October 21, 2008
Innovate or die
“The problem is never how to get new innovative thoughts into your mind, but how to get old ones out…” gives a whole new meaning to “exit” strategy doesn’t it? This was just one of the powerful quotes cited by Jim Carroll, renowned futurist and highly sought innovation consultant, as he addressed a group of PMCQ loyalists on a cold, rainy October morning.
A native of Valleyfield, Quebec, now living in Ontario, Jim gave the Hilton coffee a run for its money by waking us up to a very basic principle that is especially relevant in today’s world, where the only velocity we’re experiencing is the gravitational pull of the stock market: Those who innovate will survive.
Uh Jim, how about telling us something we haven’t already heard? My hair frizzed in the rain for this? Well, the frizz was well worth it as Jim walked us through nine powerful notions that were instantly applicable to fostering innovation.
The first notion is that it all begins in the mind. Coincidently, this is exactly what the self-help book I am reading says, but I digress. Indeed, innovative companies adopt the right mindset by focusing on growth. They don’t take their eyes off the ball. Customer retention becomes their obsession.
Having decided to innovate, the next key to successful innovation is to reframe exactly what “innovation” means. Most of us cite Apple and Steve Jobs as classic examples of innovation. Jim demonstrated that innovation is not always glamorous nor synonymous with gadgets or cool people humming catchy tunes. Sometimes innovation is as simple as running your business better (by ripping costs out of processes for example) or growing your business by coming up with new marketing ideas (to reach physicians in our case) or finally by transforming your business.
Time waits for no one and neither does transformation. Jim introduced us to the notion of “business velocity.” Brand life cycles have been replace with “innovation cycles” and even these are now accelerated. Retail products used to have two- to three-year life cycles. Companies like Minolta now launch digital cameras assuming a six-month life cycle. Other companies like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft make 70% of their peak sales in the first four or five days after introducing a new video game to market. Imagine how different our pharma realities would be if we had to recoup all the investments of a product launch in one week… and imagine is exactly what Jim suggested we do because imagination is the GPS that leads to innovation.
Immerse yourself in fast ideas, adapt to new influencers, anticipate transformational change (because change will occur as per the old adage), change your perspective by turning your thinking upside down and do not forget to ride the generational changes (or profit from the demographic shifts as David Foot would say). Finally and perhaps most importantly, the key to innovation (and coming full circle to the quote at the start of this article), is that organizations must banish the innovation killers. You know who you are.
The naysayers who say, “We’ve always done it this way,” “The boss won’t go for it” or the politically incorrect, “That is the dumbest idea I have ever heard,” (add your own favourites right here). Eternal banishment to Stagnant-ville might be one way to get rid of them. However, applying Jim’s principles is a better option.
The pharma industry has always been touted as a high-knowledge industry with human capital being our pride and joy. Jim Carroll turned our thinking upside down by suggesting that we transform our perception of human capital into one of “experiential capital” — or, in English, “go out and try new ideas, take risks.” Observe, think, change, dare, banish, try, question, grow, do, enjoy… and imagine the possibilities. If you don’t, someone else will.
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