Companies need to change their approach to innovation to compete with the rapid-pace of business growth in Asia.

Many corporate institutions see it as something theoretical and elusive, a job only for those in R&D and product development.

Instead, they should be ensuring that everyone — from leaders to front-line employees — plays a role in the process. Management’s key priority today should be to unlock their teams’ innovation potential.

This is according to Scott D. Anthony, Managing Director and head of the Asia-Pacific operation of innovation consulting firm Innosight and author of just-released “The Little Black Book of Innovation: How It Works, How to Do It” (Harvard Business Review Press, January 2012). The book integrates some of the best and most tested innovation insights and practices into one easy-to-read volume and provides a 28-day program that can turn individuals and organizations into more successful innovators. Drawing on his experience working alongside and advising businesses in Asia, Anthony focuses on pragmatic advice rather than just theory.

Asia is exciting because there’s such a strong appetite for innovation,” says Anthony. “Yet markets here are fairly new and evolving so rapidly that there hasn’t been an opportunity to put robust systems in place. Working on innovation in these markets forces you to focus on what really works — simple, practical principles that can be applied quickly to generate results,” he added.

The book highlights examples of innovation successes from companies in the region and around the world, including Indian conglomerate Godrej & Boyce and Japan-based discount hair salon QB House.

It used to be that locally based companies could win by being disciplined fast followers leveraging lower input costs, and global outputs would simply sell what headquarters provided them. Now, in order to win in local and global markets, everyone needs to get better at innovation,” he explained.

Avoiding Innovation Pitfalls

In addition to the patterns and practices of the best innovators, Anthony points to “seven deadly sins” of innovation and outlines how to avoid them. The sins are…

  • Pride, where an innovator does what they want, rather than what the market wants. Avoid it by taking an external view.
  • Sloth, where innovation efforts slow to a crawl. Avoid it by turning innovation from an academic to an active activity.
  • Gluttony, where too many resources ironically inhibit successful innovation efforts. Avoid it by limiting resources in the early stage of innovation to force hard choices and spur creativity.
  • Lust, where innovators get distracted by “bright, shiny objects.” Avoid it by carefully choosing the opportunities to pursue and by eschewing the rest.
  • Wrath, where even smart risk-takers face severe punishment. Avoid it by recognizing that failure is part of innovation and rewarding behaviors that support innovation.
  • Greed, where the lure of quick growth leads innovators to target mature markets populated by powerful incumbents. Avoid it by being patient for growth and focusing on creating new markets.
  • Envy, where bad relations between the core business and new growth efforts poison innovation. Avoid it by celebrating both the core business and innovation efforts.

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