SCIENCE of Innovation

Ramkumar Venkatesan

Vice President Technology at MiQ Digital



"Innovation is one of the most discussed topics in a business context. There is a good consensus that innovation is about turning an idea into a solution that adds value from a customer's perspective. It reflects in the way you develop a product and a business model that realizes a profit. It is also something ingrained in a company's DNA that enables the creation of new value. Everyone agrees that innovation leads to several things. Increased revenue, decrease in costs through increased efficiencies, reduced competitive and financial risks, high levels of customer satisfaction, and elevated employee behaviors beyond that of competitors. Of course, there is a lot of material on the reasons for innovation, and what it is and what is not innovation. There are also many strategies on how to innovate. Below, I define a set of strategies to focus on for innovation."

Actions taken

"The strategies are outlined in the acronym SCIENCE- Sized right, Continuous innovation, Iterative rapid prototyping, Everyone can, Newness Fallacy, Conductive setting, Emulate."

  • Sized right: "I have often seen that people want to have a big impact very quickly. The bar is set very high and so many, if not most, ideas are dropped because they are not impactful enough. Or they come up with very big ideas that are, in fact, also dropped because they are too big to execute. This is not so much against big and audacious ideas, but that there is a space for both. For example, if your New Year resolutions are too hard to achieve, it is very easy to walk away from them. Instead, if the resolutions were right sized and achievable, the probability of making them happen increases significantly. It is the same with innovation."

  • Continuous innovation: "Annual hackathons are great. Running a marathon once a year is great too. I believe, though, that running one every week is even better. Similarly, if teams continuously innovate, the spirit of innovation is very well imbibed into day-to-day activities. The sum total value from continuous innovation will be much more than the impact of annual hackathon projects alone. I believe that all innovation shouldn't be discrete and rare. They need to be continuous and more often than not, practical."

  • Iterative rapid prototyping: "Iterative and rapid prototyping is extremely important for successful innovation. Ideas are cheap and everyone has a ton of them. The vast majority of ideas remain only ideas but a surefire way to convert an idea, an innovation, is to iterate and rapidly prototype it. When we have a prototype to show, the reviewers are keen to look at it as they believe it is closer to being real. They also appreciate the effort and conviction behind the prototype opposed to just verbal communication or a visual slideshow. We also have to be rapid in order to gather feedback and tweak the prototypes. Even the prototypes that are discarded are not a complete loss. You gain vast experience from this process and that experience will be fed into the subsequent prototypes or into a future innovative ideas."

  • Everyone can: "All of us are able to identify who are great innovators, what companies are innovative, and even critique certain people or companies that are not very innovative. While knowing what is innovative is a good learning experience, it has no material impact on how innovative we are as individuals. We need to change the conversation inward and make it about us. This starts with breaking the notion that a few selected and successful people only can be innovative. I believe that everyone can and should innovate."

  • Newness fallacy: "Many ideas get dropped because they are perceived to be not new enough. We don't need to be inventing the next light bulb. Instead, the focus can be on whether the idea is solving a previously unsolved problem for an end-user. If it is solving a problem, but the solution is not new, we can still consider it as an innovation that is worth adding to the product."

  • Conducive setting: "Innovative ideas can occur at various times in various places. I believe that the environment should enable innovation to happen. A hectic setting like an emergency room is not likely to foster innovation. So how do you create the opposite of such an environment? We focus on quality and automation. These are two tested ways that help create a stable setting where teams can think and come up with innovative ideas for the future."

  • Emulate: "When we idolize people we put them on a very high pedestal. But what if instead of idolizing the person, we emulate the things that he or she did then? For example, when people are asked to name an innovative person, Steve Jobs' name will likely crop up. Instead of idolizing Steve Jobs as a great innovator, why don't we emulate his passion for creating simple products with an insanely great user experience and embark on our own personal innovative journey. Instead of idolizing people we can find what things they did and start emulating them are."

Lessons learned

"Embarking on a journey of innovation can be exhilarating but also challenging. Conflicts will arise and headwinds exist within ourselves. However, we can overcome them and be successful in exploring our ideas."

Source: LinkedIn

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Ramkumar Venkatesan

Vice President Technology at MiQ Digital

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