Innovate with Purpose – 4 Ways to Deliberately Innovate

Most organizations strive to innovate, but very few achieve the innovation results they are looking for.  What separates the great innovators from the rest of the pack? They innovate with purpose.  Use these 4 criteria to determine if your company innovates with purpose.


Give the Organization Time to Farm

When the human race were hunters and gatherers; all they had time for was collecting calories.  We were always on the go.  We did not care about sharing ideas because we were too busy trying to stay alive. 

Innovation happened slowly for thousands of years until the invention of farming.  With farming, we now had additional time to share ideas.  We could store our calories for the future; allowing us to spend more time thinking about and solving meaningful problems.  Many organizations are still hunter/ gatherers. 

Organizations are fighting to survive by being reactive to their surroundings.  When times are good; they are busy fulfilling orders.  When times are bad, they are busy cutting costs.  Organizations need to allow their employees time to farm. 

There is a true danger in today’s economy to be driven by the quarterly call and not long-term shareholder value.  The great organizations give their employees time to work on ideas that may never see the market, provide mechanisms to share ideas, and foster a culture of taking a certain amount of risk.  Don’t let your organization continue to be hunters and gatherers.  Give your people time to farm.

Fire Your Products

Kodak knew digital cameras were coming.  They invented them first!

Blockbuster knew Netflix was trying to disrupt their model.  They changed too slowly.

Taxi companies know Uber will put them out of business.  They lobby.

We can see most disruptions coming.

We know the autonomous driving vehicle is coming.  Billions are being invested today.  There are countless companies that will be affected by this new business model, but my hunch is very few will adapt fast enough.  Think about just a couple:

  • Will insurance companies need to insure drivers anymore?
  • Will valets have a job?
  • What about your neighborhood package delivery service?  App makers?  Taxis?  Gas stations?
  • The government’s ability to generate revenue through tickets!
  • Will billboards be obsolete?  Street signals?  We may not even own our own cars.  Who will banks finance?

Countless other businesses will be affected by this change, but who is actively thinking about how to adapt, fire their products, and innovate?!?  Organizations fall in love with their products and fail to disrupt themselves before they become disrupted.

Think about the potential disruptions coming to your business.  Be realistic about the timeframe at which they are coming.  Now, fire your products and focus on the job your product accomplishes. What does your new business look like?  If Blockbuster had accepted their product as not the DVD they sold in their store, but the entertainment they provided in homes; they might still be viable.


Have a Framework but Don’t Follow it All the Time

A number of years ago; I had the responsibility of creating a global innovation framework across 60k employees and 1000 locations.  The first year was rough.  Luckily, I look at my failures as my greatest gifts.  I received a lot of gifts because I made every mistake in the book.  Here are just a couple lessons learned:

Make sure your framework is based on problems and not products. The framework I initially implemented was based on products and not problems.  We implemented an idea system with good intentions, but it ended up becoming an overflowing suggestion box.  Innovators must identify the problem worth solving first and then generate ideas towards the problem.

Make sure your upfront homework is strategic and not just going through the motions.  If your framework feels like this:  Fill out deliverable 1 – check, host gate meeting- check, commercialize product – check, then you might want to re-look at your framework.  Your framework needs to be agile not linear, strategic not redundant, customer centric not product centric. 

Let your intrepreneurs go outside any process you create.  Every organization has 1 or 2 people who come up with brilliant ideas.   Now picture how miserable they would be if you gave them a framework they had to follow.  You will lose them.  They are one of your greatest assets.  Let them roam freely. 

See Our Framework Below


Just Jump

The best innovators in the world just jump.

Be approximately right.  Prepare your business cases but don’t over prepare.  Let it act as a guide that can change along the way.  I tell most people that the value in the business case is thinking through the problem and not the NPV that comes out of it.  Most people will play with the numbers.  Encourage them to do so!  It will challenge them to hit certain growth numbers if they see the reward.

Don’t wait.  Innovate quickly.  Act like a venture capitalist.  Market research will only get you so far.  Don’t wait for the perfect business case.  Get your product out to your customers, get their feedback, learn, and pivot if necessary.  Build the customer experience into the validation of your product.  You will create loyal customers in the process.  Don’t believe me?  Just ask Pokémon Go how it’s working out for them!

Innovating with purpose is not selling the next product line extension, but going after the big ideas that really matter!

Many organizations have difficulty embedding these criteria into their culture which is precisely the reason they should do it.  These are capabilities that are very difficult to replicate.  Innovate with purpose by giving them time to farm, firing your products, having a framework, and just jumping! 

For more information, please contact us below.

Innovate With Purpose

Give Them Time to Farm


Fire Your Products


Have a Framework



About the Author

Mike Francis

Mike Francis is the president of The Coffee House Group which specializes in transforming companies from product centric to customer centric.

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