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Innovation: Think big, start small, scale fast!

A key innovation message that I spend time with my clients focusing upon involves the concept of “thinking big, starting small, and scaling fast.”

(With all due respect, the thought process comes from a customer-service oriented strategy at McDonald’s many years ago, but it is easily extended to encompass innovation in general.)

What does the message imply:

  • think big: identify the long term transformative trends that will impact you. These could include significant industry change, business model disruption, the emergence of new competitors, product or service transformation; anything. Essentially, you need to get a good grounding in the “big changes” that will impact your future over a five or ten year period
  • start small: from those trends, identify where you might weaknesses in skills, products, structure, capabilities, or depth of team. Pick a number of small, experiential orientated projects to begin to fill in your weak points, and learn about what it is you don’t know. This will give you better depth of insight into what you need to do in order to deal with the transformative trends identified above
  • scale fast: from those small scale projects, determine which areas need to be tackled first in terms of moving forward more aggressively with the future. Develop the ability to take your ‘prototyping’ of skills enhancement from the small scale projects into full fledged operations

It sounds simple, but its’ extraordinarily complex. Having said that, it does give you and your team a good conceptual framework for innovation, and orienting yourself to the trends which will provide you with the greatest opportunities and challenges in the years to come.

How might a company use such thinking? Let’s say you are in the banking industry. You know that mobile, text message, and location-sensitive banking trends are going to have a big impact on you. You know little about what is going. Think about how you might have redefined your customer service out on a ten year basis; where you might see new competitors emerge; and what you need to do to ensure that you stay on top of changing consumer demands. Then start small — take on a number of projects that build up the experience of your team with specific mobile technologies: how quickly can we get financial apps developed? From those ongoing efforts, build up the capability to scale — that is, separating the successes from the failures with these smaller projects, and learning how to quickly roll them out on a national or international basis.

Leave a comment : let me know what you think, suggest or ideas where you’ve seen the concept work!

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