Peter Skarzynski and David Crosswhite: An interview by Bob Morris, Part Two

SkarzynskiPeter Skarzynski is a founder and Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC. He advises large, global organizations on strategy, innovation and organizational change and is recognized as a leading expert in enabling organizational renewal and growth through innovation. His experience cuts across industries and includes technology, consumer products & retail, healthcare, energy, financial services and transportation companies. His primary focus has been to help client organizations renew their core business through competence leverage and break-through business concept innovation. He has led and delivered client work in Asia, The Americas and Europe. Before co-founding ITC, Peter was CEO, Chairman and a founding Director of Strategos, a firm initially chaired and founded by Professor Gary Hamel. He also served as a Vice President in the strategy practice of Gemini Consulting and held several senior-level consulting roles in its predecessor, the MAC Group.

A frequent corporate and conference speaker, Peter has written thought pieces for The Wall Street Journal, CEO Magazine, and The Drucker Foundation. His 2008 book, Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates, was the first to describe how large organizations can build and sustain a company-wide innovation capability. Peter holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing and a BA (with Honors) in Policy Studies and Economics from the University of Chicago.

CrosswhiteDavid Crosswhite is an experienced management consultant with more than 20 years of work in the field of growth-focused strategy, innovation, and innovation capability development within large organizations. He is a currently a Managing Partner of ITC Business Group, LLC and a former Managing Director of Strategos. His work focuses on assisting clients with their growth strategy and strategy development processes and systems. His work in this area spans multiple industries, including consumer products, durable goods, healthcare, medical devices, financial services, and heavy manufacturing. David’s experience cuts across B2C and B2B sectors. His work with the Whirlpool Corporation is well-known and documented in Strategic Innovation: Embedding Innovation as a Core Competence in Your Organization, authored by Nancy Tennant, EVP of Leadership and Competence Development for Whirlpool. His work is also heavily documented in Innovation to the Core, and in multiple Harvard Business Review cases and other business journals. .

Prior to Strategos, David was a Principal at the MAC Group and Gemini Consulting in their strategy practice. At MAC/Gemini, David focused on marketing and process design for growth issues in the telecommunications industry. David worked domestically and internationally across many of the major telecommunications providers to develop their go-to-market, service, and product development strategies and processes.

David earned his MBA at the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, and holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Lehigh University.

Peter and David’s most recent collaboration is The Innovator’s Field Guide: Market Tested Methods and Frameworks to Help You Meet Your Innovation Challenges, published by Jossey-Bass/A Wiley Brand (2014)

Here is an excerpt from Part 2 of my interview of them. To read the complete interview, please click here.

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Morris: Briefly, please explain to what extent the methods and frameworks in The Innovator’s Field Guide have been “market-tested.”

It’s fairly road-tested. First, the principles reflect leading practices across organizations of all stripes. Not just the ones mentioned in The Guide but others we researched but, could not put in to the book because of space constraints.

Crosswhite: The frameworks reflect our expression of ways to action the the concepts and principles articulated. And, as we say in the book, these or other frameworks are scaffolding for individuals and teams. They help you ensure that you are asking the right questions. But its all about the right questions and the new learning they facilitate.

Morris: You introduce and discuss nine Principles of Innovation (i.e. “why you are doing what you’re doing”). For those who have not as yet read your book, please suggest what is the key point to be made about each. First, articulate a clear definition of innovation

Crosswhite: What outcomes do you want from your efforts? What constitutes innovation for your organization? What qualifies as “what you want” when you – your organization – says it wants innovation?

Skarzynski: Yes. What is the job you want innovation to do for you and your organization.

Morris: Aim your efforts at the business concept, and focus not just on the “what” but also “who” and “why”

Skarzynski: Innovation efforts fall short when you lock on a single focus. Technology companies think too much about technology, for example. Product companies think about what’s the next product or product iteration they want to introduce.

Crosswhite: To Peter’s point, in the work of innovation consider all aspects of the business concept and model. Not just the “what” of product; not just thinking of ‘new’ products. But, new targets (who) and new benefits or reason to believe (Why). Take the time to consider all dimensions of the business concept and business model. In doing so, you’ll open up the aperture of innovation for your organization a great deal more.

Morris: Understand that innovation means new learning

Crosswhite: If innovation is about “new and different” that means you need to build new, foundational learning. You have to ask new questions about product market and industry context. We share techniques about how to ask new questions in new ways, systematically, in the guide. But our view is, no new learning, no new innovation. Or not much, at least. .

