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October 09, 2019
What does innovation mean to you?
By: Philip Leutgoeb

Indeed, not an easy question, and one with multiple answers depending on who you ask.

Innovation has recently become an overused buzzword, with a lacking ‘one-fits-all’ definition. This leads to a wide range of misconceptions including my top three shared below:

Innovation is a tech thing

Many believe that innovation and digital technology can be used interchangeably. While it is true, that technologies often enable innovation to thrive within a business environment, it is only one of many components behind successful innovation. Innovation drives change centred around humans, strategy and leadership, across the areas of technology innovation, product innovation, process innovation or business model innovation, that can vary across levels from incremental, disruptive to radical innovation.

Innovation equals invention

Innovation does not have to equal invention, and as previously highlighted, it is very often incremental, focussing on improvements rather than ‘from scratch’ creation. (Product) innovation is about the capitalisation of ideas independent of its ‘newness’ and is set apart from inventions or innovative ideas by commercialisation or market acceptance.

Innovation is expensive

Remember the term ‘Jugaad Innovation’ and introduce it to everyone who still believes innovation requires substantial investments or expensive cutting-edge technology. This innovation practice proves that driving ideas and change is not constrained by resources, but by applying key values around ‘doing more with less’, ‘thinking and acting flexibly’, ‘keeping things simple’ and ‘following your heart’.

Figure 1: William Kamkwamba's Wind Mill, taken from ted.com & ecoblog.it


Jugaad Innovation clearly promotes the fact that innovation does not have to involve new technologies or substantial funding, and that at a first stage, it is the innovators’ mindset that actively makes change happen. For some more context, look into the example of William Kamkwamba, a 14-year-old Malawi boy who built wind mills creating energy for his family with no materials or money readily available in order to save them from substantial famine in 2001. Or, explore this community-based initiative to bring lights into the slums near Manila, Philippines utilising plastic bottles.

Innovation is a mindset and it must be learned

I have always believed, that being innovative is something that cannot be taught. A belief that has manifested itself even deeper throughout my educational and professional experience over the last few years.

Although, while I believe that innovation cannot be taught per se, I am certain that it can be learned. A minor, but crucial difference I believe, as innovation is more than a set of tools and methods applied in a certain way.

For me, innovation starts with a mindset change, self-driven and enabled by individuals like you and me. Hence, it is best applied as human-centred and behaviour-driven approaches to drive new ideas that deliver hidden value. It is then supported, enabled or accelerated by processes, futuristic technologies and ground-breaking strategies.

In more general terms, innovation is all about surviving, or at best thriving in a constantly changing business environment which is widely recognised within Accenture.

It has become obvious that firms must evolve and continuously rethink how they operate, what they offer and what they must do next. While many organisations are committed to innovation, Accenture’s recently published Trapped Value research showed that 57% of firms who increased their innovation spend by over 25%, underperformed against their industry peers on average.

Innovation at the Core – Accenture’s Transformation

This mismatch of need for innovation and the success rate of innovative change, is exactly where Accenture’s Client Innovation Services team (CIS) can shed light into the unknown and add value by consistently following their motto:

‘Be the disruptor, not the disrupted’

Constant pressure and change require courage and expertise. CIS is equipped with both, and part of Accenture’s wider Innovation Architecture (see Figure 2) which helps develop and deliver disruptive innovations for clients at scale with valuable return on investment, across industries. As every client is different, where to start on an innovation journey will depend on the questions our clients are in need to answer. CIS’ service offerings are designed to perfectly suit clients’ requirements irrespective of their starting point.

Figure 2: Accenture's Innovation Architecture

Figure 2: Accenture's Innovation Architecture


Strategy & inspiration

Strategy & inspiration workshops are usually shorter-term pieces of work where key business issues are explored, analysed and tackled in breakthrough thinking innovation workshops with C-suite clients from various industries. During my first strategy and inspiration project, for example, we were looking into how to best embed a culture of innovation within social services organisations across the globe. While the first few weeks involved substantial research around the industry, the clients, and the actual workshop design, on the day, we were able to encourage leadership of multiple social service organisations to push their boundaries while exploring solutions on how to best create an environment that supports innovative behaviour.

Co-creation

In co-creation projects on the other hand, CIS take clients on a longer, collaborative innovation journey through various ways. For me, the most exciting so far has been an innovation strategy project at a major UK retail bank, where we have defined the bank’s innovation strategy, established an innovation engine and upskilled client staff across multiple countries in various innovation methodologies.

Differentiation

The CIS team approach traditional problems in new ways to help “transform the Core” through thinking differently about traditional problems that sit at the heart of our client work and cater for all focus areas.

CIS applies Accenture FORM methodology, the firm’s new approach to consulting. This is the ideal mix of analytical power, creativity and innovation to better solve problems and help clients explore new business opportunities.

As FORM advocate and innovation catalyst, CIS will help you elevate your career and equip you with future-proof skills. Find out more via our careers site.


Key takeaways:

  1. Innovation has multiple forms and it is down to you and your mindset to drive it
  2. Innovation is difficult and requires innovation expertise to truly drive success, hence innovation is central to Accenture’s business model


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