Turn Customer Insight into Innovation

July 9, 2009
Whyze Group discusses factors that stifle innovation efforts.

Squandered customer research is just one of the ways companies are missing out on global opportunities, suggests a report published recently by the Whyze Group. Misused or unused information translates to botched innovation efforts, something no company can afford in the best of times, much less in today's economy.

In its new report, Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap, the management consulting group aims to help companies avoid squandering customer insights and instead turn them into profitable solutions. Whyze outlines a host of factors that impact the research-innovation gap, as well as methods to surmount the obstacles. Examples of the factors include:

Silos and fiefdoms. Silos worked once upon a time, the report notes. However, Whyze Group president Jason M. Sherman points out that innovation ideas are increasingly coming from the bottom up (versus top down), particularly with the advent of the Web-enabled community. As a result, "Today, organizational charts in some companies are flattening. Forward-thinking managers are encouraging more customer collaboration and responsive behaviors among employees," the author states.

Ineffective prioritization of initiatives. By definition, the report notes, "prioritization confers permission for managers to allocate more resources to innovations of higher priority and fewer to those that matter less." Sherman notes that many companies have unmanageably long lists of projects to manage.

Measurements that make little sense. Measurements in place today have not evolved to promote innovation. Sherman acknowledges that innovation metrics are an evolving discipline and points out the usefulness of some hard metrics, such as new products launched per year. "The more subjective elements of innovation, such as collaboration and the ability to engender trust, count, but cannot be as easily counted," the report states. Sherman suggests that more subjectively based assessments, such as those in the Malcolm Baldrige award criteria, may prove helpful.

Unclear roles on innovation teams. This can be related to the challenge of silos and fiefdoms. "One risk is that no matter what roles are assigned on innovation teams, team members will confine themselves to building relationships within silo hierarchies rather than building relationships with customers," the report states.

Bridging the Research-Innovation Gap identifies 11 factors that determine how effectively managers apply what they learn. The report is based on eight years of analysis, according to Whyze Group, which examined hundreds of documents and interviews to reach its conclusions.

"It's in our collective interest to assure that everyone who depends on the continued prosperity of the United States participate in making us more innovative and competitive. This report is a primer for those who will make that happen," Sherman says.

The complete report is available for download at www.whyzegroup.com.

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