«Innovate Or Die» - Innovation as a survival strategy

If you want to survive, you have to deliver innovations before the competition. This article will show you which tools are available for this.

Author: Alexander Kern

Digitalisation is forcing traditional companies to leave their comfort zone. If they want to survive, they must deliver innovations before their competitors (see also article: Innovation is the driver of our economy). Fortunately, there are many tools for innovation. But beware: no tool should be allowed to become an end in itself!

If you want to survive in the age of digitalization, you have to anchor innovation in your company in a sustainable way. It is necessary to generate disruptive ideas, experiment iteratively, gain experience and deliver promising projects in high quality and with as little effort as possible. All under the sign «Time is money!» - in the age of digitalisation, the «Time To Market» is measured in weeks, not months or years. What used to distinguish start-ups must now also be incorporated into the strategy and culture of traditional companies in the long term.

The challenges of digitisation

  • The aim is to deliver innovative, promising projects to the customer quickly, in good quality and at low cost.
  • Phase-oriented project methods are too rigid for an innovative, uncertain environment. Other process models are necessary.
  • Product development is looking for more room for manoeuvre and flexibility in order to be able to apply the 80-to-20 rule - with 20% effort one has often achieved 80% of the business value. This value must be made available to the customer as quickly as possible and tested by the market!
  • Opportunities are needed to make new ideas tangible or validate them without great effort.

Which innovation tools are available?

The repertoire is constantly growing - here a small excerpt:

  • DevOps enables the rapid production launch of new and high-quality products and functions with the least possible effort.
  • Agile offers proven approaches to successfully implement projects in an uncertain environment.
  • Lean Startup promotes an iterative, customer-focused, methodical approach in which a product with the minimum requirements and characteristics (keyword Minimum Viable Product) is made available to the customer at an early stage - according to the 80-20 principle.
  • Design Thinking uses low-cost prototyping to make new ideas tangible and test them out quickly. The principle is not limited to product development and can be applied in many areas.
Innovation tools such as DevOps, Agile, Lean Startup and Design Thinking pave the way from idea to successful market launch.

Where do these tools apply?

DevOps covers a wide range of fields of action: Processes (avoiding effort along the entire value chain), organization (multidisciplinary teams if possible) and technology (continuous delivery, infrastructure as code, etc.). The path to DevOps often requires far-reaching changes and never ends, but it pays off! (see article: With DevOps to project success)

It should be up to the respective team to decide which Agile methods, frameworks and practices they want to use (keyword Scrum, Kanban, XP etc.). But one thing is clear: Long requirement analyses without feedback cycles are outdated. The waterfall model has no place in this environment!

Lean Startup can be used selectively. Traditional companies can use short-lived, low-risk projects with a simple stakeholder structure to approach this approach.

In contrast, design thinking should be anchored throughout the entire company, from the decision maker to the engineer. But be careful: It must not degenerate into «Yet Another Process»!

Remember that: «Diamonds are created under pressure!»

The methods chosen and the mix depend on the situation. But one thing is certain: the methods must not be an end in themselves! The enterprise tradition of rigid guidelines and processes must be thrown overboard, otherwise every method will at some point become a brake on innovation. This includes generous innovation time frames, constantly (empty) innovation departments, unfounded modernization of technologies or methods. All these constructs quickly turn innovation initiatives into a half-hearted playground for adults.

Tight framework conditions (keyword «constraints») play a decisive role in the success of innovations, because only they force a focused pursuit of objectives. Ultimately, all efforts must serve a single purpose: To successfully drive innovation forward.