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Staying Agile through Innovation

Innovation plays a critical role in achieving competitive advantage across all industries. Researcher in Corporate Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Professor at SDA Bocconi, and Copenhagen Business School Executive MBA Innovation Course Professor, Mikkel Draebye, clarifies the importance of innovation. 

In most industries, doing something new like finding new ways to service customers, innovating the communication channels or changing the business model are all examples of innovation that can lead to competitive advantage.

“If you do not have the ability and agility to adapt, your business will not survive. You should stay agile with the rate of change in the industry,” says Professor Draebye.

Professor Mikkel teaching Innovation
Professor Draebye teaching the Innovation course in Mumbai

Adapting to dominant trends

The general macroeconomic environment is not stable. There are new trends, new customer preferences, and new technologies. Professor Draebye explains that it is no longer about innovating in the sense that you create an entirely new product, but is about adapting in response to dominant trends. Innovation falls in many categories such as products, processes, markets, business models, partnerships, communications, and positioning.

According to Professor Draebye, one major trend is to redefine a business narrative.

“Formerly known as strategic renewal and today we would call it ‘mission redefinition of purpose-based leadership’. To create a business that attracts talented professionals, the business must have a driving framework based on ethics, values, and purpose. Clients are then satisfied because they see value, not only in the products, but in the value-system driving the business.”

In IBM’s 2020 study, purpose-driven customers are much more profitable to capture rather than customers that are more concerned with getting their money’s worth and selecting brands that are convenient and based on price. The report also states that, “more and more, awareness of global environmental issues is changing the habits of consumers wherever they live.”

Harnessing knowledge and implementing practical tools

 When new products or processes are implemented in an organisation, leaders find that traditional management tools are unhelpful or irrelevant.

“A lot of the traditional management tools that are used to screen, assess, and plan normal business projects, are difficult to apply in these scenarios which creates a real challenge. In many if organisations, professionals implement approved strategic projects based on a business plan that has used approved logic. Probabilities are known with some certainty.”

But how do you plan, allocate, and predict resources when you are venturing into the unknown? Through the CBS EMBA Innovation Course, participants harness the practical tools and knowledge to become leaders of innovation in their organisations.

“We produce the academic perspective from which we analyse various experiments and validation methods which include testing minimum viable products, implementing drip financing to minimise risks, and so on and so forth.”

The EMBA’s also learn the difference between radical innovation and incremental innovations, risks associated with each innovation portfolio, new ways of management that have proven success, the limits of innovation, and organisational innovation which answers the big question – what can top management do to create a more innovative culture?

“How can we create a bottom-up system, where it’s not solely the innovation department or R&D department or business development department that contribute to innovation, but where everyone contributes? This should be the goal of every business.”

An international outlook

This year, the CBS EMBA took the cohort to Mumbai. In addition to the lessons in the classroom, the afternoons are left open for company visits that illustrate an aspect of innovation. These companies have identified a new opportunity, proven themselves as a strong organisation through company culture, or the leaders are particularly entrepreneurial and innovative.

EMBA Innovation Course
The EMBA cohort in Mumbai

“We took the Innovation module abroad so EMBA’s can understand innovation from an international perspective. Through all the international modules there is the cultural importance that business leaders of Scandinavia recognise; it’s healthy to go out and talk to professionals that have a totally different life philosophy and social context. There is so much learning associated with this. India is a developing economy with a large growing middle class and a lot of business success and it’s based on innovation.”

In Mumbai, in addition to their courses being held at the SDA Bocconi Asia Center, they visited an innovative diamond company launching synthetic diamonds – appealing to the market demand, Imaginarium PVT – India’s largest 3D printing company, and the Mumbai City FC Indian football team – the CEO and the Head of Operations presented on launching the first Indian Soccer League. Additionally, presentations were made by PayTM – a highly successful fintech start-up, IGreen Energy – a leading supplier and installer of commercial & residential solar systems, and Tzar Labs – a biotech start-up which has engineered the first prognostic test for cancer.

No matter where a business is located in the world, Professor Draebye says there are three main areas where organisations need to invest in order to be more agile through innovation.

“First, Top Management need to take innovation serious. They do that by appointing c-level leaders with specific responsibility and accountability for innovation. Furthermore, innovation leaders need to define KPIs and integrate innovation targets in the organisations strategic planning system. Second, culture, systems and structures need to be adapted to accommodate more experimentation on all levels of the organisation, that also requires an increase of the failure tolerance in the company. Third, new tools and processes for approving, validating and financing innovation projects needs to be adopted.”

If you would like to learn more about CBS Executive MBA >> you can download the brochure here.