It's simple. Whether we are talking about a product, process, service, or business model, SMMEs ultimately have three strategic options as they progress toward maturity: extend maturity, exit, or renew.
Nearly all innovation books assume an audience that is inclined to innovate (defined here as creativity to reduced to practice with product or services that actually make it to market). Our experience is that many are either unfamiliar with or question the value of such an investment. Therefore, we dedicate Chapter One to making the business case for innovation. In particular, we focus primarily on the kind of innovation that renews the SMME, enabling it to not only survive but also thrive. In the process, we address the risk and cost of not pursuing such an investment. And we conclude the chapter by expanding on one of this book's major themes: the people who make innovation happen.
As we commit to in this book's introduction, our focus is on renewal that leads SMMEs to survive and thrive. We dedicate Chapter Two, our first 'how to' chapter on innovation, to provide a concise yet rich discussion of a proven methodology used to accomplish just such renewal, design thinking. In doing so, we emphasize design thinking's critical importance to SMMEs as it enables a low-cost, low-risk means to explore innovative possibilities. Through both descriptions and stories, we illustrate how SMMEs can successfully apply design thinking. Throughout, we reveal the critical role of courage as practiced by company leadership, illustrated by the often challenging decisions they must make, albeit made easier and with a greater reward for many by using design thinking methodology.
When looking in any competitive product category, one is generally drawn to the product or service that evokes an emotional response. It may be as simple as color or texture evoking the response.
Processes and tools serve an essential yet intriguing role within the innovation endeavors of any company. Important because some form of a process or tool is necessary for innovation success, they assure that you will pursue innovation correctly. Intriguing because none is sufficient to ensure innovation success.
This chapter focuses on those rare individuals who make innovation happen in SMMEs. We begin by considering a people view, rather than a process view, of breakthrough innovation in mature companies. We do so by introducing Griffin, Price, and Vojak's concept of Serial Innovators. Next, we systematically expand our discussion from the role of individuals to pairs and teams. At this point, we gather and apply these insights to SMME renewal. We follow this by considering how best to manage Serial Innovators in SMMEs, in contrast to innovation as a process. In addition to discussing our primary concern, renewal driven by breakthrough innovation, we close by providing our perspective on the challenge of broadly engaging an SMME's workforce to address incremental innovation opportunities.
Innovation is inherently strategic. It's not a matter of 'luck.' And for those SMMEs that believe since they were able to roll out their very first product successfully, ongoing rollouts would continue in the same manner, get ready for a grand awakening. Those that are successful, repeatedly successful, have a formula. The formula involves a combination of the right methodology and people. We dedicate this chapter to the methods of strategic innovation management, methods that are valued, but regularly overlooked.
Midtronics is an exemplar of SMME innovation. It has a proven track record of success, time and again not only surviving but also thriving as it renews itself and the battery management industry it leads. We share their story as this book's capstone, bringing together our major themes and insights—illustrating the application of the topics we cover—in one place for our audience to reflect on as a whole.
Our goal has been to help our audience see that the type of innovation that leads to renewal is possible with manageable risk and reasonable cost—and that proven methods are available to those with the personal courage and skill necessary to employ them.