Why innovation succeeds or fails

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In my last blog, I talked to Ioannis Tsiliras, Consumer CRM & Channel Management Director at OTE-COSMOTE, about innovation and customer experience. This post continues the conversation and talks more generally about why innovations succeed or fail, and the importance of both timing and chance.

Ioannis, why do you think that some innovative ideas fail to gain traction?

Ideas are like species. They have to compete, to survive. Success is 50% luck and 50% effort. Sometimes you put all the effort in and the design is right, but timing and circumstances are wrong. It can also work the other way around. As a manager and an organization, you need to make every possible effort to help your innovations, but even then, it may not be enough. It’s like farming: A farmer cannot control the weather or whether there is an earthquake, but he can control whether he waters the plants or puts on fertilizer. We cannot ensure that every idea will grow, but we can give them all a fair chance.

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Why innovation succeeds or fails

So it’s all about the timing?

Well, I don't believe that there is a model where if you do certain things then suddenly all ideas are going to be implemented and provide positive outcomes. I also think that if everybody innovates, then the criteria for a good innovation will change over time because the collective innovation raises the standards. An innovation that might once have been a really good idea may now be irrelevant. So yes, timing is important. But when we bring all this down to technology, it’s all about discovery and deployment. This means that there is no real pattern to why innovation fails. We can say that ideas compete and that it’s a matter of timing, but we know that there are also some big challenges between discovery and deployment of innovation.

Is it feasible to define the common challenges from discovery to deployment for innovation, or for an analytics approach?

Well, there are some obvious examples, like silo thinking, poor access to data, the time to process the data, distribution of the data and the overall process, but I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Ideas compete. When one grows, another will be threatened. You have to look at what’s going to happen, who will be affected, and then work backwards and say: Look, this innovation is going to affect you. You're going to be out of work in three years’ time. Let's see whether we can find something for you here or upskill you to do something else elsewhere.

I think this is very much a matter of both leadership and management. You have to be clear with people about what is coming, and what effect that might have – and then help them to manage that. This also creates an environment where innovations will thrive because people will be looking to develop the right skills to support them.

Who do you think should be promoting and sponsoring innovation in the organization?

If you want to have an impact, then the person sponsoring big, transformative innovations must be the CEO. CEOs are the only people who can really provide credibility for those big changes. The CEO also has the responsibility of creating accountability to make things happen. But there also has to be someone, a person, an organization or somebody, who acts as the catalyst for the transformation. Especially when it relies on technology. Like in nature, every chemical reaction that transforms matter to something new needs the appropriate catalyst. Sometimes, without a catalyst, even having all the ingredients, change cannot happen.

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About Author

Silia Sideri

Silia is the Customer Intelligence Expert for SAS Greece and Eastern Europe. Within her role, she enables customers across various industries to design and implement Customer Intelligence solutions that can help them to create a unique customer experience leveraging the power of SAS advanced analytics. She has successfully attended and graduated from SAS Global Pre Sales Academy two years ago, a program that acquires talented newcomers for an intended course in the Headquarters of SAS. Since then she has worked through multiple engagements with market-leading customers around Europe.

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