To survive in today’s digital world, businesses need to innovate. But what does innovation really mean? And how can businesses unlock their innovative potential? In this week’s episode of Source Global Research’s The Future of the Firm podcast, our Chief Innovation Officer, Frazer Bennett, explains how.
What is innovation?
“Innovation is the journey from the seed of an idea to the realisation of value from that idea,” says Frazer, who has 25 years’ experience in R&D and product design. “It’s a growth mindset. The more we can get people to think creatively, think messily, be bold, be competent around making mistakes and learning from them, the more we're breeding this mindset of innovation.”
Developing an innovative toolkit
Once you understand what innovation means, the next step is to apply this mindset to find solutions to business challenges. Frazer explains that this necessitates a new toolkit that goes beyond standard ‘generalised’ consulting services.
“I love stealing ideas from healthcare and applying them in national security or taking ideas out of transport and saying, well, actually what you're solving is an energy problem.”
Frazer goes on to discuss the importance of pace – moving quickly and learning from the results. This, he says, has been especially important during the pandemic.
“Large organisations look with envy at the small, nimble start-up that can turn on a dime because it's not subject to the same constraints of scale. The consequences of failure can be managed and they can try something else really quickly.”
As an example of how a big organisation can achieve agile decision-making, Frazer points to our Global Innovation and Technology Centre in Cambridge, UK. The dedicated facility enables CAD in the design studios to be turned into physical prototypes in hours.
Maintaining pace also relies on effective communication. During last year’s UK Ventilator Challenge, we led the effort to design, manufacture and deliver thousands of regulatory-approved ventilators to support COVID-19 patients, using four 10-minute stand-ups each day to streamline communication. This enabled them to cut the usual timescale of two and a half years to just six weeks.
Changing business models
Adopting an innovative mindset, Frazer explains, will lead to the coevolution of manufacturing and products, and also to fundamental business model innovation.
For instance, we worked with BDR Thermea, the largest manufacturer of domestic boilers in Europe, to design a connected thermostat.
“Yes, I can use my phone to control my living room heat,” says Frazer, “But what's really interesting is how it could fundamentally transform how they sell products, who they sell them to, where value is captured, the relationship they have with the customer.”
Ultimately, for Frazer, it is the responsibility of leadership to drive change and enable innovative mindsets throughout organisations.
“As leaders, we set the culture. We tell people what is acceptable. We are the people who make people fearful of failure. It is our job to put that right.”