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Overlooking the Obvious: Why Innovation Fails

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Overlooking the
Obvious: Why Innovation Fails
A BEI presentation by Scott Jenkins, SVP of Innovation and
Product Development, Deckers
Scott began this talk insisting on blend work and play. His
journey into 'the sin of corporate innovation' happened eight years ago.
At an early age Scott became fascinated with running shoes.
He met an inventor in 1978, when he was 18. For eight years, he tried to sell
an innovation. He was rejected 94 times by every leading athletic CEO.
He asks, 'how do corporations judge good ideas'? How do
ideas get killed'?
Finally, they licensed the technology to Rekbok and it was a
mega-seller. Persistence was key.
His journey took him to the Pentagon, selling a safety
innovation, then he joined Deckers.
He bases his philosophy off of his mother's wisdom: 'Look
for the good.'
He foreshadows, 'it's people and culture that make change.'
Then, he jokes, showing several hundred innovation funnels
that are meaningless, saying 'process is necessary but not sufficient to drive
innovation.'
But it is not the process that drives innovation. What gets
in the way are people who make decisions'and the courage lacking to make such
decisions. The over-reliance of process, proof, and security stymie the
process.
Corporate executives want to create a 'bloodless surgery,'
and that is now how innovation works.
He quoted Wilber Wright: 'no bird ever soared at a calm.'
Likewise, no innovation soars in a calm.'
Scott switched to a few success stories. The first was Uggs,
which Deckers bought for 10mm. As Ugg's grew, they were using all of the
available sheepskin they could get their hands on. Prices were rising. But,
there was an orthodoxy that Uggs had to made of sheepskin.
They created a product called Uggpure, with wool inside, but
a different material on the outside. Then, they tested it with 100 of their
customers. They could not tell a difference in the product. Therefore, costs
went down, for the company and the customer, while creating a lighter footprint
on planet Earth. They saved the company 70mm a year.
By debunking the orthodoxy, it was a win for the company,
the customer, and the planet.
Hoka running shoes was Scott's other example. The insight
was that 'people choose comfort over discomfort.' The idea was revolutionary,
given the barefoot running craze happening at the time. They had to bet that
running trends would change away from the minimal style and bet on they
consumer three-to-five years from now.
The CEO said to Scott, 'No one at this organization can stop
you by saying no.' This golden ticket empowered Scott to build the fastest
growing running shoe in North America.
So, what truly empowers innovation? (Not process) People.
Heart. Character. The courage to lead as innovation officers. Courage is key.
To reward this trait, Deckers gives out an Innovation
Courage Award to key innovators in its organization. On the back of the coin it
reads:
'     
Positive Change
'     
Into the New
'     
Passion
'     
Humble
'     
Open
'     
Persistence
'     
Find the Pain
'     
Look for the Good
These eight mantras guide the innovation process at Deckers.
These awards are given to people in every department who live out and practice
these values.
The core value is courage, 'it takes courage to persist,
speak up, follow your passion, be a game changer.' What the award does is show
that the company appreciates risk taking and bold action, both of which are
core elements for meaningful innovation.
Michael Graber is the
managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic
growth firm based in Memphis, TN. Visit
www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

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