Chris Trimble, co-author of Reverse Innovation (currently #1 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover list) kicked off The CMO Club’s Innovation Summit. Chris defined reverse-innovation as any innovation adopted first in the developing world which, to companies in the developed market, may seem counter-intuitive. “We’d expect that innovations would be adopted by the richest customers in the richest countries,” said Chris.
There are three main implications of reverse innovation:
1. Each of us and especially our next generation need to become just as curious about the needs of the developing world as we are our own
2. Companies need to understand innovation for customers abroad
3. The Nation needs to understand that the bulk of economic growth in the next decade or two will be in the developing world
Thus, the future is far from home.
Chris then talked about innovation in general, and spoke to the inevitable conflict between innovation and ongoing operations, which he called the “performance engine” – a critical part of the business in terms of understanding today’s customers and delivering the profits.
Of course, the method of the performance engine is repeatability and predictability whereas the realities of innovation are exactly the opposite, by definition non-routine and uncertain.
So, what is innovation?...sustaining, disruptive, incremental, radical, reverse, strategic, architectural, modular, competence enhancing competence destroying – to name but a few characteristics. The absolute definition is: any project that is new to you and has an uncertain outcome.
Chris then talked about how innovation projects require resources, and he outlined the three models that work:
· Culture of innovation where all employees are encouraged all employees to pursue innovation every day on their own initiative. The action is to take initiative and provide support. And the outcome is generally lots of small projects
· Repeatable innovation where innovation is treated like any other business process. Script it. Make it efficient. Make it routine. The result is a sequence of similar projects.
· Custom Innovation: idea + leader + team + plan = one special project.
It’s not about breaking all of the rules but rather mutual respect. Conflict with the performance engine is normal, but no performance engine lasts forever. Both sides need the other.
The biggest challenge is how do you evaluate an innovation leader? Chris outlined three forms of accountability:
· Results? Did you hit your targets?
· Actions? Did you do what we agreed you would do?
· Learning? Did you run a disciplined experiment?
Chris closed by talking to innovation in general and providing a couple of other resources in addition to Reverse Innovation: The Other Side of Innovation and How Stella Saved the Farm.