Insight 2020: Leadership Strategies for the Era of Acceleration #18 – Go Upside Down

Category under: Blog, Insight 2020, Uncategorized

When thinking about new product or service development, don’t do it in isolation. Seek advice and guidance from your customers and business partners —or, even let them drive the innovation agenda.Turn your creativity and imagination engine upside down! Make your R&D strategy less about what you see as opportunities – and more about what your partners and customer see.. Adopt the mindset that ‘customer-oriented and partner-based innovation’ will be a key strategy – and you might find that solution to challenges come faster!

The very process of turning your innovation-engine upside down will accelerate your internal capabilities – and lead you further into the opportunities that come from the era of acceleration.

I explored the concept of upside-down innovation in depth when Burger King invited me in to talk to 7,000 people at their annual franchise conference in Las Vegas. This was shortly after my work with Disney, where I first broached the idea of flipping things around.

What were the key leadership lessons that came from Disney? They had traditionally been responsible for an innovation plan that went like this:

  • Get the assortment right, i.e. in terms of new product
  • Figure out the merchandising plan
  • Then do the marketing

They then realized that the choices consumer were making was evolving so fast that they no longer had a truly good grasp on the innovation agenda that they should be pursuing. They also came to realize they while they were busy defining the product they might take to their retailers — those very same retailers saw entirely different product and market opportunities. So what did they do? They turned things around — and learned how to work with the retailers, by having the retailers do much of the product innovation! Or, in other words – customer oriented innovation.

When thinking about new product or service development, don’t do it in isolation. And it’s not just about customer-oriented innovation: seek advice and guidance from your business partners — or, even let them drive the innovation agenda! Recently, while headlining an event for the IFC / World Bank in Morocco, I explored the concept of upside-down innovation during a panel discussion that followed my keynote, with a particular focus on sustainable packaging trends:

Going upside-down is a powerful innovation concept — it challenges you to do things differently. More important, it pushes you into a mindset where you are pursuing externally oriented innovation, with the result that you  have better, fresh, unique, external insight.All too often an organization loses its ability to innovate because it becomes very internally focused — it can’t see beyond its own walls. People become narrow in their focus, and fail to see big opportunities.

Going upside-down changes this, in so many ways, and it’s one of the most important innovation ideas that you can pursue.


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.