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Beyond The Idea - Book Review

1 January 2014

Dr. Moria Levy

The book "Beyond The Idea: How to Execute Innovation in Any Organization" was authored by Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble in 2013. The title indicates its primary focus: not a comprehensive exploration of various aspects of innovation but a concentration on the implementation phase—precisely, how to execute existing ideas within organizations.


The book delves into the following key topics:

  • Introduction

  • Innovation Models

    - Small S-Innovation Model

    - R-Repeat Innovation Model

    - C-Significant Innovation Model

  • Team Building

  • Create Your Plan

  • Summary


Written in a clear and well-organized manner, the book is easily digestible. It is apparent that the authors are actively engaged in the field and profoundly understand the subject matter. It is highly recommended!


Introduction

The book opens with a quote from Thomas Edison: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration." Staying true to this sentiment, the book doesn't center around the development of ideas but rather on their realization in organizations. The foundational premise is that organizations geared toward maximizing productivity inadvertently hinder innovation. Productive organizations aim for utmost repetition and predictability in every process, qualities that clash with innovation's unconventional and unpredictable nature.


In a slightly innovative definition, the authors characterize innovation as any project new to the organization with unexpected income. The subsequent chapters elaborate on effectively managing such projects, presenting three distinct models tailored to a specific type of innovation. Identifying the right innovation type is crucial, as implementing an inappropriate model jeopardizes success. The recommendation for organizations, particularly non-start-ups, is to incorporate all three models whenever possible, recognizing each simultaneously applied's unique importance and potency.


The outlined models are:

  • S-SMALL model for small-scale and limited innovation

  • R-Repeatable model for repetitive innovation (e.g., a company consistently innovating cellular devices annually)

  • C-Change model for innovations beyond the categories above (significant innovation)


The appendix compiles a comprehensive list detailing the distinctions in strategies for realizing these diverse types of innovation within an organization. It emphasizes that identifying the correct model hinges on an execution perspective rather than a planning one.


Addressing the essential question of resource allocation for innovation, the book acknowledges that resources are indispensable and cannot materialize out of thin air. Organizations must consider the associated costs and allocate resources such as money, time, and personnel. Given the absence of miraculous solutions, organizations aspiring to rejuvenate have no alternative but to strategize and allocate resources wisely.


The subsequent sections of the summary expound on the activity strategies tailored for each model, offering a comprehensive guide for organizations navigating the complex landscape of innovation implementation.


The rest of the summary details the activity strategies for each model.


Innovation Models

Small S-Innovation Model

The small-S model centers around small-scale innovation, uniquely suited to descriptions found in the literature on a culture of innovation. It envisions all company employees as partners in innovation, with a primary role in its realization, as Toyota exemplifies. The authors identify continuous improvement programs, Lean, Six Sigma programs, knowledge management programs, etc., as initiatives falling under the umbrella of innovation in Model S.


Appropriateness arises when initiatives are notably small. The central strategy involves integration into the productive work environment, approached incrementally.


Key points regarding personnel for realization include the part-time engagement of ordinary employees and their regular duties. Support from a central body is essential, responsible for innovation methodologies, knowledge, and idea transfer, the establishment of innovation teams, recommendations for collaborations between existing teams, suggestions for additional innovation hubs in the company, statistical analysis of performance for identifying innovation promotion opportunities, and transferring Model S initiatives to other models when deemed unsuitable.


Limitations of the model include its suitability solely for small initiatives. Recognition that employees are primarily occupied with productive tasks underscores the complexity of coordinating innovation activities with regular work. A potential drawback is the risk of generating numerous ideas that may prove challenging to implement due to scope or complexity, fostering expectations that might lead to disappointments.


The success of organizational implementation hinges on employee incentives and motivation for active participation in innovation. This involves fostering a culture where employees continue their regular tasks while simultaneously contributing to something more.


Tools for creating employee motivation encompass respecting individual efforts in innovation, acknowledging collaborative achievements, emphasizing the link between innovation and organizational health, holding in-house competitions, allowing individuals or teams to set innovation goals, encouraging innovation teams to work visibly, distinguishing between rejections and non-cooperation, providing financial incentives for innovation achievements, imposing non-monetary penalties for neglecting innovation efforts and establishing a system for recognizing and evaluating significant ideas.


A side note addresses a question about the Google model, specifically allocating 20% of each employee's time to promote innovation. The authors contend that this approach incurs a high organizational cost while it doesn't eliminate model limitations. However, they acknowledge its positive impact on recruitment policy, making the company an attractive workplace for many.


R-Repeat Innovation Model

The repeatable-R model focuses on repetitive innovation, catering specifically to companies that require ongoing innovation for survival. Repetition is evident in creating new versions of the same product (e.g., computer, software, or phone) or in developing different products (as seen in a toy company needing numerous new toys annually).


The appropriateness of the model becomes evident when there is a demand for small, recurrent initiatives that consistently succeed in innovation.


Diverging significantly from Model S, the repeatable-R model facilitates innovation and seamlessly integrates it into a systematic framework.


The central strategy involves breaking down the components and stages of innovation into small, well-defined, confined, repetitive, and low-risk tasks. Recognizing that not all outcomes can be predicted, organizations construct "gates" in their innovation processes, with criteria to halt unqualified initiatives.


