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There’s No Rule of Thumb to Increasing Innovation

Posted on August 24th, 2016 by in New Materials & Applications

With Asia now being the top destination for corporate R&D spend, does the success of your business strategy require operations in this region?

While reading an article on innovation in Forbes written by Tendayi Viki, it struck me that there is as much danger in over simplification of a problem or situation as there is in not understanding it at all. We live in an increasingly complex world driven in part by product companies seeking increased growth through innovation. Guidelines, rules of thumb, or best practices can help to expeditiously provide direction, but cannot insure individual successful outcomes – particularly when it comes to innovation.

In the article, Mr. Viki argues that R&D spend is not a good indicator of how innovative a company may be, citing findings of an annual report produced for more than a decade by Strategy& following the innovation practices of companies around the world. Companies in the report recognized as top innovators are rarely the top spenders on R&D.

Another interesting finding of the report was how corporate R&D has become increasingly global with Asia now being the top destination for R&D spend followed by North America and then Europe – reversing the order of eight years previous. Strategy& attributes the change to companies wanting to be closer to their markets and to the availability of talent. So if we are looking for rules of thumb, does this mean companies should look to Asia to improve their innovation standing?

Innovation comes in many shapes and forms. Technical innovation isn’t always a market success. I once attended a conference where a former Bell Labs employee stated, “We made a ton of innovative stuff that nobody would buy.” Commercial success is certainly an indication of the value ascribed to a product by consumers, but doesn’t change the novelty of the original idea. For example, a programmable toaster might be innovative, but the added complexity is not compelling to me when preparing my favorite breakfast bread – particularly before my morning coffee. Guy Kawasaki provides some interesting insight on striking the right balance in his TEDx talk below.

Business leaders looking for a metric is confirmation that innovation is as important to the C-suite as it is to the innovators. While it may be too complex or have too many independent variables for a “rule of thumb”, understanding the experience of others such as in the Guy Kawasaki video or in the Strategy& report can help us brainstorm new ideas fueling our own innovation.

When it comes to innovation, are there any guidelines, rules of thumb, or best practices that you’ve found useful? Tell us about your quest for unconventional knowledge and what it could mean for the future of your products or companies. Share your thoughts in the comments section below and don’t forget to follow us on your favorite social media channel.

All opinions shared in this post are the author’s own.

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