10 Innovation Steps For CEOs

As I’ve described in the 6 new management imperatives, senior executives need to turn innovation into a continuous process. This is even more important in this economic downturn where innovation is sorely needed, but can be easily ignored during cut-backs.

In a book called Innovating at the Top: How global CEOs drive innovation for growth and profit, researchers at INSEAD examined the innovation efforts at nine corporations: 3M, Research in Motion, Genentech, Unilever, SAP, Bosch, Nokia, Infosys and Toyota. The research uncovered ten innovation drivers:

  1. Appoint the CEO as the innovation champion
  2. Celebrate an innovation culture
  3. Engage more innovation partners by sharing knowledge
  4. Organise diversity to promote positive friction and cross-fertilisation
  5. Use customer needs to drive simultaneous R&D and Business Model Innovation
  6. Set high-quality standards and demanding challenges
  7. Encourage youth and keep a challenger mentality
  8. Appoint appropriate decision-makers and encourage transparent information-sharing
  9. Use processes judiciously
  10. Incentivise people to innovate continuously

Given my focus on customer-centricity, I really enjoyed these quotes:

Innovation, based on the needs (of customers), is faster, cheaper and a more dependable approach.
     – Fujio Cho, chairman of Toyota Motor

Unless our researchers realise what the outside world is and what is happening in the trenches, their innovations will have no value for the customer.
     – N.R. Narayana Murthy, chairman of Infosys

The bottom line: A recession is a great time NOT to forget about innovation.

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