Since I started working on Future-proofing, my book on innovation methods due out next year, something interesting has started to happen.
I am getting calls from institutions around the world (or consultants retained by them), asking about the experiences we've had building out our innovation systems and processes. Apparently, even in these times of trouble, wanting to get more innovative is still a key imperative.
The other day, for example, I was on this call with a major European bank. I always take those sorts of calls by the way, especially when my own institution is not competitive. The fact of the matter is I get just as much from it as they do, and our innovation group is improved as a result.
Anyway, I was on this call, and they said to me: “we have lots of money, we are ready to invest, we know innovation is the future of our business. But we don't want to waste money. And we don't want to have to discover how not to ourselves”.
I told them about my five capability model of innovation programmes, and suggested they should prepare themselves for a multi-year journey. Cultures don't change all that quickly.
Now as far as I could tell, this institution was crying out for what I'd style a “lift-and-shift” innovation process. That's where someone with tried and proven methods is retained to create the environment in which innovation can flourish. Those things take a long time to build well independently, sometimes years.
This institution needed a short-cut. Why wait years to get it all right if you can buy it in working already?
The thing is, I take such calls several times or more a month. Everyone is always after the same thing: tell us how we can build an innovation programme without the expensive mistakes along the way. And how we can do it quick-smart.
I'd make two interesting observations about this.
The first is that everyone I'm talking to realises that the competitive advantage from innovation never comes from the way you do innovation, but rather, from the people that are actualised by the innovation process. That, by the way, is the reason I am usually delighted to share details of how we do what we do: it is the people that we have that make it work, not the process itself.
Here is my second observation: There is clearly a significant opportunity here for someone. But all the major vendors have no offering. Oh, I know there are lots of innovation consultancies around, but they offer high level advice. Where is the innovation service that can install all this stuff in an institution without all the bother?
The opportunity to do this must be massive. The opportunity for an institution that were to buy such a service must, similarly be massive.
Imagine the model: the institution doesn't pay for anything up front. Because the process is lift-and-shift, the vendor knows it can make windfall returns for its client, and therefore is delighted to do a risk and reward pricing scheme. Decent innovation science will usually make innovation the preferred investment activity compared to practically all other opportunities. That's especially true where the programme is supported by senior people who are believers.
So where is this service? Perhaps I've failed to examine the market sufficiently and it does, in fact, exist somewhere. But if that's true, there are lots of other institutions out there that have also failed to find the lift-and-shift innovation process.
And I only know about the demand in banking. What about all those other industries that face the same problem?