G. Michael Maddock
Here is an excerpt to the second of two articles by G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Vitón that were published in Bloomberg Businessweek. I suggest you read the first before you read this sequel. It has apparently created so much controversy (and perhaps misunderstanding) to which Maddock and Vitón felt the need to respond.
* * *
To the readers who called us idiots in response to our last column, allow us to explain ourselves…
O.K., you caught us. We were trying to poke the academic bear. But our intentions were good.
We saw a disturbing trend: Big process-driven companies’ hiring process-driven academics, many of Ivy Leaguers, to help them develop or refine their approach to innovation. In our last column, we said this is not the best idea we have ever seen.
Our issue, we wrote, is that process usually means mitigating risk, and big companies already qualify as risk averse. We believe they often need to take more chances, not fewer. And if they were looking for advice about taking risk, perhaps professors, people “who have chosen a safe, pragmatic, low-risk occupation and tenured career,” shouldn’t be their first choice.
We thought this bordered on self-evident. But judging by the responses, you would have thought we’d shredded everyone’s Southwest Airlines (LUV) or Apple (AAPL) case studies or told a bunch of 8-year-olds we wanted to eliminate Halloween.
So, at the risk of triggering a new round of reader comments and having even more people question our intelligence and ability to think, we’d like to respond and clarify a few things.
Raphael Louis Vitón
1. We don’t hate academics. We heard from lots of academics, and this reader comment from “Professor” was typical: “The career of the professor is safe, pragmatic, and low risk? … In my field, the academic career means bouncing from postdoc to postdoc every few years hoping to land a job as assistant professor somewhere … anywhere. If lucky enough to land one of those coveted positions, then six years later, if the department, Dean, Provost, a special committee, and five experts in the field agree that the professor is the best thing since sliced bread, tenure is finally granted. … There was zero job security in my world until I was 35 yrs old ….”
O.K. But from age 35 to whenever you choose to retire, there is little to worry about when it comes to job security. You don’t have to worry about constantly reinventing yourself. Big companies do, and among the professors we know there is not an overwhelming sense of urgency to get anything done quickly.
The response by “Entrepreneur” sums up our thoughts up nicely. “Show me a professor [who] has launched, or at least attempted to launch, a number of businesses, and I will show you a generous, humble, and wise teacher. Show me a professor [who] makes a living ridiculing the failures of others without ever taking a risk himself, and I will show you a complete waste of money.”
2. We are not against process. Countless people concluded that when it comes to innovation, we take a “ready, fire, aim” approach. Nothing can be further from the truth. We love process. Heck, we have one that has worked really well for our clients over the last 20 years. We actually wrote a book about it. In broad strokes, it goes like this:
Step 1. Find a huge market need. (You guessed it, we have a process for this, too.)
Step 2. Find a product or service that fills that need. (Yep, we use a process here as well.)
Step 3. Create communication that clearly links Steps 1 and 2 in the mind of the customer.
But having a process is only the beginning in creating the new. Devoid of inspired thinking and the proper amount of failure and risk-taking, the only thing your process is going to create is a bunch of me-too products that will marginalize your business and drive away your best people and best customers.
* * *
To read the complete article, please click here.
G. Michael Maddock is chief executive, and Raphael Louis Vitón is president of Maddock Douglas, an innovation consultancy that helps clients invent, brand, and launch new products, services, and business models. Maddock is author of the upcoming book Brand New: Solving the Innovation Paradox—How Great Brands Invent and Launch New Products, Services, and Business Models (Wiley, April 2011). To check out their other blog posts, please click here.