Mapping Innovation | Greg Satell

Summary of: Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age (Business Books)
By: Greg Satell

Introduction

Embark on a journey through the world of innovation with ‘Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age’ by Greg Satell. This book provides insights and techniques for properly mapping your innovation space, understanding the challenges in delivering successful innovation, and establishing a strategy tailored to your organization. Through examples of real-life companies such as IBM, Apple, and Procter & Gamble, you’ll learn about the diverse approaches to innovation and the importance of defining it within your organization. Key topics include finding your organization’s innovation path, asking the right questions for problem-solving, identifying appropriate innovation domains, leveraging external resources, and fostering a collaborative culture.

Successful Innovation Requires a Flexible and Iterative Strategy

Different companies approach innovation in diverse ways. Some focus on fundamental research, while others collaborate with external experts. But regardless of the method, innovation is a challenging process that requires multiple brilliant ideas and insights. Successful innovators use an iterative strategy that involves experimentation and agility. Innovation is never a single event, and it requires the combination of great ideas, collaboration by diverse experts, and hard work over time. Before charting an innovation path for your company, you need to define what innovation means to your organization and determine what’s important to your mission. Corporate leaders must understand that innovation is not about chasing a set of tangible strategic goals but about creating a plan for the organization’s future role in its industry.

Navigating Your Innovation Space

Innovation is not a linear process but a structured approach that requires mapping your innovation space. It involves defining the problem you want to solve, identifying the right people to solve it, and assigning the agenda to the most appropriate innovation domain. According to the authors, big ideas result from small insights coming together. The key to finding your own path to innovation is to create a crystal-clear vision that your team can understand and get behind. Start with defining the problem you wish to solve, then identify the internal or external resource best suited to solve it. Next, assign the problem and necessary activities to the most appropriate innovation domain in your organization. The book recommends creating and establishing four innovation domains, each corresponding to a predictable set of activities: the “core,” “adjacent,” “new-to-the-world” and “disruptive” domains. By properly mapping your innovation space, you can ensure that the ideal innovation strategy is utilized, saving time, money and effort while helping bring your big ideas to life.

The Importance of Basic Research

Basic research is vital to the advancement of society in the long run, according to Nobel laureate George Smoot. While the government funds academics to carry out fundamental research, it does not provide immediate benefits. Companies like Microsoft and IBM invest in basic research, but most simply monitor academic research and attend specialized conferences to stay up-to-date with new developments. Despite the lack of immediate payoff, basic research is essential for long-term progress.

The Advantage of Sustaining Innovation

In “Incremental Innovation,” the author argues that companies must continually upgrade their technology to remain competitive. This can be achieved through sustaining innovation, which involves setting clear objectives and outlining the activities needed to achieve them. Large companies with extensive R&D operations excel at sustaining innovation, allowing them to add extra pixels to cameras, create robust computers, and improve everyday household items.

Innovation Through Collaboration

Firms seeking breakthrough innovations can benefit from collaboration with professionals from diverse fields. The book highlights how renowned scientists like Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein drew on the ideas of economists and philosophers to develop their theories. While basic research is not typically engaged in by most businesses, applied research aimed at solving existing problems can be conducted. To maximize the potential for success, companies can implement “Skunk Works” units, which are multidisciplinary teams brainstorming together. Google’s “Google X division” is an example of such a unit aimed at achieving ambitious goals.

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