Kuczmarski, Google, and Innovation

Early in December last year, Tom Kuczmarski, the Senior Partner of our firm was invited to come share his perspective on Innovation as well as discuss his latest book “Apples Are Square” with the bright and curious minds at Google.  Below is a video of the engaging conversation that ensued. 

Great questions from the audience included:

Can you routinize and processize innovation or does it have to be original every time?

We would say that innovation is only TRULY successful if you have incorporated it into your culture and it becomes a standard part of your product development efforts.  When I worked in software I often looked around at small and large successful tech companies and wondered what made the difference between those that were small one or two hit wonders that stall at $30-40 Million in revenues and those that just dominate a market (think Flickr or VMware or Microsoft or Google)?  There are several parts to that answer but there is no question that generally success is tied to an iterative, customer centric process. 

Being at Kellogg, how do your students respond to your discussions of innovation?  Are they excited about it, engaged and what kinds of examples do you use, what types of companies do you point to?

Since part of my regular work is to develop many of the cases Tom uses in his Kellogg and corporate presentations and we at the firm use for our client work I’ve been thinking it might be a useful approach to start fleshing these out in the weblog.  Look for a discussion of Tata Motors tomorrow.

And my favorite was, How do you make sure that what you innovate to is actually going to be demanded by the market ultimately?

See the answer to the first question.  I love how Tom phrases his answer, and no, unlike Hillary and Barack, we did not seed that question into the crowd.  The dimension of innovation that people and companies – especially high tech organizations – often forget about is that while we have to focus on the creative side of innovation, we also have to focus on how do we convert that into a successful business venture or new service or new product that ultimately will serve new customers and will be profitable to the business.  You have to be customer centric and you have to be willing to let go of your preconceived notions of what your target customers really want.  Either that or you have to accept that it may actually be a very different customer who finds an even greater value to your product or service while using it in a very different fashion than you originally envisioned. 

If you want Tom’s full answer to the last question then you need to sit and watch the video – the reaction from Google was very enthusiastic both during and after the presentation.