Grabbing Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation written by Gina Colarelli O’Conner, Richard Leifer, Albert Paulson, and Lois S. Peters. Their work provides an interesting look at how some large companies are working to make breakthrough innovation a core part of corporate strategy and a core business capability. The authors claim their work shows innovation is no longer a fad, but is in the process of becoming a core business function, like marketing and finance, and my own experience with Venture2 over the last several years helping leading companies with open innovation shows this to be true as companies continue to progress in their OI efforts.
Based on more than four years of research, the authors followed twelve leading companies that had a declared strategic intent to develop a sustainable ‘breakthrough innovation’ capability including 3M, GE, J&J Consumer, and others. From their study of this group they developed a set of findings, and tested these against another second group of ten firms including Hewlett Packard, Intel, and P&G, and developed best practices.
Their premise, familiar to most of us and experienced personally by some, is that the management processes developed by large companies to provide incremental innovation will kill off breakthrough innovations, and that companies must develop fundamentally different methods of managing breakthrough innovations. The lessons learned are synthesized and presented in a clear framework with three distinct competencies Discovery, Incubation, and Acceleration. Discovery is focused on the creation or recognition of opportunities, incubation involves evolving the opportunity into a business proposition, and acceleration involves ramping up the new business to stand on its own.
While the general framework is likely to be familiar to many of us, the authors are to be commended for their comprehensive approach to laying out their different management system needed for each of these phases. For each phase they lay out an appropriate management system including structure, mandate, leadership, roles, processes, and metrics. This approach, avoiding the easy answers and platitudes about innovation, gets to the heart of the changes necessary for a company to develop the capacity to bring serial breakthrough innovations to market. Filled with interesting case studies, but recommended for those who desire for a deep understanding of the different skills and management systems needed for each phase of developing and bringing to market a breakthrough innovation.