because the summit itself has such strong appeal, the other side is usually an afterthought. It is humdrum. It is behind the scenes. It is dirty work. But without execution, Big Ideas go nowhere.

innovation = idea + execution

At VietnamWorks and TechLooper we always believed in this formula however a bit more expanded, our innovation formula is consist of:

innovation = idea + leaders + team + plan

Indeed, innovation = idea + leader is really just half of a model. Because of the dominance of this half-model, most companies vastly overproduce ideas and do better than necessary at selecting leaders. But they struggle mightily with organizing and planning. Without careful and distinct models for each, most innovation initiatives are dead from day one. The fundamental prescription at VietnamWorks is that every innovation initiative needs a special kind of team and plan. Specifically: Each innovation initiative requires a team with a custom organizational model and a plan that is revised only through a rigorous learning process.

After 5 years of hands on day-to-day practice of building innovation culture in Asia and 3 years in Vietnam at service of VietnamWorks, I have learned following lessons:

  • Executives are demanding innovation however they are not aware of the other side of innovation hence before taking any initiatives on innovation better to inform the executives with other side of innovation
  • Innovating has fundamental incompatibility with ongoing operations.
  • HR processes on building innovation culture are not well defined and it is lacking significantly and it has fundamental incompatibility with innovation such as annual performance reviews
  • Innovating in most of companies are perceived as having an idea and take it to market without any planning and having the right foundation at organization to back up the innovation and its vast failures (the other side of innovation)
  • Organizations are lack of a role or a leader who is supervising the execution (execution =  leader + team + planning) meaning initiating the process, collaborate and communicate with ongoing operations, learning process and envision the endgame. 

I have been also experienced some cultural impediments on building innovation culture such as:

  • Avoid risk – do not fail. Failure is not an option. Most of organizations do not welcome failing and failures, even HR processes are designed to punish the failures.
  • Organizations are solely focus on financial growth. There is lack of KPIs and target on non-financial efforts such as NPS or Customer Effort Score, employee retention strategies, growth strategies, partnerships, employee engagement approaches and so on.
  • Most of organizations think R&D is the innovation team which is a very wrong and dangerous assumption. Innovation is not a cost center in fact it must be revenue center and generate revenue and help the ongoing operations.
  • In many firms, employees are told to "go innovate," yet are not given the tools and resources needed to succeed.
  • Innovations tend to be born with collaborations among different groups and people working closely together.   Such an environment stimulates idea generations and productive teamwork. In most Asian organizations, there tends to be a culture of territory building and silo’s.
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