Successfully Merging Theory and Practice in your Innovation Program

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Eric Gabas-Varini is the Partner and Co-Founder of Innovation Framework Technologies, a consulting firm which was founded in Paris, but has since established regional offices in the United States, South Korea & Japan, with a network of associate offices in Latin America and the Middle East. With a strong background in R&D, Eric now uses his expertise to help leading organizations deliver innovations across a range of industries and use cases.

On April 25th and 26th, Eric will be a speaker at our Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour, which will explore a variety of topics around the themes of systemic innovation and digital transformation in Enterprise-grade businesses (click here for more details).

innovation_theory_practice_3_roundFrom 2003 to 2007, I have been in charge of the R&D project portfolio management line of business at a solution provider. While looking for better ways to serve this market, I came to the conclusion that the innovation management field had 2 sets of professionals, who did not share much in common with each other:

  • On one side you had the solution providers – continuously adding new capabilities to their software in the hope of helping companies better manage innovation and new product development projects. This often resulted in over engineered solutions that practitioners had a hard time to use.
  • On the other side you had the experts – think of Coopers and Edgett, Clayton Christiansen, Henry Chesbrough and Jay Doblin, theorizing and promoting new approaches to innovate. These gurus were directly interacting with companies of all industries, mainly in the US and were offering access to new benchmarks.

Merging Theory and Practice

In 2007, I co-founded Innovation Framework Technologies (IFT) in order to close this gap, to offer a combination of best practices and best software embedded in solutions that companies can actually and successfully use.

As a result, we moved from initially offering solutions limited to the back-end of innovation (project portfolio management and Stage-Gate™ project governance), to the front-end of innovation, where collaborative and open innovation offered very efficient ways to feed the innovation pipeline with more innovative ideas and concepts.

innovation_theory_practice_1_roundPitfalls to Avoid

One of the challenges we must overcome is that technology and radical innovations are still considered as the only “true innovations”. This is mainly due to the engineering culture that is embedded in many companies and which drives the decisions at the highest levels. In practice, other types of innovation, such as business models, processes, services, channels, brand, and customer engagement continue to be largely overlooked.

Companies that have not yet figured this out face a double penalty. By ignoring other types of innovation, they are:

  1. Drastically restricting their capacity to create profitable growth. No one innovation type is better than the other, and successful companies make sure to investigate the whole panel of available sources to generate value.
  2. Not able to leverage all parts of the organization to innovate more and to create a sustainable culture of experimentation and innovation. This can be considered as an underused asset, just like if a company was not using a part of its channels to sell its products or was not using a given production line to its full capacity to meet market demand.

How to Tackle the Problem

Tinnovation_theory_practice_2_roundo overcome this challenge, and as innovation became a top priority, most companies have created diversified corporate innovation programs to generate new innovation projects. Our experience, however, is that without a proper approach in place, the outcome can lead to disappointment. Quantity does not equal quality.

First, we help companies assess their current set of projects and innovation proposals to make sure they consider the different dimensions of each project: risk, market potential, ability to execute, innovation type, etc. This assessment process, once built in the practice of the innovation and management teams, helps companies select which projects should be resourced and how their execution should be performed to best support their innovation strategy.

We then help the companies feed their innovation pipeline with the right ideas and concepts by leveraging the collective intelligence of their internal teams and external eco-systems.

As a recent McKinsey study shows, over 50% of senior leaders feel that companies lack big ideas, work too much in silos and have problems systematically getting good ideas to commercialization. A well implemented Front End of Innovation process and supporting system goes a long way in addressing those needs.

Our Approach:

innovation_theory_practice_4_roundWe’ve defined a set of key best practices that are now fully embedded in our approach and software solution. They can be summarized around 5 main areas:

  1. Focusing the idea submission by asking the right audiences the right questions.
  2. Facilitating idea submissions across all parts of the organization.
  3. Nurturing and clustering ideas before evaluating them.
  4. Organizing the evaluation and decision process.
  5. Engaging the staff.

By implementing an agile Front-End of Innovation process, powered by a well animated innovation management system, an increasing number of companies have been able to generate the right balance of incremental, radical and disruptive innovation and increase their market leadership.

The upcoming Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour on April 25 and 26, will be a unique opportunity to see how companies are innovating more systematically and how digital transformation is pushing businesses, across departments and functions, to collaborate, innovate, and design new business models and processes. Innovation is also about creating meaningful connections, and this event will be an excellent occasion to do so by directly sharing experienced and learning from each other.

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Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour

On April 25th and 26th, IFT and Qmarkets will be hosting an enterprise innovation leader breakfast, which will explore a variety of topics around the themes of innovation challenges and collective intelligence. Find out more about the Paris Innovation Leader Breakfast Tour here.

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