McKinsey on Disciplined Innovation

McKinsey Insights has a great article on the art of Disciplined Innovation. A cogent excerpt from the article below highlights the importance of simple constraints in fostering successful innovation. Simple rules/constraints can apply to organizations undergoing small iterative innovative processes, as well as large scale disruptive innovation.


"How, then, can organizations embrace a more disciplined approach to innovation? One productive approach is to apply a few simple rules to key steps in the innovation process. Simple rules add just enough structure to help organizations avoid the stifling bureaucracy of too many rules and the chaos of none at all. By imposing constraints on themselves, individuals, teams, and organizations can spark creativity and channel it along the desired trajectory. Instead of trying to think outside the wrong box, you can use simple rules to draw the right box and innovate within it...

Simple rules are most commonly applied to the sustaining kind of innovation, often viewed as less important than major breakthroughs. The current fascination with disruption obscures an important reality. For many established companies, incremental product improvements, advances in existing business models, and moves into adjacent markets remain critical sources of value-creating innovation. The turnaround of Danish toymaker LEGO over the past decade, for example, has depended at least as much on rejuvenating the core business through the injection of discipline into the company’s new-product development engine as it has on radical innovation.

Simple rules can also be used to guide a company’s major innovations. In the early 2000s, for example, Corning set out to double the number of major new businesses it launched each decade. A team evaluated the company’s historical breakthrough products, including the television tube, optical fiber, and substrates for catalytic converters. By identifying the commonalities across these past advances, the team articulated a set of simple rules to evaluate major innovations: they should address new markets with more than $500 million in potential revenue, leverage the company’s expertise in materials science, represent a critical component in a complex system, and be protected from competition by patents and proprietary process expertise."

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