By Deepankar Pant
Senior Brand Manager, Innovation
Jarden Home Brands
The process of ongoing innovation to deliver new products and services results from skills and discipline that actually combine elements of both art and science. In any industry or business a state of perpetual dissatisfaction, from any of the stakeholders in the value-chain: investors, suppliers, intermediaries or end-users, fuels the emergence of new ideas and concepts.
The innate curiosity to observe and learn from consumer circumstances, the nuanced probing of specific motivators and barriers influencing consumer behavior, and the creative conception of possible solutions is largely an art form. Best practice techniques for qualitative research, predictive forecasting, and quantitative validation implemented as part of disciplined processes, are akin to science – repeatable and scalable. The art of observing and gleaning meaningful information (aka consumer insights), that enables the development of improved new products or paradigm shifting breakthrough innovations, can be learned with training and practice. Some individuals have a natural advantage with this skill – a built-in mind-set for curiosity, a higher curiosity quotient (CQ). Often, the more diverse the teams working on new products, the higher the probability of including individuals with this curious mind-set.
For continued growth and to maintain competitive relevance, many organizations have committed to innovation as one of their strategic drivers. Perfecting how to maximize the marketplace impact with available resources and assets is the quintessential challenge. At an elemental level, there are 3 broad levers that organizations use for the strategic approach and tactical plays that activate innovation: organizational Commitment to innovation; the role of People – employees as well as external partners; and the Process of activating innovation across the value chain. More detail as follows:
Commitment: The level of commitment from senior leaders in the organization to invest in innovation as a strategic competency and deliberately ingrain it in the culture is crucial. Goal setting at the highest level to foster innovation makes it more of an operating rhythm than a job imperative for a few functions. Such a pervasive culture can be distinctively more conducive to creativity and innovation versus segregated skunk works.
People: An employee pool with diverse backgrounds, range of skill-sets and varied abilities to problem solve is a strategic asset. Some of the highest functioning teams recognize this and have this as a core underlying trait. Offering formal and informal forums to employees across the value-chain, to engage with innovation, unlocks their cumulative creative power. Procurement and customer affairs teams should have the same opportunity as marketing and R&D.
Process: While an appropriate level of rigor for market research techniques and standardized metrics at every stage of commercialization is the minimum, of highest importance is the crystal clear understanding of end-user needs, and the relevance of the innovation effort to the overall business.
A hypothesized framework employing the above 3 levers is captured below. The sweet spot is an ongoing movement towards the top right horizon.
Balancing an entrepreneurial orientation with strong strategic and analytical skills, Deepankar helps solve business challenges with a resolute focus on accomplishing revenue and margin objectives. His specialities include product innovation, product management and brand marketing. Previous roles include Senior Market Development Manager, Life Technologies and Product Manager, DENTSPLY International.