Review Article on : Jatin Desai’s. Innovation Engine: Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results. Wiley India Pvt.Ltd. New Delhi. 2013.pp. 235, Price Rs.599/-.
By Dr. AJ Sebastian sdb, Former Professor & Head, Dept. of English, Nagaland Central University, Kohima Campus 797001.
Jatin Desai has struck the right chords in his recent book aptly entitled Innovation Engine: Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results, which focusses on strategies of success in the business world. The author explores the process of Innovation Executions for organisations to maximise their performance. He balances both theory and practice as he delves in to the various intricacies of performance in management.
The Introductiory chapter deals with various aspects of the the Innovation Engine such as: Performance Engine and Innovative Engine which calls on C-level leaders to develop a growth engine that includes short term and long term growth. Jatin talks about Foresight in management as has been achieved by many executuves. To master all aspects of Innovation, he opines: “companies must better integrate production innovation with process and service innovations” (Desai 2). The author highlights various other aspects like: Barriers and Risks; The Games of Innovation, Innovation Scorecard, and Driving Innovation. The author points out In “Structuring for Innovation” a high-priority task is to create vertical and horizontal organizational alignment structure. The “Innovation Management Process” calls attention to various inputs, actions and outputs that will help to assess the relevance, risks and values of an idea. The secret of Innovation is that it can be attempted by any one who is creative and willing to explore and build Innovation Engine.
The book has ten chapters divided into three parts: I. Link Innovation to Business Strategy, II. Develop an Innovation Playbook and III. Playing the Game.
Part I: Link Innovation to Business Strategy
Chapter 1, Develop a Clear Innovation Intent, calls attention to specific short-term and long-term value targets with top-line, mid-line and bottom-line targets. To be successful every organization need to focus on a bigger vision, involving each and every employee to achieve it. “Innovation Engine requires leader innovators who have an exciting, grand vision for the company, a point of view about the future, and who can engage everyone in the company toward making their vision become reality” (14). When the leader innovator fails to have proper Innovation Intent, fraudulent methods are sought as in the case of Satyam Computers in 2009 or WorldCom in 2002.
The present scenario in the wake of IT revolution with the introduction of video and mobile computing platforms, commerce and business have been transformed with better competence and performance.
There is an ever growing awareness of Mechanical Engine versus Innovation Engine in the business world today creating friction at various levels such as: Technological factore, Economic factors, Competitive factors, Labor factors, Resource factors, Customer factors, Legal and regulatory factors and Global factors, generating additional pressures on employees and managers. The author explains the two engines with the metaphor of the bycycle.
The athlete riding is similar to the leadership team members who models the values, beliefs, skills, and behavior of the organization. The bike frame represents the organizational form – firm strategy, structure, processes, and culture. The performance wheel is the back wheel, which represents the practicies for achieving organizational effectiveness, efficiencies,… This wheel is the source of power and acceleration for individuals, teams, and the organization. The innovation wheel, the front wheel, represents direction and clarity about the future. It is the organization’s capacity for two very important competencies: corporate entrepreneuring and strategic renewal (17)
Strategic Alignment for Innovation focuses on five critical success factors: Innovation intent development, Innovation readiness, Executive leadership program, develop an innovation strategy and Selecting and Developing talent for innovation.The reasons for Innovation in an organization are: Profit (Innovate to generate differentiated new value and profit), People (Improve Employee engagement and build a culture of innovation), Prosperity( Improve clarity about the future and reduce uncertainty) and Planet (Uplift society and build a legacy).
Chapter 2 entitled Assess Innovation Readiness begins with why Executives want innovation namely – a) We need to get off commodity Island, b) Globalization and automation are causing a shortened life span for our products and services, c) Our strategic and annual planning processes are not working, d) Our organization lacks nimbleness, e) Multigenerational talent gaps are widening, f) We are not able to keep up with breakthrough advances in technology and scientific innovations, g) There are no safe-haven sectors.
