Innovation never seems to become a dead topic. However, lately it seemed to be less favored by business leaders. And yet, it is becoming clearer that our understanding of innovation is changing. Just yesterday, a client was emphatically telling me that he’ll know his product will be innovative when people buy it. So, maybe innovation is defined by our customers?

Is it who defines it or the process that creates innovation?

In a post from the Ivey Business Journal, Henry Chesbrough posits that how innovation will be managed is evolving as new technologies allow us to connect with one another. Think about where you work. How many innovation sites have been opened over the last few years? In the Greater Boston area, it seems like one is opening all the time.

Chesbrough’s point is that it’s the process that creates innovation but there will be several changes coming in the future.

1. Innovation will be more collaborative. Collaboration will come in many forms. Between technology advances that make it easier to collaborate virtually to including customers in the iterative process of a new product, there will be ideas and opinions exchanged making fora richer experience.

2. Business models have to be adapted. Chesbrough predicts that simply having great ideas is not going to be a sustainable model for a company. He writes, “[t]hrough devices like the business-model canvas of Alex Osterwalder, organizations are learning techniques to visualize both their current business model as well as possible alternative models.”  The effects of the global recession include a re-balancing of where economic growth will come from which will also influence how business models are designed.

3. Service economies and innovation. In his last prediction, Chesbrough notes that the majority of established economies are more geared to services than products. This means that how services are created and provided to the customer must be innovated. Some companies (e.g. Lego) are already moving in this direction. Another thing that Chesbrough notes is that service companies need people but also other options to serve their customers in the best way. He suggests that creating a platform that others can use is a viable way forward in managing innovation.

What do you think?

The way we produce actually may come from how we innovate the process of innovation. This could change the business landscape quite a lot! In the next Twitter chat, #kaizenblog, the focus will be on Chesbrough’s predictions. Some of the discussion questions will include:

  • How do you define innovation?
  • Assuming innovation is always about new things (e.g. the iPad), are we emphasizing innovation to the detriment of satisfying customer needs?
  • How will partnering with customers make innovation more possible? What is the possible downside to this collaboration?
  • What could one of these future business models look like?
  • What could it mean for a business to service/support their competitors’ products?
  • What changes will emerging economies introduce?

There are many more questions to pursue with this topic. I hope you’ll enjoy the lively and thought-provoking conversation on the Twitter chat, #kaizenblog on Friday, July 22nd at 12pm ET/5pm BST/9am PT.