In a few short months, Idea Couture will be celebrating another anniversary and some people have been here for two years and some three. It was Jackie’s second year’s anniversary last week (thank you Jackie) and it will three for Adam, Morgan and Nick pretty soon, and as we add new people every month and some are spreading across different geographies, it will be harder and harder for everyone to know everyone well. That’s just the life. And I am lucky (also by design) that we have been able to attract the brightest and the smartest. I am grateful to everyone of them who made the decision to take that journey with us.
Idea Couture were nominated as one of the most innovative companies in 2010 by our bankers and to our surprised, we only learned about the news Saturday evening – Idea Couture is now officially the most innovative company of the year, nice surprise. The funny part is, most people don’t actually know what exactly we do. What is an innovation company? That’s a damn good question.
Tom Peters’ started some 15 years ago telling executives the importance of innovation (beyond traditional technological definition) and how companies should “Strive for strangeness”: Creating a portfolio of the weird and encouraging "freaks" to flourish inside the company will help ensure the steady stream of innovative ideas necessary to survive in an hyper-competitive international business environment. I won’t go that far to use the word “freaks’, but we do have a lot of unique on-of-a kinds.
Peters was also an early advocate of the "culture of prototyping." In a world of ceaseless change, business concepts can be easily prototyped and tested, organizations have many resources at their disposal – capital, technology, channel, brand – but none are as valuable as their ability to use their own imagination and link them to customer needs, both unmet and unarticulated needs. To do that, organizations need to teach its people how to stand in different places; wear different hats and see things with a different lens. Not only during crisis, but also as part of their everyday job.
Innovation has never been part of any typical MBA (some exceptions) school curriculum; it is the opposite of many things that are taught in B-schools. Funny enough, I found a nicely-bound and very dusty copy of my thesis in my basement,it was my research during my last three month at the London Business School. My thesis supervisor was Prof Costas Markides and the title was Strategic Innovation. It never came to mind that decades later I am taking a page from my own thesis and it becomes the core of what IC does. I guess I am getting the ROI.
The problem with modern management is, in the language of systems thinking, the function of management is to eliminate “variation,” which is, broadly, the tendency of things to go off uncontrolled in all directions. Excessive variation is absolutely the enemy of predictability; indeed, the entire function of strategic planning; quality control and six sigma are focused on eliminating unwanted surprise. And innovation is the maximizing lucky surprises.
And the path to innovation is never a logical one. The fuzziness goes beyond the front end and extends into the late stage. Innovation is more than just business strategy. If you think about it today, we are in such as mess… healthcare, financial, technology, media, geopolitics, sustainability etc…. and think if innovation will be expanded to include figuring out what those problems mean to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. What it means? Basically, civilization needs a brand new operating system(s), those quick updates won’t work any more. There are tremendous opportunities for company to rethink and reimagine their future and create new shareholder value. Innovation is connected to everything, it is not just business, but the future of mankind. And we’re running out of time.