Innovation readiness is defined by readiness indicators: a) Business case, b) Sustained sponsorship, c) Culture and systems, d) Financial resources and e) Program management. Jatin opines: “In order to optimize the performance of your innovation engine on the innovation highway, you must learn to maneuver correctly across three specific lanes: alignment, insights, and mobilization” (43).
He further points out Factors of the Innovation System and Culture comprising of: a) Alignment (Five alignment success factors: Innovation mandate, Leader readiness, Employee engagement, Innovation support, Systematic approach); b) Insights Success Factors (Diverse perspectives, External orientation, Climate/Culture, Idea flow, Idea selection); c) Mobilization Success Factors ( Resources, Governance, Portfolio, Change, Management, Execution); d) Leading Innovation is reached by “recognition of good ideas, the support of those ideas, and the willigness to challenge the system to get new products, processes, services and systems adopted” (47); e) Role of Transformative Leadership calls attention to the organization’s core competencies to be derived from its strategic business mandate. Though organizations try to be innovative, it is imperative to sustain core competencies to create value; f) Leadership Dialog at the top should be characterized by i) Bias towad opportunities over problems, ii) Strong advocacy and sponsorship skills, iii) Team building, iv) Maintaining and keeping integrity; g) Three Constrains for Innovation Success: A firm’s ability to expoit innovation can be measured by – i) Top managers’ dominant logic (arises out of how successful it has been with its organizational strategies etc), ii) Organization’s ability to acquire, learn, and share new knowledge, iii) Firm’s commitment and methods to access new technologies and resources to exploit ideas into innovations; h) Access to Technologies and Resources which is a sine-qua-non condition to build great innovations.
In Chapter 3 the discussion centres around Creating an Innovation Strategy whereby the leaders of a firm develops its innovation strategy which defines how the firm builds the right competencies and required assets, products and services, and the environment in which to operate. Jatin pinpoints six typical business strategies: i) Pioneer, ii) Fast follower, iii) Imitative strategy, iv) Dependent strategy, v) Low-cost strategy, vi) Specialization strategy. Innovation strategy can be defined by answering questions: Why? Who? What? How? and When? Having answered these questions, focus should be on how to execute and how to adapt? In the chapter the author also deals with Creativity, Design, Invention, Innovation, Innovation Management, Defining Innovation, Defining Innovation Objectives and Goal.
Part II: Develop an Innovation Playbook
In Chapter 4, Creating a Roadmap draws attention to developing a detailed program implementation plan and an innovation scorecard. Jatin speaks of Innovation Playbook which is a roadmap of 24-36 months consisting of the following: i) Innovation charter (defines innovation vision, mission, strategy, and goal for initiative); ii) Innovation principles (Organizational success principles and Individual and team success principles); iii) Innovation processes (Bottom up, Top down, Outside in, Inside in); iv) Intrapreneurs (These are corporate entrepreneurs); v) Structure and governance (Refers to the formal way in which innovation team will carry out the work);, vi) Innovation scorecard (keeps track of new products and services from concept to launch).
Building Momentum in the following chapter is on the need to educate employees on how the organization can be successful through innovation. “Building momentum means beginning of the process of organizational change for your innovation program” (94). In order to build a Momentum Framework, there are six components: i) Develop your innovation story(Leaders and managers should connect with their audiences with artistic communication skills); ii) Evoke change leadership (Where Drivers and Participants bring about change innovatively. There should be proper coordination of sponsors, change agents and targets in the organization to build momentum); iii) Identify innovation leaders and best talent (There should be change of leaders across the entire organization in the various units to build momentum and identify best innovation talents); iv) Communicate, communicate, communicate (Communication skill is the most important ingredient to be taught to the managers to practice strategic organizational communication; v) Build awareness-educate everyone (This can be done by conducting awareness sessions and by building an intranet portal for innovation); vi) Protect the momentum (Through – Rewards, Performance system, Budgeting, Planning, Approval systems, Turf protection).
