August 17, 2012

Jeffrey Baumgartner on ‘Unique Business Strategy’

Why Unique Business Stretegy?

“… Innovation is focused on achieving unique strategic aims, rather than innovation for innovation’s sake.”

An article by Jeffrey Baumgartner has caught my attention, because it resonates loudly with my own innovation manifesto. Innovation is only hard, expensive and inefficient if it is pursued without a clear Vision. Vision is the creative frame, the lense that both narrows and broadens the view. Without Vision there is no innovation but rather blundering in the dark and accidentally inventing things. And without innovation there is no sustainability as so many cases of once-great-now-extinct brands have proven.

InnoFuture has interviewed Jeffrey Baumgartner whose message was ‘Stop trying to be innovative!’ Being innovative is an outcome. Just like long-term profitability is a result of focust on customer needs and dellighting them with great value.

For pleasure read full article on this cool website but here are the takeaway points:

  1. You will seldom, if ever, see the word “innovation” on the web pages  of the world’s most innovative companies, such as Apple, Google or Facebook.
  2. Truly innovative companies, those the come up with breakthrough products and services, those that are game-changers in their sectors or that create new sectors, do not aim to be innovative. Rather, they relentlessly strive to follow a unique strategy. Facebook originally aimed to create the ideal social network. Now they are trying to become an alternative to the world wide web itself. Apple has relentlessly focused on making beautifully engineered and designed gadgets such as mobile telephones, computers and pads.
  3. Their leaders are not innovators. They are visionary leaders who are so focused on their strategies that they are probably dreadfully boring at cocktail parties! But, by sharing their visions and their enthusiasm for their visions with their employees and business partners, they enable their companies to innovate. However, that innovation is focused on achieving unique strategic aims, rather than innovation for innovation’s sake.
  4. Their employees understand that top management is eager to implement ideas that help them in the pursuit of strategy. Indeed, the sole purpose of most teams is in one way or another to achieve strategic aims. Middle managers in visionary companies know that their jobs depend on working towards strategic goals. Innovation, on the other hand, is not important to them. That may seem ironic as they are following the best practices of innovation. But the key is that their aim is not to be innovative. It is to meet strategy-based goals.
  5. What do I mean by unique strategy? Many companies, especially large companies involved in varied business lines, tend to have bland strategies, such as to be the best in every sector in which they operate. Their strategic statements tend to be generic and could be used equally effectively by just about any company—even one in a completely different sector.
  6. Visionary companies, on the other hand, tend to have much more specific strategic aims. For instance, Google’s original strategic aim was to produce the most relevant search results by using a special algorithm in their search engine.
  7. When averagely innovative companies decide to be more innovative, one of the first steps they take is to use the word “innovation” more frequently in corporate documentation. This is followed by hiring people to be innovation managers, and launching programs to promote innovation. Idea management software, or at least suggestion scheme software, is installed to capture ideas. Very possibly innovation consultants and trainers are hired to help guide the innovation initiative.
  8. However, the innovation efforts tend to be unfocused.
  9. Review your strategy. Is it unique to your firm or is it the kind of strategy that just about any firm could claim?
  10. Do not simply focus on being innovative. That tends to result in a lot of small ideas that improve bits and pieces of your operations, but do not make a big difference to your company. Rather, ensure that your innovation initiative is aligned with strategy and use innovation tools such as brainstorming, ideas campaigns, and other activities that generate ideas to solve specific strategic problems.

About Jeffrey Baumgartner

A sculptor by training and an entrepreneur by profession, Jeffrey Baumgartner is the founder of jpb.com and the jpb group of companies.

Jeffrey was raised in the USA and UK and has had an international career that has seen him living and working in Europe, North America and Asia. His business start-ups and acquisitions have included one of Thailand’s first web development and marketing companies, a business service centre, an international e-business consultancy in Brussels and the global idea management specialist company Bwiti, which markets Jenni idea management under the jpb.com name.

In addition, Jeffrey co-created and co-manages with Andy Whittle the Brussels Imagination Club, a non-profit group that runs experimental workshops on a wide range of topics. The Imagination Club is a place where facilitators, trainers and enthusiasts can try out ideas and methodologies with a receptive international group of people from a wide variety of backgrounds. Jeffrey also occasionally uses the club as a venue for trying out his own ideas, such as visual brainstorming and applied creative problem solving methodologies.

Jeffrey’s writing has included books (including his recent tome on organisational innovation), regular magazine columns in the 90s and Report 103, a popular monthly newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He has written many of the papers on this web site as well as magazine articles and contributions to innovation books. He was recently invited to contribute a chapter on idea management in a seminal business encyclopedia to be published in autumn 2010.

Checkout Jeffrey’s book: