The #Entrenovation Blog – 5

The purpose of this blog is to promote the practice of entrenovation and the entrenoveurs who manage the innovation process. Entrenoveurs innovate.

Innovation: The Idea

Innovative ideas are everywhere. They are all around us. Realizing, recognizing, or discovering them is an interesting topic for study and discussion. It is a very “expansive” subject about which many books have been written. A book  I have recently enjoyed is Where Good Ideas Come From1 .

There are no bad ideas. Some are identified too late and others before their time. The useful ideas are, of course, in the “now” as some would say. I have arbitrarily created two classifications for ideas: Natural Ideation and Purposeful Ideation. Descriptions and examples follow.

The practice of entrenovation includes five major phases: the Idea, Justification, Plan, Develop, and Integrate. The journey begins with the recognition of a “good idea”; one that, if it develops into a business, satisfies the needs of the founders.

Natural Ideation: the bright idea

Some environments squelch new ideas; some environments seem to breed them effortlessly. The city and the Web have been such engines of innovation because …they are both environments that are powerfully suited for the creation, diffusion, and adoption of good ideas1.

In such environments, compared to isolation, there exist opportunities for nascent ideas to intersect and result in the birth of an idea worthy of pursuit.

The nature of such ideation is central to the Johnson book1 :

  • One example relates that a Parisian obstetrician (c.1850) understandably was concerned about infant mortality. One in five died before learning to crawl and two-thirds of low weight and premature babies did not survive. While visiting a zoo he encountered an exhibit of chicken incubators. He employed the zoo’s poultry raiser to build a similar device for the hospital.
    • A resulting study of 500 babies treated with the incubator revealed the death rate of underweight and premature babies was halved.  The intersection of the doctor’s concern for the new born and his observation of a chicken nursery produced a great result.
  • Another example indicated that Charles Darwin, as recorded in his journal, without realizing it had identified the keys to natural selection. But many months passed before additional new ideas arose and intersected with his earlier thoughts.
    • From that intersection of ideas resulted the magic moment when the pieces fell into place and the makings of Darwin’s theory of evolution were realized. Like many scientists Darwin recorded his work and ideas in a journal, which was the accessible data-base of the day.

Natural Ideation is not easy or difficult. It seemingly just happens. However, the observant person who recognizes a problem, thinks about it, and possibly records those thoughts in a journal, under the right circumstances may eventually realize a solution to the problem identified in the past.

Books have been written about the great discoveries of scientists that resulted when such idea intersection occurred, often many years later.

Our brain is big and never stops processing information. The more we feed it, the greater is the chance of realizing a great idea.

Purposeful Ideation: organic growth and protection

[Entrenoveurs] need to search purposefully for the sources of innovation, the changes and their symptoms that indicate opportunities for successful innovation2″.

This quote from Peter Drucker is important because it tells us it is not necessary to wait for a light-bulb moment. We can be proactive in attempting to identify innovative opportunity.

Drucker2 identified a number of innovation sources that a well-designed investigation and surveillance program may utilize to grow a company and to protect it from competitive attacks. Two cases that demonstrate both sides of that coin highlight the need for a formal program. 

  • Containerization: As global trade accelerated during the twentieth century, the ocean-going freighter industry had to address the changing competitive environment. The typical solution was to reduce the costs of their freighter fleet operations.
    • Meanwhile, some recognized that delays due to increasing port traffic and loading/unloading times resulted in idle assets and reduced return on capital. Competitors determined containerization was a better solution. It reduced turn-around time and put the assets back to work more quickly.
    • The shipping companies that recognized the problem/solution prospered; the others did not fare so well. 
  • Mini Steel Mill: The U.S. steel industry operated capital-intensive integrated steel mills. The cost of a new plant to meet growing demand for steel was prohibitive relative to the market risk.
    • Bright innovators responded with the mini steel mill. It required a significantly smaller capital outlay and was suitable for addressing smaller incremental increases in demand.
    • Apparently, U.S. Steel was presented the opportunity to respond with its own mini mill initiative. It did not and the resulting decline of “big” U.S. steel is history. 

In both of the above cases the competition seized the missed opportunity. The result being the decline of established industries. Creative destruction in action.

Starting now:

  • Be observant, think, record, and instill your thoughts such that when a coincidence of ideas provides a solution to a problem you will recognize it as an opportunity.
  • Companies, my advice, emplace a program to ensure timely realization of innovative opportunity, and empower your entrenoveurs to succeed.
  • Independent entrenoveurs need not standby waiting for the light-bulb moment. You too can search for opportunity in existing markets; and be feeding your brain at the same time.

Mind your way

Jon

Johnson, Steven. Where Good Ideas Come From(p. 16). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

2Drucker, Peter F. Innovation and Entrepreneurship(p. 20). HarperCollins e-books. Kindle Edition.

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