One question I’ve gotten about the e-book that I wrote with my colleague David Duncan, Building a Growth Factory, is where to start. The book’s central theme is that companies can improve their ability to create growth through innovation by developing four key management systems (click here for more details): a growth blueprint; production systems that translate ideas into booming growth businesses; governance and controls that track and allocate resources; and appropriate leadership, talent, and culture.
The ebook and the companion website, buildingagrowthfactory.com, detail the 15 specific elements behind those four components, providing case studies, practical guidance for leaders, and warning signs that indicate future challenges.
Four systems and 15 elements: overwhelming, right? But in fact, Dave and I don’t recommend that leaders try to do all of this at once. Instead, think of three simple staring points.
1. Build a Common Language. A common language is a key enabler of a systematic approach to innovation-driven growth. Even defining the simple-seeming word “innovation” can be a great accelerator. Beyond basic definitions, identify the types of innovation that matter to you. Procter & Gamble chose commercial, sustaining, transformational, and disruptive; Citi selected core, adjacent, and disruptive. Every organization has its own take on growth types. Most companies can develop a reasonable stake in the ground via an afternoon discussion with a small group of leaders.
2. Conduct a Detailed Assessment. Form a small team and task them with pinpointing the biggest accelerators and inhibitors of making innovation-driven growth systematic. Our e-book contains a very simple assessment for each element, highlighting markers that suggest the area requires attention, is on the way, or is at the desired state. The small team should identify points of leverage, or areas that have the greatest potential to accelerate progress. The team should also develop a first-cut blueprint for what the full system might look like at scale and a corresponding road map that shows what happens when. Our experience suggests that it takes from 6 to 10 weeks to do these activities well.
3. Work on Demonstration Projects. Look around your organization to try to find teams working on more expansive, disruptive ideas. Find ways to work closely with those teams. This kind of work serves as a stethoscope into the organization, helping you to discover which of your existing capabilities are accelerating new growth efforts and which ones might be holding them back. It is a very quick way to diagnose what things you need to start working on first.
This is how P&G started its effort to systematize the pursuit of new growth. It found a half dozen project teams that were working on disruptive ideas, brought them together for a couple of days, and gave them new ways of thinking under our facilitation. As we continued to work with some of those project teams we began to understand what needed to happen next in order to approach innovation-driven growth in a more systematic way.
These three simple approaches can be a great way to start your journey. If you have any questions about how to start building your growth factories, or stories of successes or failures, leave them here in the comments or write to me and let me know.