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The Role of Innovation in Acceleration

by: David Ricketts

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Understanding the Role of Innovation in Business Acceleration

Growth in any organization is dependent upon the ability to innovate. Innovative companies boast 10 times higher return on R&D and 2.5 times higher sales, for instance, than their non-innovative competitors. Despite that fact, however, less than half of all companies achieve their innovation goals and benchmarks. But if innovation is so vital to success and sustainability, why is it so elusive and conspicuously absent in today’s corporations?

Part of the reason is that while innovation is a popular buzzword, it is not easily defined or understood. For many, innovation is a totally subjective term and a concept that they have no idea how to actually measure, quantify, or implement as a practical objective or business strategy. But if you have no idea what you’re trying to accomplish you’re doomed to fail. So to place it on firmer ground and make it more concrete, I define innovation as “the continual creation of new value.”

The Essential Ingredients of Innovation

Innovation’s three primary components are 1) value, 2) creation, and 3) continuous process. Top innovators continually seek new value while simultaneously developing the skills and processes to create new technological solutions to capture that value.

The game-changing iPod, for example, integrated existing technology (portable MP3 players) with a more user-friendly and robust interface and access to music. Similarly, innovation may take the form of a completely new technology – which is what happened when Kevlar used in bulletproof vests was invented.

Both the iPod and Kevlar created new value. The Apple product did it by understanding value in negative space, namely seeing unknown needs and wants and proactively fulfilling them – effectively carving out a new market. Meanwhile, Kevlar capitalized upon the known value of an existing urgent need by offering a viable (and potentially lifesaving) solution.

The Key to Innovation Acceleration

How do you become an agent of innovation acceleration? You must uncover and solve high-impact problems. In terms of MR-heads for disc drives, for example, the key problem was the read sensitivity of existing heads which limited recording density performance. Thanks to a proactive, solution-based approach, IBM capitalized on a rare and exceptionally lucrative opportunity to accelerate. As a result, IBM is the only company that has survived four decades of fierce disc drive industry competition.

My work focuses on understanding how to identify these keystone challenges in order to uncover untapped and unseen value in the market. After all, innovative problem-solving is the goldmine of the 21st century. Isolate problems others have not yet spotted on their radar. Offer forward-thinking, innovative answers and solutions. You and your organization will grow by sustainably scalable and profitable leaps and bounds and surpass all competitors by not just reentering the market but reinventing it as the innovation accelerators within your field.

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