Skarzynski: Christensen speaks to new learning through the “jobs to be done” framework. Think of the job the customer is hiring the product or service to do. Ask yourself, is there a better way to perform that job. This type of thinking is fundamental to disruption. It is a mirror to “Design thinking,” which has become mainstream in the last five years.

Earn the right to ideate through insight-driven innovation

Skarzynski: Before you go to ideate, have an insight based POV. Make that your foundation to ideate

Crosswhite: Yes, it goes to the “new learning point.” No new learning, no new ideas. Give yourself a chance to break frame first. Gain some new bases for the conversation. Then go have the conversation. Putting people in a room to develop new ideas without new learning in hand is very likely to yield the same old ideas and conversations. Why wouldn’t it?

Morris: Make the work of innovation not merely the generating of new ideas but an end-to-end process through to successful commercialization

Crosswhite: As a starting premise, we think of innovation as a new idea, realized in market. If you start there, then the work of innovation is not just ideation. It’s the end to end work of developing the new idea, getting it to a point of action, and then implementing. Or testing, iterating, and implementing if that’s what’s called for. That’s an end-to-end process, not just an ideation process.

Skarzynski: Which is worth highlighting as a key principle since so many organizations, and even consultancies either implicitly or explicitly think of innovation as just getting some new ideas, some new post-it notes, created. And then the rest is “just execution”. We believe that’s a mistake, and there’s a better way to frame the work of innovation to get you more meaningful results.

Morris: Build innovation capability through a learn-by-doing approach

Skarzynski: In practical terms this is the best way for an organization to get innovation and capability that stick. Pick meaningful innovation issues and topics, frame them, and apply the right techniques and approaches to work the issue. It gets you results sooner, and capability that is deeper and more sustainable. It beats a classroom training format any day of the week in terms of results achieved for the organization.

Crosswhite: Nothing to add. Agree in full.

Be systematic and systemic in your approach

Crosswhite: Be systematic: Adopt specific, tangible, tried and true techniques that attack the issue in a deliberate and organized fashion. The Guide, of course, puts forth techniques to apply to common challenges. But most important is that you have a point-of-view about the actionable approach you want to take to the challenge. Be systemic: Look for all the appropriate levers to apply to your organization to achieve sustainable innovation capability. Not just process and tools only – although these are important levers. But skill-building, leadership engagement, metrics, incentives, communications, and multiple others. Use as many levers as you can avail yourself of to create the most sustainable and robust innovation capability.

Skarzynski: And a key to the systemic point is that of making sure the combinations of specific organizing actions – Dave refers to them as levers –you choose align and work well with one another. In other words, they’re specifically selected to work with the grain of your organization and synch up with one another – as opposed to inadvertently “fight” one another. This sounds obvious but too many organizations think of selecting organizing levers for innovation as an exercise of simply picking from a set of menu items those that you deem most attractive to pick. And it’s really a more in depth design exercise than that. We speak about this a great deal in Chapter 8 – which speaks to “Organizing for Innovation”.

Morris: Embrace and employ Open Innovation (OI).

Skarzynski: Briefly, the notion is the pool of know how and talent in a given domain is massively larger than that which is present within your particular organization. In a hyper-competitive world, tapping in to external talent (IP, especially) is value-creating. We share a brief example from Mondelēz. Henry Chesbrough pioneered this management practice, of course, and he leads a center focusing on open innovation at Berkeley. And of course P&G among others leaned hard in to it.

Crosswhite: In addition…and again, borrowing from Henry, organizations successful in OI first must become “open” internally before being open externally. Open internally means success at working across organizational silos and, critically important, being as comfortable working across networks as working within traditional hierarchies. Success in OI takes time and requires smart, fit-for-purposes changes to internal processes.

Morris: Of the nine, which seems to be the most difficult to follow? Why?

Crosswhite: They are all hard. And for any given organization, one may be more difficult but, they are all hard.

Skarzynski: For sure they are all difficult. But they are not impossibly so. And the best way to build your skill is to get going. Pick a challenge or area of focus…and aim your efforts at that challenge.

* * *

To read the complete Part 2 of my interview, please click here.

To read Part 1, please click here.

In addition to the hyperlinks, Peter and David cordially invite you to check out the resources at these websites:

Innovator’s Field Guide link

Our Growth practice link

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