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Business Innovation Strategies Need More than a Good Show

Business Innovation Strategies Need More than a Good Show

Author: Marc Butterfield, SVP, Innovation & Disruption

Slick new innovations, whether they be technology, product or service related, are compelling to watch. Companies trot them out for show, sometimes to convince leadership to invest in innovation groups or as a way to demonstrate the value of their efforts.

There is just one problem. This form of innovation theater can become a way of operating that brings little to the table. Just like watching a movie at your local multiplex, when the reel stops rolling, it’s business as usual with little to account for the 90 minutes spent watching the show.

Driving outcomes and preparing the organization for disruptive change requires innovation efforts to move beyond theater into innovation practice. Here is how leading companies move innovation past the showroom floor to create game-changers for the organization.

Stalling on the Showroom Floor

According to the OECD Innovation Indicators study of companies worldwide, organizations vary widely when it comes to innovation success. For firms that fall in the median range for the study, 53 percent introduced a new product or business process in the previous year, while those at the lower end of the spectrum were far less successful. These innovation laggards may still be sitting in the innovation theater watching the show.

Organizational reticence to advance theater concepts can be contributed to a number of factors. Often, there is little support for an innovation culture within the organization, making it difficult for teams to move the needle forward into practice. At other times, unprecedented events derail the company’s innovation efforts, because the demands of the present outshine the need to prepare for the future.

While scaling back to address immediate problems can be critical in unprecedented situations, it’s important not to leave concepts on the theater floor forever. Considering factors such as how the organization views itself and how it makes money, can help the business determine which innovations should be advanced and which should be abandoned or possibly transformed into new initiatives.

The best outcomes will come when companies have a sustainable and repeatable process for evaluating new concepts and determining which are moved forward into development.

The Repeatable Innovation Process Revealed

While many theater concepts will be tossed aside after appearing on the showroom floor, organizations have no way of knowing which will move the needle without a thorough evaluation. Following three basic steps can help companies efficiently decide which concepts should move from the theater to production:

  • Desirability: At this phase, the company is asking questions to determine whether there is a need or want for the type of innovation in question. While it sounds simple, the answer isn’t always immediately clear, particularly where disruptive innovations are concerned. The company will need to do a deep analysis across the markets in which they plan to operate, to see if the concept is a fit.
  • Feasibility: Feasibility assessments are designed to tell the organization whether it is possible to develop the concept at scale and roll it out to customers.
  • Viability: Once an organization has determined that it can take a concept to market, it’s time to talk ROI and decide whether the innovation concept will deliver profitability or in some way benefit the organization, such as by cutting costs.

As you go through the steps above, it’s important to remain flexible. Often, organizations start with viability, hoping to see a quick return on investments, but innovation can take years to pay off. Some concepts will never make it to a customer audience but will provide valuable insights all the same. A willingness to pivot when a new idea emerges or the current one doesn’t pan out is critical to innovation success.

Last, make sure you are innovating for the right reasons. These vary depending on your company structure, the markets you pursue and the product or service you provide. The main point of having a sustainable and repeatable process for evaluating innovation is to identify the concepts that will create a more adaptable and agile business, one that is prepared for what lies ahead.


About the Author

Marc Butterfield is responsible for leading the Bank’s Innovation & Disruption team and the Bank’s digital transformation initiatives. He is accountable for accelerating innovation throughout the enterprise, identifying disruptive business model threats to financial services, establishment & creation of new business models and fintech engagement. He also leads change management and strategic thought leadership to drive process and cultural evolution necessary for effective innovation practices.

In his tenure at FNBO, Marc has served in leadership positions in Digital Banking, Marketing, Consumer Lending, Credit Risk and Product Development. Marc began his career at FNBO in 2001, joining First National from Nexterna, a wireless technology company owned by Union Pacific Railroad.

Marc completed his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a Marketing specialization from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.