Personnel for realization encompasses dedicated full-time individuals, including engineers, designers, and market research-associated employees, concentrated in specialized R&D departments. Additionally, time is allocated within ongoing tasks to productive personnel in the organization, mainly in the advanced stages of initiative realization. A close connection exists between these two population groups.


Limitations of the model stem from its inherent need for more flexibility. The more systematic the processes become, the less flexible and creative they tend to be. Overcoming this challenge involves a delicate balance, reducing systematization and efficiency.


The key to organizational success in implementing this model lies in process excellence in innovation management. Success hinges on effectively segmenting innovation into small, well-defined, and repetitive tasks, coupled with the ability to streamline the process, making it efficient and routine.


C-Significant Innovation Model

The Complex-C model addresses significant innovation. The authors intentionally leave the meaning of "C" unspecified, inviting readers to speculate. This model is deemed suitable for all companies, challenging the notion that only a select few possess the know-how to innovate. The authors assert that while challenging in practice, innovation is an understandable skill achievable by following the proposed steps and guidelines.


Appropriateness of the Complex-C model arises when neither of the previous models fits, encompassing scenarios involving new processes, products, services, or businesses. The stark difference between the S and R models lies in their dichotomous separation from the organization.


The central strategy involves establishing a dedicated body, distinct from the organization's core functions yet collaboratively engaged in ongoing labor relations. The innovation manager must recognize the symbiotic relationship with the organization's systematic resources, acknowledging the periodic engine's importance for regular performance and innovation. The dedicated innovation body should respect the established rules rather than integrate with and learn from the ordinary organization. Implementation necessitates dedicated teams for each innovation initiative and tailored plans. Management of planned and delimited experiences and rapid learning is emphasized.


Personnel for realization are predominantly dedicated, with detailed specifics covered in the subsequent chapter.


Model limitations include the requirement for more resources and advocating for the creation of separate teams and plans. External resources are also essential, as success is challenging when recruiting from the internal workforce exclusively. The model demands a mindset shift and uniqueness in each iteration, accompanied by inherent risks in managing the tension between dedicated and regular staff. Potential underallocation to regular staff engrossed in routine tasks poses a risk to the dedicated tasks supporting innovation.


Success in implementing the Complex-C model necessitates total separation, conforming to the prescribed guidelines detailed in subsequent chapters for all non-ordinary tasks.


Team Building

Establishing a new dedicated team is a critical step each time an innovation initiative is implemented in the C model. This team differs significantly from conventional teams in the R&D and innovation departments for two key reasons: it is responsible for implementation rather than creativity, and it undergoes reconstruction to assemble the most suitable individuals for the specific initiative. Consequently, every reorganization to form a new team involves a blend of existing employees familiar with the organization, its needs, and customers and new employees unbound by the company's existing perceptions and culture. The rules, work environment, welfare conditions, incentives, and more for this team can and should deviate from those accepted across the organization. The authors advocate treating team building for this purpose as akin to establishing a new company.


Moreover, a team within the regular organization continues performing routine tasks while dedicating part of its time to production and construction tasks related to the innovative initiative.


Significant synchronization and synergy between these two teams are imperative despite inherent tension due to differences in their work methods and conditions. Their roles are divided as follows:

  • The dedicated team supports the regular team in implementation and assists when problems arise.

  • The dedicated team focuses on development, while the regular team handles commercialization.

  • The dedicated team tackles new, unfamiliar, and changing tasks, while the regular team manages familiar and routine aspects.


Common team-building errors to avoid include failure to create a dedicated team, disregarding the capabilities of the regular organization, overburdening regular staff while under-allocating resources, insufficient cooperation between reliable and stable staff, building a dedicated team with too many internal members, creating repetitive definitions or teams identical to different initiatives, and subordinating the usual organizational rules to the dedicated staff.


A final tip emphasizes selecting a highly experienced manager to sponsor the entire activity, including resolving team conflicts and difficulties.


Create Your Plan

In Model C initiatives, substantial resources are typically invested. Despite the inherent uncertainty, programs must undergo thorough review and learning.


Managing uncertainties is proposed through a series of experiments, acknowledging that individual experiments may fail in terms of results. However, each experiment should have a learning goal tied to eliminating an element of uncertainty. Clear expectations should be defined, followed by a rapid analysis and learning process after each experiment, enabling continual improvement of certainty. Recognizing the organizational challenge in implementing such control, analysis, and learning processes, the authors advocate for a formal routine that mandates these activities.


Innovation programs differ significantly from regular executive organization programs in that they start from a blank sheet, are based on assumptions, witness changes in measurement and objectives, emphasize trends rather than performance, and constantly adjust expectations. These programs are primarily oriented toward learning rather than focusing solely on results.


Recommendations for innovation programs include:

  1. Management as separate entities, each time subject to redesign.

  2. Discussion of results and learning in dedicated forums.

  3. Reliance on numerous meetings and dialogue among work partners.

  4. Significant investment in resources, both time and effort.


Managing programs orderly, potentially through tools like Excel worksheets, is advised. Key parameters to track include:

  • Allocation of funds and the rationale behind each investment (referring to parent categories).

  • The relationship between investment and outcomes (if investing in X, it will impact Y).

  • Monitoring uncertainties and the progress of knowledge about them, connected to preceding investment-result clauses.


Summary

Innovation is more manageable and more managed than one might have initially appreciated. This aspect may very well be the key to the successful implementation of innovation.


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