A word from Neal on innovation

Published Sept 16, 2022

This month’s word is a tried and true one: innovation. This may currently be one of those deeply over-used words – like sustainability has become – that means too many different things to many different people and is almost more of a cliché than a valued concept. Nonetheless, we know the world is changing, customers’ and consumers’ needs are changing, and therefore we must bring new ideas successfully into the world to anticipate and meet those changing needs. We must innovate.

While sustaining innovations is challenging, most large companies are excellent there. New products and services with improved features building on current products and services are developed as part of large innovation portfolios. However, more transformational innovations are challenging.

Parents know that you cannot envision their young child’s future as an adult 20 years ahead, so why do we expect big companies to be able to look 20 years ahead? As parents, we sometimes struggle to treat our adult children as adults; we may fall into the trap of treating them like a child, much like company leaders have difficulty abandoning their legacy thinking. The beauty is that these challenges are opportunities for disruptive innovations by start-up entrepreneurs.

My colleague David Matheson has recently launched two LinkedIn posts (links below) with his sister, Amy Day, based on the idea that innovative thinking offers insights into parental thinking and parental experiences provide insights on how to innovate.

Video 1

Video 2

I enjoyed their innovative approach to innovative thinking. Since most of us have experience as parents, the insights can readily flow from parenting to innovation.

Envisioning the future, for example, is a talent that some are borne with, and others develop, whether as parents or leaders. But it is not an easy skill to master. At any company, future scenario thinking is also an exercise that is best done with the right group and process to stimulate thinking. It reminds me of Bill Gates’ comment that “we always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.” Great entrepreneurs, in my experience, are gifted in their ability to envision – and create – a new future!

At Radicle Growth, we look for this talent in entrepreneurs, along with a willingness to flexibly adapt to new learnings about the future and the market. Great entrepreneurs constantly learn and listen to the customer without the constraints of large companies’ legacy assets that may slow down their innovation. We love working with entrepreneurs who have this talent and are committed to growing it and their companies in adaptive ways.

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