The Wheel – reinventing innovation

The inspiration to write this fairytale came at a very precise moment, although it was a culmination of an observation I had made many times. A customer, a large corporation with whom I had started to work recently, had invited me to an event where they showed new hires – and in my case, new consultants – the nature of the business and the company. One presentation was dedicated to research and innovation: what they were working on, how fast they came up with new products, what their research facilities looked like. It looked extremely thorough and scientific, extremely expensive and elitist, but also slow and bureaucratic. The focus was on scientific horizons, not customer needs. And since they were the peak of every innovation that happened in the corporation, they had every right to regard themselves as the center of the universe.

Later I had the task to help a cross-divisional group of innovation managers develop a faster common process. I showed them how certain Silicon Valley companies had optimised their process, how SRI and Ideo were working, and how a German car manufacturer had doubled the development speed for new models. One of the colleagues mentioned that in their division, they had managed to accelerate the process by about 5%. For the rest of the workshop, people only talked about how to copy the 5% acceleration from the colleague’s division. What happened in the outside world was child’s play. They were the ones doing the serious stuff.