Innovation is About Execution

Innovation is not just about having a great idea (which is why it’s a lot more than just R&D) – it’s about executing ideas and getting them to spread. Here’s a case in point: Google. I ran across this video through George Siemen’s outstanding newsletter – a talk at the Palo Alto Research Centre by Marissa Mayer from Google:

Here is George’s summary of the key point in the talk:

Around the 30 minute mark she nicely sums up Google philosophy: find innovation weak points (areas where technology has advanced, but hasn’t been applied to “real world” problems) and exploit opportunities to improve the end-users experience.

Think about that for a second – the technology has advanced, but it has not been applied usefully. Google’s innovation strategy is basically to find areas with great ideas but no execution – and then they execute.

I just finished going to the annual DRUID Summer Conference, which, as usual, was very interesting. One of the striking things in the conference though is the HUGE amount of innovation research that is based on studying patents. This is understandable, because patent data is relatively easy to obtain, and you can get gigantic amounts of it, which makes your statistics look great. The problem is that patents are just ideas. They tell us about where the technology is advancing, but they don’t tell us anything about who is actually executing these ideas, or who is successful at getting them to spread.

But if we’re interested in innovation, we have to be more concerned with these last two steps. Innovation is a process – you are more successful at innovating if you manage it as a process. We will be more successful at researching it if we study it as a process.

Too many people think that innovation is all about great ideas. It is not. Innovation is about executing great ideas. Google’s ongoing success lies in finding research areas where the ideas aren’t getting executed well, and they’re not getting diffused. Google is a pretty good company to learn from – innovation is all about executing ideas.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

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3 thoughts on “Innovation is About Execution

  1. Coming soon…..thankfully something decent that puts the focus upon the execution part- the one place most fail to realise is more crucial than all the sum of the previous parts.

    The Other Side of Innovation – Solving the Execution Challenge
    By: Vijay Govindarajan and Chris Trimble
    Harvard Business School Press, Forthcoming
    The guiding managerial model for innovation is just too simple. It reduces to: innovation = ideas. As a result, most corporations have more ideas than they can possibly move forward. Far too many promising ideas on paper never become anything more than . . . promising ideas on paper. Here is an improved equation for innovation: innovation = ideas + execution. The Other Side of Innovation is based on ten years of research into the best practices for executing an innovation initiative of any size or shape. It offers in-depth recommendations plus analysis of a wide variety of real-world examples of innovation inside of well-known companies like IBM, BMW, and Deere & Company.