How Can Innovation Have Impact?
Click here to read this article in the November issue of Business Review USA!
Written by Amy Elliott Hemeter and Nate Hutchins
For the last few years, the business press and experts have stressed the strategic criticality of innovation. However, as we consider investing your scarce resources in innovation, should we all step back and ask ourselves “What exactly is innovation?” And more particularly: “How can and does innovation have impact?”
Look toward the business press for the answer and it may actually cause even more confusion. For example, if you search for Forbes’ or Bloomberg Business Week’s lists of the greatest innovations, you will find they contain mobile phones, laptop computers, ATMs, and stents. But is innovation only about inventions? Instead, it should be about finding ways to deliver new benefits to our clients or perhaps existing benefits at significantly lower fees– with or without breakthrough technology.
Take the air transportation industry as an illustration. In 2001, Boeing unveiled its plan to build the Sonic Cruiser. This technical wonder would have cut transatlantic flight time from 7 hours to 5½ hours – a substantial improvement -- but at a premium price of $10,000 compared to $5,000 for a first class ticket on flights in conventional planes. Yet when considering transit time, including ground transportation to and from airports to city centers, the total travel time from downtown London to downtown New York would only have been reduced from 12 hours to 10½ hours.
Around that time, a surprise competitor entered the market: semi-private time-share jets. Instead of cutting flight time through technology, these jets provided shorter on-the-ground time by flying from London’s Northolt to Teterboro, New Jersey, while avoiding the many delays associated with commercial flights and major airports. This enabled the time-share jets to cut total travel time to 9 hours, at a per passenger cost of just $7,500. As noted by sources such as The Economist, Boeing ended up shelving its technology-based solution, while the time-share jets – which were the business model innovators – took off.
Since the Wright Brothers’ first flight in Kitty Hawk, there have been countless technological inventions that made air flights more efficient than driving. However, since the formation of the first commercial airline, numerous business model innovations have become just as important by making air travel into a simple commodity that many of us can’t do without.
The most important takeaway for entrepreneurs may be this: don't see innovation as simply the vast array of technologies now on the scene, invented by others and available for your use. Instead, combine a distinctive and innovative business model of your own making with the useful enabling technologies. In that way, you’ll have a real shot at delivering novel benefits to your clients, thus ensuring innovation offers all stakeholders the most positive impact.
Amy Elliott Hemeter and Nate Hutchins are Principals at the innovation consulting firm Strategos, a division of Innovaro. To learn more, visit www.strategos.com.
Driving Federal IT Transformation
Dell Technologies and the U.S. Air Force have a longstanding partnership. On several programs of record, Dell Technologies supports mission-oriented areas, including providing data-centric applications for platforms that the Air Force leverages in testing and operations. For example, certain high-performance jet fighters rely on Dell Technologies software that helps provide critical information about aircraft performance to the service and the aircraft manufacturer. After a test flight, data modules gathered from the aircraft’s sensors are downloaded, processed and analyzed to provide critical insights.
The Air Force has also made a concerted effort to drive technology to the edge so that warfighters can gain value from their data where it lives. Dell Technologies is enabling dynamic decision-making at the edge, where collection, management, analysis, and the distribution of data is critical. Dell Technologies’ software factories are supporting some of the largest Air Force programs, like Kessel Run and Kobayashi Maru.
Kobayashi Maru is a cloud-based program designed to modernize the way the Air Force (now the U.S. Space Force) interacts with its allies. By the time Kobayashi Maru was a program, the service had a year or two of experience with the highly successful Kessel Run. According to the Air Force, this continuous user-centered approach enabled warfighters to quickly evaluate software improvements, provide direct feedback to Kessel Run developers, and rapidly iterate the software to provide maximum value and impact. Kobayashi Maru operates under the same principle: the existing software procurement process is too slow to satisfy requirements, so leverage best practices and partner with industry (in this case, Dell Technologies) to get new systems into the field as quickly as possible.
The U.S. Air Force is committed to IT modernization, as exemplified by its ability to embrace change and transformation in how critical systems are procured and deployed. And Dell Technologies is committed to supporting the Air Force in its endeavors, so the service will always be ready for what’s next.