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Puppetry of innovation - Introduction

Source: Pixabay

Puppetry remains one of the fascinating art, a thoroughly enjoyed event that has few masters. You marvel at the skill of the artist in manipulating strings and wonder what sort of genius it takes to do it all. A master puppeteer will tell you that it’s all a science and not sorcery. It takes years of practice, understanding how the strings work when it’s pulled and mastering the angles and science behind the strings. But then you also require the ability to build a great story that the audience will love and combine seamlessly with the science of the strings.

Innovation is very similar, it’s not sorcery or mad science or serendipity. You need to understand the capabilities and process that is required to orchestrate disruptive and new thinking through the organization. You need to master the science of breaking barriers to entrenched thinking, risk-taking, handling uncertainties, lack of clear visibility of ROI and motivating stakeholders to journey into the unknown. It’s equally important to identify defining purpose for innovation and figure out great value propositions that solve problems that are important and valued by customers.

Innovation is so much like puppetry! What strings do you need to pull and how do they work? This has been an area of research for many and a lot of time has been spent on understanding how the great innovators have pulled it off.

While there is plenty of such work, one of the works I deeply appreciate is the work by Magnus Penker. His is not a work analysing the work of 10 or 20 great innovators, not a study of a famous organization. His is a work based on data, an analysis of thousands of companies and their innovation practice. He put his digital and analytics skills to use and built a powerful engine to gather and analyse innovation practices.

Using a rigorous process of hypothesis testing and analytics he came up with an analysis of what sets apart innovators. Every of his conclusion is based on statistically valid data that can be verified with examples from successful organizations. InnoSurvey® currently has data from innovation practices of over 5000 companies from 105+ countries across the world. Organizations use the assessment to generate a data-based understanding of their innovation capabilities and design their playbook

In this series of articles, I would like to share with you detailed insights into what Magnus has found. You can find a very detailed description of his research findings in his 3 books, Sustainable growth and profits, How to assess and measure business innovation and PlayBold. Be warned, Magnus being a non-native English speaker can come across as a dry writer. His books have a tilt of being a research book and might not be as engaging as other books on innovation. But I can assure you that the findings and insights are such that these are very valuable books.

I360 Model - Magnus’ codification of innovation management

Magnus found that innovation capabilities are dependent on ambition and capabilities. In addition to numerical goals and purpose, he found 4 elements of ambition

1. What do you want to achieve: Increased profits or breakthrough growth?

2. How do you approach innovation: Incremental change or radical change?

3. What type of innovation strategy do you adopt: Focused on market trends, focused on need, focused on technology?

4. What type of innovation do you execute: products, process, organization structures, management system, production, business model or services?

He found that innovation output was strongly dependent on the alignment between ambition and how the organization is innovating. He found that the how of innovation can be viewed in a very systemic fashion

1. How is the leadership style impacting innovation?

2. What capabilities as an organization are important for innovation?

He further explored them using 4 lenses

1. What are the dimensions of the capabilities (Magnus refers to them as aspects)? He has identified 16 aspects or dimensions to innovation capabilities

2. How are the organization personas impacting innovation? He identifies 10 faces of innovation personas building on Kelly and Littman’s model

3. What are the core innovation process? He identifies 4 of them; ideation, selection, development and commercialization

4. How does the culture impact innovation? He incorporates the 8 innovation cultures identified by Groysbrg, Lee, Price and Cheng

This is depicted in the framework below

In a series of blogs, I hope to share valuable insights that can be gleaned from InnoSurvey(R). Do reach out to me for more details

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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