Business Case Studies, Executive Interviews, Sam Kogan on Innovation

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Executive Interviews: Interview with Sam Kogan on Innovation
November 2006 - By Dr. Nagendra V Chowdary

Dr. Sam Kogan
President & Chief Operating Officer of GEN3 Partners

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  • Can you tell us about GEN3 Partners, its scope of activities and its credentials?
    GEN3 Partners is a product innovation consulting firm that enables companies to dramatically improve the impact, predictability and productivity of their innovation processes. GEN3 Partners is about to change the game when it comes to how corporations understand and implement innovation through our innovation discipline. This innovation discipline has helped a growing number of companies identify their greatest product innovation opportunities and solve the technical barriers to achieving them.

    We are focused on helping companies implement innovation that runs across the entire organization. It is critical that organizations do not keep innovation in a silo in R&D, manufacturing, or with the guys in the corner office. Instead, we are dedicated to delivering innovation that aligns the organization together. Our organization leverages knowledge and experience from around the globe, including from our resource network called the Global Knowledge Network. This is a proprietary network of more than 6,000 scientists, researchers and other technical experts from around the globe that provide our clients access to world-class expertise in a broad range of areas.

    GEN3 Partners is able to apply its inter-disciplined approach in practically every industry from small to big companies, because the basic methodology behind our innovation discipline is objective and structured and has tools that could address all the issues and needs across any organization and across any industry.

    In terms of our credentials, our clients include Fortune 500 companies from all different industries and geographies and sizes. We maintain a world-class team consisting of scientists, engineers, business analysts, business strategists and other professionals whose combined expertise enables our clients to achieve their desired goals. The firms leaders are renowned in their fields including Chairman Jim Sims, Chief Strategist Michael Treacy and Chief Scientist Simon Litvin.

  • What according to you are the biggest bottlenecks hindering innovation in many of the companies across the globe?
    The answer is simple: people struggle with innovation today because it is an unpredictable and inefficient process. It does not affect their bottom line. So people have to ask themselves: why would I do it, if I know I cannot control it?

    The bottom line is twofold. First, no one knows what innovation is and therefore efforts are not focused and do not yield results. So, there is a real need to define and focus innovation. Second, a company will struggle until it stops viewing innovation as an expense and starts treating it as a necessary investment in the companys future. This is a critical moment for a company to realize. When innovation is treated as an expense, and its direction is driven by an unpredictable wonder child then the company will never be able to predict performance or align the companys overall efforts. On the other side of the coin, look at companies like Procter & Gamble, Google and Siemens. These successful companies view innovation as a strategically important thing to invest in and to measure their results against.

    At many companies, innovation is left to middle managers whose unfamiliarity with formal innovation methodology and its benefits hamper the ability for organizations to adopt it as a corporate discipline. The very nature of innovation as we work with it today is unpredictable, and managers who are held accountable based on results cant afford to take the risks or expend their budgets or time. But if the initiatives are fed from multiple sources at the highest levels of an organization we would see a paradigm shift.

    In addition, successful innovation needs to be cross-functional. It should be a part of many different aspects of a company. In order to do that, innovation needs to be driven from the corner office. People in the company should feel the commitment of senior management. An example of this comes from P&G. Ten years ago John Pepper made it clear everyday that innovation was his personal commitment. He was driving it. When you read what Googles management team says, they say from the very top that innovation is a critical part of its senior management agenda.

    To avoid bottlenecks, here are three pieces of advice:

  1. Define and focus innovation
  2. Stop treating innovation as an expense
  3. Bring in discipline and align the whole organization to it.

   As long as companies dont follow these, they will struggle with innovation.

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