Thursday, May 17, 2012

Live from Front End of Innovation 2012: Barry Calpino on Doubling Down on Innovation

Innovation is not for the faint of heart.

You have to be able to look yourself in the mirror, and it's easy to say, but hard to do.  It requires honest, frank discussions, that actually mention the proverbial elephant in the room.  It also requires transcending the all-too-common risk-aversion in which companies mire themselves.

One of the other demons that companies need to fight is the overfull portfolio.  Rather than trying to be all things to all customers, companies need to leverage their strengths, focus on the best projects, and put big bets behind their big brands.  As Steve Jobs's advised Nike CEO Mark Parker, "Just get rid of all the crappy stuff and focus on the good stuff." (Orin's aside: see Jim Collins's take on the Hedgehog Concept).

There are two other key strategies that companies should employ:

1) Shift the emphasis to multi-year business plans that drive category growth.  Despite the apparent need for instant results, it is important to consider long-term strategies that drive brand growth across multiple years.

2) Increase resourcing and support, especially from the C-suite.  Innovation, development, and strategy require resources of all kinds, and that goes hand-and-hand with support from all of the C-level executives.

As noted, innovation requires tough conversations and hard looks in the mirror, but a solid portfolio that brings in hundreds of millions in revenue is hard to knock!


Orin C. Davis is the first person to earn a doctorate in positive psychology. His research focuses on flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring, and it spans both the workplace and daily life. He is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and a freelance consultant who helps companies maximize their human capital and become better places to work.

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