Do your people go into the kitchen … or do they go home?
When Kat Cole, a waiter at a local Hooters, learned there were not enough cooks that day to serve food, she watched as other waiters hung up their aprons. No food to cook means no food to serve, they figured.
We usually get it wrong. When trying to predict the path of innovations – which ones are hype, which ones are real, which ones will take hold, and which ones will fall out of favor – our record, as humans, is poor. We think this is because, in the study of innovation, people overlook a critical factor.
In my first article of this series on strategic openings, I covered three of the seven strategies successful companies used to create disruptive innovations that set them apart from the competition.
In chess, successful players know that a strong opening can give them the advantage to win the game. In fact, studies have shown that Grandmaster chess players often draw on something entirely “un-logical” from their playbook to create an unexpected opening. This is what gives them an early competitive edge over their opponent.
General Electric just announced it is selling off GE Digital, the much-hyped software business based in California and a keystone in GE’s strategy to transform itself from an unfocused conglomerate (in financial services and media) into a digital player that would usher in the next industrial era, creating the “industrial internet of things.”
I started my career in the 90s, as an external management consultant who worked on the business process reengineering aspects of large systems integrations. Our clients would spend millions of dollars reengineering the organization, but they often did not implement the changes. My personal experience reflected what research indicated: 80% of change projects fail.
In a sun-filled boardroom overlooking lower Manhattan, I was sitting with a group of chief strategy officers for part of our Outthinker Roundtable discussion. Professor George Day, leading expert on innovation and marketing, and faculty member at Wharton Business School, shared a concept about disruption that has been infecting my thoughts ever since.
US corporations invest more than $350 billion a year on innovation through R&D efforts. So it’s easy to assume that such formal efforts propel innovation more than any other factor.
Debbie Brackeen was in the “innovation” business before it was even called “innovation.” After completing her undergrad at Stanford University, she found herself in the heart of Silicon Valley. She spent her first years at Apple followed by stints at a variety of high-tech companies from HP to venture-baked start-ups. Today she is the chief strategy and innovation officer at CSAA Insurance Group, one of the largest AAA insurers in the world.
The 150+ internal innovators I’ve interviewed over recent years all have precisely one thing in common. This thing they share is not any of the traits we typically associate with successful innovators: not creativity, customer insight, or influence; not technical knowledge, team leadership skills, or marketing prowess.
No … the one thing they share is this: persistence. They don’t give up.