Why Even Bad Innovation is Good
Andrew Hargadon’s article in Strategy+Business, Bad Innovation is Just What Your Company Needs, makes a case for innovation regardless of whether or not it results in a new hit product or market disruption. This argument is similar to our assertion in our book, The Moonshot Effect, that launching a Moonshot brings benefits – the effect – that go well beyond a successful business outcome.
Hargadon identifies four reasons to pursue innovation:
- Innovation as a Placeholder: When a new entrant emerges, market leaders can create a me-to product as a placeholder that will compete to retain customers. This product doesn’t need to be perfect – once the market demonstrates demand you can build a next generation market-leading product.
- Innovation as a proving ground: Smaller innovation projects give companies opportunities to test new technologies, market opportunities, business models and cultivate emerging talent within the company. This last point synchs with our premise that launching a Moonshot is the best way to groom high potential employees in organizations – Moonshots elevate leaders and create heroes.
- Innovation is trust building: I love Hargadon’s take on this. Innovation requires commitment and trust to be developed between co-workers and departments. In our experience with Moonshots, one of the beneficial side-effects is that it fosters cross-functional collaboration, which generates new connective tissue in the organization. The resulting communication and understanding between functional teams improves company performance across the business.
- Innovation as a long game: Hargadon argues to evaluate the success of innovation not by the results of the first product, but by assessing whether the first product serves as a stepping stone to build capabilities, experience and relationships that will create opportunities five years out.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that there really is no “bad” innovation. Innovation doesn’t always result in lightning in a bottle, but as we’ve seen with Moonshots, it almost always yields new skills and expertise, elevates leaders and creates heroes.