Myths of Innovation

Dec. 10, 2008
Don't let them hinder business growth.

For many manufacturers, innovation is a struggle. That fact has been borne out in numerous studies as well as in the marketplace, where new product introductions regularly fail to meet expectations even as others soar beyond expectations.

A new report by Accenture and The Manufacturing Institute aims to help manufacturers find that right road to innovation, offering paths to explore as well as summarizing the current state of innovation. It also cautions industrial manufacturers about buying into three innovation myths, explains James Robbins, Accenture partner and North American automotive and industrial equipment lead. Those myths are:

Innovation only applies to technology and products. "In fact," Robbins notes, "technology is part of innovation, but so are customer service and consumer experiences. Twenty years ago, consumers might stop in a gas station for coffee-to-go that cost 50 cents. Today, some coffee innovators have succeeded at price points 10 times that amount. Just as coffee innovators have elevated the coffee-drinking experience by tapping into consumer wants, it is more important than ever that industrial companies tap into the voice of the customer to elevate the quality and level of innovation in their products."

Innovation is a long-term project. "Innovation really is about creating and capturing new kinds of value in whatever way is most relevant to a particular industry over a range of timeframes," Robbins explains. "In the best sense, it is a steady flow of new releases over time, and not an occasional blockbuster product or service. Industrial companies should view innovation as a portfolio, laying out a set of initiatives to be released over short- and long-term timeframes."

Innovation happens by chance. "Innovation is a discipline, not a random chaotic process or black box of creativity," Robbins says. "Indeed, creativity is a driving force of innovation that ingeniously responds to gaps in the market or spoken or unspoken customer need. High-performance innovators use it to strengthen processes, repeatability, predictability and better management."

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