Innovation is a maze. You can get in, but navigating to a commercialized innovation fails eight times out of ten. Gijs van Wulfen’s book The Innovation Maze is a practical guide to finding your way through the maze.
Gijs van Wulfen is a professional keynote speaker and author. He facilitates innovation workshops for companies, and assists organizations worldwide to make them more effective innovators with his FORTH innovation method. His latest book is a hands-on guide to innovation.
There are countless definitions of innovation. Gijs van Wulfen presents ten versions that resonate with him. His own definition summarizes it all: “An innovation is a feasible and relevant offering such as a product, service, process or experience with a viable business model that is perceived as new and is adopted by customers.” Feasibility means that the new thing is not just a dream. An innovation is relevant when it brings value to the customer.
Innovation is difficult but necessary
We know that in all industries, including construction, incremental innovations dominate. According to van Wulfen, 58% of R&D spending is spent on incremental or renewal innovations, 28% on substantial, and 14% on breakthrough or radical innovations. The share of radical innovations has dramatically declined. In the mid-1990s, it was 20.4%, but in 2010, it was only 11.5%.
Pursuing breakthrough innovations is not popular among incumbents because many corporate executives and VCs see it as a “black hole” and not without reason. Doblin Group reported in a 2012 study that 96% of all innovations fail to return their cost of capital. Incremental innovation, on the other hand, has a much shorter payback period.
Incremental innovation and operational excellence succeed as long as your business follows a predicted path. Unfortunately, most businesses, including those in the construction field, are under threat of being disrupted. Two strong drivers of potentially radical change in the business environment are digital transformation and globalization.
This book will help you to start innovating
According to several studies that van Wulfen refers to, companies fail in innovation especially when they don’t know how to start it correctly. A recent global innovation study shows that only 27% of 500 innovation leaders believe that they’ve mastered the elements that they need for innovation success in the next ten years.
The author list 15 obstacles that hinder innovation at the start. According to my experience, an unclear strategy, a lack of internal support, and a missing business model are among the most crucial.
With his book, van Wulfen wants to help companies start their innovation processes effectively and make well-founded decisions by reducing uncertainty to acceptable levels.
According to the author, the innovation maze has four entrances or starting points:
- Idea – A rough business idea or a great business opportunity
- Technology – A new technology that spars innovation
- Customer problem – A problem or a pain point
- Business challenge – An external or internal change that jeopardizes the future of the business
Each entry point starts a path through the maze. The paths cross, and they have common activities that van Wulfen explains in detail in the book. The chosen path determines the order in which you carry out the activities and face potential pitfalls along the route.
The ten activities are
- Check Fit
- Create Conditions
- Create Business Model
- Select Technology
- Check Freedom to Operate
- Create New Business Case
The book as an experience
The designer of The Innovation Maze, Fredrik de Wal, has done a remarkable job. The book has a solid structure, but it still reflects the mindset of innovators: enthusiasm, visionariness, openness to ideas, and willingness to experiment.
I found the contents to be both inspirational and practical. The book presents methods and tools that you can use in your innovation process. In addition to his own ideas, the author is able to bring forward the best pieces from innovation literature to our disposal. He also presents several real-life case studies.
I can warmly recommend this book and have added it to my library of essential business books.
You can buy The Innovation Maze on Amazon.com.