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Innovation - Stop waiting for the Eureka Moment

Recently, the Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, repeated his call for India Inc to innovate. He is amongst a large group of world leaders who have been consistently calling for innovation to meet strategic goals of the world, including the UN SDG goals.

By now it should be clear to most business leaders that innovation is essential not only for their own longevity but also for the planet to remain sustainable.

However, the world continues to struggle with innovation and only a minority seem to succeed with innovation.

  • A Mckinsey study has found that while a vast majority of organizations (90%) want to innovate only 6% are satisfied with their innovation efforts

  • The Innovation360 Group found, from the data in InnoSurvey ®, that only 10% of the 5000+ organizations surveyed had the capability to execute their innovation strategy.

World over, quite many people seem to believe that “Eureka” moments will drive innovation. They seem to trust the creative instinct of few to drive innovation and are waiting for them. Alas! Statistic belies this misconception; Eureka moments aren’t sufficient to drive innovation.

Innovation is often the result of imagination, hypothesis, experimentation, failures, learning as well as inspiration from observable phenomenon and even unrelated disciplines.

Some of the most common reasons why leaders fail to deliver radical innovation are

  1. They don’t believe and/or committed to breakthrough goals. Shareholders (and stock markets) seem to encourage incremental and consistent growth.

  2. Continue to do what they always do and ignore what might be.

  3. Fail to recognize that breakthroughs don’t occur on a linear basis and are unpredictable

  4. Don’t like failure, resistance and change, they don’t persevere and end up compromising

  5. Fail to communicate and engage others involved in their goals. Innovation is left to few while the majority are asked to focus on what they always do.

  6. Ignore the fact that systems tend to self-preserve and resist change. Innovation often destroys the present and existing systems and culture prevent that from happening

How should leaders approach innovation then?

Clark Gilbert and Joseph Bower (2002), writing in HBR on the topic of the paradox of threatened responses, recommends that organizations approach disruptive growth opportunities with high commitment and a flexible plan. He identifies two key framing challenges, one of resource allocation and one of venture building.

They theorize that organizations and leaders are more prone to allocate resources when disruption is perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity, a reason why new opportunities are pursued late by the organization. However, once resource allocation is done, there is a very different challenge of venture building.

When resources continue to deal with disruption as a threat in the venture building process, they found that organizations go into a self-preservation mode and begin protecting what they always do. To prevent this they recommend that once resources are allocated they must be spun off in the venture creating process and deal with it as a new growth opportunity; a high commitment and flexible approach.

A 2018 Strategy& (PwC) study found that top innovators and larger companies did 6 things that set apart their innovation efforts

  1. They closely align innovation strategy with business strategy.

  2. They create company-wide cultural support for innovation.

  3. Their top leadership is highly involved with the innovation program.

  4. They base innovation on direct insights from end-users.

  5. They rigorously control project selection early in the innovation process.

  6. They excel at each of these first five characteristics and have been able to integrate them to create unique customer experiences that can transform their market.

Here are the 10 steps we recommend that you should follow with regard to your innovation and disruptive growth agenda. These are based on Magnus Penker’s work and are detailed in his book ”Sustainable Growth and Profits: Managing Your Innovation Strategy, Organization, and Initiatives”, Magnus Penker 2018

  1. Imagine and create a vision of your own future, use scenario planning and imagine what might be.

  2. Select the right group of people to drive the innovation efforts, based on aspiration and collective ability

  3. Identify and establish strategic initiatives that create inspiring possibilities. Setting up a purpose and vision and connecting to steps that the organization can execute is important to motivate and establish perseverance.

  4. Establish radical breakthrough goals. Enrol and communicate to establish a sense of urgency and true commitment.

  5. Get people involved. Get quick wins and build confidence.

  6. Establish a culture of experimentation. Build a process around hypothesis-based ideation and experimentation, testing every idea and generating insights

  7. Build a portfolio of initiatives that focus on the future, growth into new areas and exploiting as well as optimizing the current business.

  8. Take action and generate results across all horizons

  9. Deal directly with unexpected outcomes. Learn from mistakes but don’t give up

  10. Build an innovation engine. You will probably need several operating models in different parts of the organization. Different strategic initiatives may need different models.

Don’t wait for the “Eureka Moment”; it never arrives for most.

What you can and should do is plan to start a journey, a journey of new possibilities rather than wait for the alien to upend your world.

Do reach out to me if you need support for your innovation efforts.

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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