Patricia JacobyBy Patricia Jacoby
Content Specialist, Marketing
Frost & Sullivan

 

“Has ten years of innovation taken place in the past nine or ten months?”

Top executives in product development, innovation and engineering gathered recently in Orlando, Florida for the 14th Annual New Product Innovation & Development: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange. The event, themed Being Dynamic in a Post-Pandemic World, was punctuated by the participants’ excitement in exchanging ideas and insights in person, in real time!

As one thought leader stated, the event was focused on people – other participants, customers and employees – as well as technology and the importance of designing digital solutions and processes in the organization. Participants particularly enjoyed the small group format of Collaboration Zone Roundtables like Accelerating Innovation by Thinking (and Executing) Like a Startup, as they facilitated the sharing of new approaches to common challenges. Overall, the event fostered relationship-building, and gave everyone the chance to examine the popular belief that, “Ten years of innovation has taken place in the past nine or ten months.”

Sustainability and innovation

Sustainability and collaboration were on the minds of many of the leaders in attendance. These topics and others were addressed by Dr. Sean Simpson, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer, LanzaTech, in the opening headliner session, 2022 and Beyond: The Third Wave- Accelerating Product Innovation. Stating that “disruption is the new normal,” Dr. Simpson told participants that getting used to change would be necessary for survival. Emphasizing the imperative to address the current climate crisis, he discussed how to reduce the growing amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and outlined his organization’s process for converting it into a sustainable, recyclable resource. He also shared how companies like L’Oreal, Unilever and Coty are starting to use recycled carbon in their product creation and packaging – a win-win for businesses and the environment. As one participant said, “Simpson’s presentation speaks to every industry and we all must ask, ‘What are we doing to help the earth?’”

Digital execution: lessons learned

Christine Hawkins, Director, Digital and Customer Process Transformation, HP, led another headliner session, Executing on Digital Product Innovation. Noting that “dense city populations will drive new business models,” she reminded participants that technologies will need to change and evolve with the market and that the shift to digital processes and products will continue. Hawkins shared both successful and not-so-successful digital product development initiatives at her organization and briefly summarized some of their learnings with the following roadmap for change:

Roadmap for change to enable digital products to grow:

  • Isolate
  • [Examine] what to borrow, what to build
  • Determine what to do internally and what to outsource
  • Allow unconstrained innovation

Navigating the “frozen middle layer”

As several presenters noted, organizational agility, especially in innovation, is more critical than ever in the current era. Successfully creating internal innovation processes and a culture of innovation was another key topic, as it is an ongoing challenge for so many organizations. In addition to a leadership team that drives and supports innovation, determining ways to empower and encourage agility in the “frozen middle (management) layer” of the enterprise was examined. As one presenter stated, “it’s critical to keep telling your entire team why you are doing what you are doing, and to remind them of what you are trying to accomplish.” Participants were reminded that the innovation team should include not just the (obvious) innovators, but other stakeholders like finance and strategy leaders, for example.

Leveraging external resources for better innovation outcomes

New Product Innovation & Development: A Frost & Sullivan Executive MindXchange participants were encouraged to explore partnerships to improve their innovation initiatives. The right partnerships can be useful for cultivating new ideas, and external partners are generally less bound by the internal restrictions and organizational thinking that can hamper internal innovation. As one participant stated, “I work for a big company, and the idea of external partnerships really resonates with me.” Seeking external resources and new employees, even for the short term, can be very beneficial. Short term employees generally have less to lose when it comes to challenging the status quo, and can help spark new ways of thinking and innovating.

Good data and new product development

Not surprisingly, the importance of leveraging good data to help design and focus innovation projects was a final key event take-away. New product innovation and development fueled by data allows leaders to more precisely identify areas of opportunity in existing products and services, as well as hone in on emerging market opportunities. Combining these intelligence-driven opportunities with creative thinking often leads to more successful new products and better outcomes — every innovator’s goal.