Abusing Innovation

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I came across this recent article / nomination (http://www.forbes.com/special-features/innovative-companies.html) from Forbes for the world’s most innovative companies. As an Indian I am happy and proud when my country and countrymen win accolades globally. But I begin to cringe when these accolades are undeserving. The first thought that came to my mind is that the journalistic standards (of the concerned publication) and ethics are so low and any data they publish is so unreliable, and therefore not worth trusting anymore. I continued to look at their site and it reinforced my perspectives further when I noticed that they failed to distinguish the Innovator from the leader of an Innovative company (where people innovate and a leader leads and is not necessarily an innovator themselves). It is an absolute travesty that we have come to rely on the trade news and the ratings published by agencies like these and often quote them in our commercial transactions.
Defining Innovation
Innovation by definition is about “measurably” reaching customers and / or consumers with new products, processes and / or services offerings that drive measurable Customer Value (as in growth in the customer / consumer’s business and improve thereby contribute to the increased quality of life). It means acting radically / dramatically different that allows the innovative company and consequently their customers and consumers become game changers in their respective industry segments. The most critical thing about real innovation is that, it has to become a habit and a continuous process, not just a flash in the pan. With these criteria for qualification I have to doubt the innovative nature of the above company in question, leave along being listed among leading global innovators. There is no doubt that they are commercially successful; that doesn’t mean they have contributed to someone else’s growth. Another Indian manufacturing company has also been named ahead on that list in the ninth position; but I am not talking about them because I am less qualified to address from experience an industry space as closely as I have the Information Technology & Software Services space.
The Angst
The muscle of these big commercial companies denies and stifles opportunities for the genuine innovators within these companies and outside in the society as well. Funds and ecosystems are not available for the truly innovative ideas and concepts to flourish and make a difference to life because it hurts the commercial interests of these big brothers; who have a quarter on quarter financial performance to account for. The disruption caused by innovation is something that most of these big companies named have a way of managing with their regular business as a process. The consequences are faced by every single citizen in society as we see the bear and the bull runs of markets based on sentiments driven by marketing and public relations as opposed to capabilities driven by Invention, Innovation and Improvisation.
Truth about Innovation
The basis of innovation is putting the Customer and Consumer Value First. Commercial Success is necessary as a residue of that Value. Innovation is not Marketing Clutter but the very Foundation of Truth. When Steve Jobs wrote that “Selling a Concept is more important than selling a Product”, I am sure this is what he meant. The Ipods and the Ipads and the Iphones will evolve but customers must get accustomed to the foundational convergence of Computing, Content and Communications which engines these devices and wherein the innovation lies at Apple. Without a virtual catalog or an ecosystem of apps developers, the products of Apple are nothing.

About Subbu Iyer

Subbu Iyer is an Innovation & Transformation Leader as with 28 years of serving customers globally. He is currently the Chief Designer & Transformer at Energizing Innovation, an enterprise that is being founded to facilitate continuous growth in enterprises and as a consequence create societal wealth. The Radical Shift that this enterprise intends to employ is focusing on the Potential rather than the Performance of a business. He has been a serial entrepreneur and an intrapreneur in his past life, having founded Nihilent Technologies and Nandaki Systems besides being associated in senior leadership roles with firms such as Coopers & Lybrand, Cambridge Technology Partners, Tata Consultancy Services, Wipro Technologies and Steria.
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One Response to Abusing Innovation

  1. chait80 says:

    Totally agree. As a rule, I don’t take any generic rankings across industries/countries seriously! Having done a short stint in equity research, I know how much effort, time and cost it takes to research just one industry. Now, if a publication claims it has done research on all companies, all segments(large-cap, mid-cap etc), all industries, and all countries, it is a pure scam. As a reader, in order to take any rankings seriously, I would like to see a disclosure on the resources deployed for the study – budget, people, and their qualifications. The financial woes that print media is in(ironically due to lack of innovation) calls into question the resources it can pull in. Having advertising relationships with companies, further hinders it’s independance.
    Talking about innovation, being an ex-infocion, I feel that Infosys is a well-managed company. But, Infosys is so far away from being innovative that I dont think it can ever become a innovative company. Maybe, Infosys was innovative in 80s and early 90s, but lost its way. First rule for innovative company is that it takes risky game-changing bets. As far as I remember, Infosys has not taken a single risky bet(it has a safe and steady risk-less business model). It is sitting on piles of cash not knowing where to deploy them. Furthermore, Infosys Consulting, one of its talked-about endeavours, was not a success and had to be re-orged. Among Indian IT services biggies, I feel CTS has the most innovative leadership.

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