Monday, March 31, 2008

The Challenge of Innovation

This post is published on behalf of Susan Casserly Griffin at Brainjuicer. You may contact her at

BrainJuicer Innovation Roundtable
BrainJuicer Innovation Roundtable

As part of our ongoing work helping companies accelerate the innovation process through insightful market research, Brain Juicer ( ) regularly facilitates round table discussions with our clients, with thought leaders and general practitioners to just talk about issues that keep us up at night.

Last year we began a series of roundtables across the US and the UK between practitioners in market research, branding and new product development addressing the whole concept of the challenges to innovation and innovators themselves. We videotape these discussions, because even more than your average conference presentation, this is the unvarnished heartfelt sentiments of folks in the trenches.

The roundtable attendees may work or have worked at some of the best companies in the world, but they have seen the “inside of the sausage factory” and they know the thrill of victory and, well, the agonies of the failed product launch.

We like to share these windows into our roundtables, not because they reveal earthshattering solutions but rather that there are common truths that affect all practitioners in the broad discipline called “innovation”. And we would love to provoke more discussion, and perhaps some controversy, if that emerges!

It goes without saying that the process of innovation is not easy, and it is geometrically more difficult for large companies with huge investments in processes and brands and firmly held assumptions about consumer insights. Radical departures are inherently risky. Innovations too often seem to be happy accidents, and the process of invention is at its core a messy business, that seems to defy systemization. Big companies have a low threshold for “mess” and an even more ingrained aversion to the “f” word: failure.

So in the roundtables we have been delighted at the candor of innovation practitioners who aren’t airing the laundry as much as they are revealing the hidden frustrations that are organizational, individual and to a certain extent come with the territory of building sustainability, reliable, repeatable processes for innovation in large companies.

We would love to include others in this process of sharing experiences and hopefully making the discipline more successful (or at least less painful). And we would be interested to see how this roundtable concept could be extended to a broader group.

We welcome thoughts about the video clips as well as more food for thought.

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