Innovation – business school buzzword or the next bottled water?

Economic expansion – two words that are music to the most tone deaf ears. To many, it means budgets that were once hacked to woodchips can once again flourish as mighty oaks. 

The press and business community can become frenzied during shifts from cost containment to growth spending.  This often leads to an abundance of buzzwords that embody trendy new concepts.  Process Re-Engineering and Employee Involvement were the business buzzwords of the early ‘90s.   The late ‘90s brought us Y2K, e-commerce and PMO (programme management office).   In 2005, Innovation and Change Management are embraced as critical success factors.

Are these terms a re-cast of the past?   Current research and literature suggest not.   The context of Innovation is now more crisply defined: consistent top line growth through a shift in business approach; in particular, leveraging talent and investment in R&D to create higher added value and thus achieve competitive advantage – and higher profits. 

Everyone wants to create the next Starbuck’s experience, with customers flocking for their favourite brew with little regard for price, complicated drink orders piercing the coffee-klatch din.

The key for Starbucks in sustaining its competitive advantage is not just to have had a good idea, but to execute it consistently well – to the point where regulars often find their order waiting for them on arrival.  Ideas without implementation are like a high performance car stuck in rush hour traffic – getting nowhere. 

Delivery is everything – and with speed to market essential, project assurance plays a critical part in the top performers’ success stories. 

As project consultants, how can we create ‘the Starbucks effect’ for our clients?  I believe there are three key elements to this: 

1.     Keep on top of the latest studies on Innovation, its benefits and the pitfalls.  I recommend:

Cardiff University Innovation Network:

CORDIS UK Research and Innovation.

MIT Sloan School of Management – affiliated with Cambridge, Sloan focuses on innovation, entrepreneurship and best business practice, with a range of post- and undergraduate courses on these subjects. 

Innovation That Fits – Moving Beyond the Fads to Choose the Right Innovation Strategy for Your Business, Lord, Michael D; deBethizy, J Donald; Wager, Jeffrey D., February 2005 - documents failed attempts of very large companies to branch outside their core business with Innovation, acquisitions of innovative technologies, and attempts to behave like a start-up

2.     Understand the client’s business – their top-line growth, performance against targets, position in the market, customer proposition and employee culture.  This will give you a sense of the impact the successful delivery of your project on their organization.

3.     Take a creativity-driven approach, blending strengths in technology, business process design and change management to support clients in developing ideas and delivering them too.

In this way you will be able to bring the principles of innovation to your own practice as well as delivering more value to your clients.  Now there’s a good idea! 

Lisa McNew

Ms. McNew is a strategic, innovative and results-oriented executive with 19 years building and leading fast paced, winning organizations and businesses, and an associate of Pelicam Project Assurance in the UK. A skilled professional with repeated, measurable results in strategy, business development and planning, operations, merger transitions, information technology, program management and supplier management.

Ms. McNew has held executive and leadership positions at Fortune 20 to Fortune 1000 and start-up firms.  Enterprise project rescue, challenging situations and uncharted territory catch her eye and spark her interest as attractive opportunities.  Transitioning her duties as CEO and Founder of ATW – Alliance of Technology and Women, she is consulting internationally.

Ms. McNew holds an MBA from the University of Texas, and graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor's degree in Economics from the University of Arizona.  She serves on the advisory boards of the National Girls Collaborative Project and the University of Arizona Eller College MIS Department.  Having grown up 60 miles from the Mexican Border, she is also Spanish speaking.  

In her lifelong quest for knowledge, she has attended Northwestern’s Kellogg Executive Track program and was an advisor in the design of a UT Dallas executive leadership course, "Positioning Women for Corporate Boards.”


Change, 2010Katie MayerComment