Official Blog of Center10 Consulting

A Stark Ilustration of the Pace of Innovation: And Why It's OK that the eReader is dead

on Friday, December 14, 2012
The eReader is dead, long live the eReader...the Book is dead, long live the book.

Source: SAI Business Insider Chart of the Day

I remember being hugely excited when I first heard about e-Ink around 2000. I tried to get Cominsky on an Innovation Panel I was setting up for a client, but got no response. I wished him luck, nonetheless. It was just such a cool concept and invention, it felt like Sci-Fi (I imagined my window reminding me to buy milk, etc. - oh wait, my iPhone does that now.)

Fast forward to Mother's Day 2010, and the family gives me the first of my kindles. I proceed to work through three of them in the next three years as the pressure of managing more than the 250 books that I power through (I download about 1000 pieces, including newspapers, and books I don't spend time on or put off for later.) Now, those who bemoan the death of the book, I encourage them to consider the fact that while the paper book may have been hit, reading itself received a fillip, certainly in my household!

What I loved about Amazon's approach to the kindle was that almost as soon as they'd started producing and shipping their physical product, they'd also created their killer app...literally, the app - the kindle app. How cool is that? A behemoth, that knows how to be agile.

Lessons to take away?
  • The core capability and value you bring to the world (reading, and the associated sale of content) should be the focus of any business
  • Killing your cool new product isn't such an awful thing, don't get attached!
  • ...and by the way, that works for individuals too!

Building Global Capability, While Being Relevant Locally

on Saturday, December 8, 2012
The past weeks of meetings with a wide variety of companies in India - from small, medium and large home-grown companies to multi-nationals with a serious local presence - has suggested that there is a strong focus on a few core institution-building needs: leadership alignment, broad innovation capability integration as they acquire operations in the West.

Photo credit: Roopa Unnikrishnan, Art Installation at New Delhi's Indra Gandhi Airport
This melds together when discussing Innovation. For one thing, this is a priority that is couched in other organizational groups. In a few cases, it's in the "Performance excellence" realm, and in others it's in strategic communication. I have to laud the very fact that it's a priority vs. companies having just a laser focus on operational excellence, which has been my experience in the past.

There does seem to be some opportunity for leadership to define and put stakes in the ground around what they mean when they talk about innovation. Are they making this about people's everyday work, and are they investing in the distinct skills needed for the kind of evolution/revolution that India needs to leap into the next level of performance?

The pace of change (fast, but sometimes in murkily slow waters) and day-to-day concerns make longer-term capability building a challenge.

Ensconcing performance excellence in homegrown peer-to-peer networking sites as many of these companies have done may build engagement, however, will we get the next ipod or groupon out of that experience?

Success in innovation may require a step-change in the approach:
  • True focus on leadership alignment on what it takes to be successful in the long haul. This is especially critical for founder-led companies, where expansion may have brought in a broader set of leaders who may need a coming together on what the true legacy and impact of the company in the eco-system might be
  • Capability-building to help embed some of the day-to-day skills that are required in leadership and at the front-lines to question or re-examine dominant logic and assumptions, engage in true listening to near and distant signals and finally, to work through the ideas without the fear of loss of control. After all, the trick in innovation is in having the ability to make the shift happen - execution, execution, execution!
  • Engaging around the issues: The education models may have placed theory-oriented folks in significant roles - a plus when value lies in establishing the ultimate, beautiful strategic construct. In the realm of day-to-day impact and innovation, behaviors of exemplars look and feel different. The conversations tend to be rich in content, context and actual impact, and the discussions are less oriented to placing role-definitions on each individual. In other words, everyone is at the table to contribute. Some of my experience has been of clearly defined limits to what can and will be discussed. My hope is that as the culture evolves and players are less constrained, these hour-long sessions feel more like true, value-delivering brainstorms, rather than structural and process conversations
  • Ensuring there is clarity on some of the BHAGs - with real work done around scenario planning and exploration with leadership so they are truly driving to real innovation possibilities.