Part III: Playing the Game
Chapter 6 entitled Structuring for Innovation focuses on creating a vertical and horizontal organizational alignment structure. Organizational leadership helps leaders where and how to take their organization in their innovation drive. The key elements that make up a good organizational design calls attention to:
i) Components of Organizational Structure: Since innovation requires creative thinking and collaboration, organizational structures should be designed to deal with differentiation and integration.
ii) Types of Organizational Structures : The author enlists three types in this category – i) Traditional structures (where people are grouped and perform tasks according to traditional functions); ii) Matrix structures (which aims to respond quickly to marketplace changes); iii) Program-based structures (by which each group or project is under a VP, reporting to the CEO/MD with dedicated resources to carry out the disciplined execution requirements).
iii) Planning Your Innovation Structure: It is important to identify and define an appropriate innovation structure that will work for the organization.
iv) Four Major Types of Innovation Structures: i) Traditional two-tier structure (which has a central innovation group and divisional/functional innovation resources that builds new clarity and opportunities for innovative ideas), ii) Centre of excellence (The head of the COE is appointed and reports to a C-level executive, SVP of strategy, or SVP of R&D and innovation. The head of the COE works with the innovation council which is responsible for facilitating the vision, goals, discovery insights, tools expertise, process management, and knowledge management related to all innovation activities in the firm), iii) Strategic horizons group (is a dedicated group of strategy and innovation experts looking for breakthrough and disruptive new opportunities for growth), iv) Intrapreneuring and venturing group (is a bottom-up approach which allows anyone in the company to quickly participate in the innovation journey).
v) Core Innovation Team Structure: This section focuses on the roles and responsibilities of the core team and discusses different compositions of teams based on your innovation program design. Some key roles and responsibilities are: a) Head of innovation program, b) Account/Project manager, c) Innovation technical lead, d) Rapid Prototype Developer, e) Finance and investment advisor, f) Intellectual property and patent expert, g) Insights planner.
Chapter 7 : Innovation Management Process. It is the formal series of identifiable inputs, actions, and outputs used to understand the relevance, risks, and values of an idea. If it is well designed, it will include all stakeholders in achieving success – assisting the organization to master all aspects of innovation from idea finding and implementation. The Innovation Management Process has the following components:
i) Finding and Generating Ideas : a) Find where the best ideas come from – Source of Ideas, b) Four Innovation Processes (Bottom up, Top down, Outside in, Inside in), c) Size of Ideas (Begin to manage ideas as the big bang radical innovation ideas are not always the best to pursue).
ii) Managing the Innovation Funnel : Put the ideas in an idea bank which is is the innovation funnel process. This process is supported by Innovation Champions, Sponsors, and Mentors. The process leads through: a) Organizing Ideas, b) Selecting Ideas to Pursue, c) Building Business Brief, d) Managing the Innovation Funnel Conclusion.
iii) Implementing or Commercializing Ideas: Innovation council of the organization has to select ideas as per need following : a) Investment Strategy, b) Nature of Control c) Deliberate decisions for Idea teams: i) Risk tolernance, ii) Open-minded efficiency, iii) Less formality, iv) Harmonized goal setting, v) Freedom for job flexibility), d) Four resourcing Strategies for Faster Incubation Periods: i) Borrowing, ii) Begging, iii) Scavenging, iv) Amplifying).
iv) Innovation Scorecard: It is important to have your innovation scorecard displayed within the organizational walls. It should be published on a monthly basis which will make your leaders to review it to gain momentum for innovation program.
In Chapter 8 the author speaks on Building Intrapreneurs which is the most important aspect of innovation program. Innovation is successful when innovators generate real wealth, not just great ideas. “Intrapreneurship allows companies to grow business, find and retail talent, and compete with peer companies. Intrapreneurship has been the key to excite and motivate the creation of innovative products, processes, services, and partnerships for companies…” (161). To build innovation engine, an organization should excel at operationalizing ideas from energized people who are intrapreneurs. Jatin explais further various related concepts: a) Intrapreneurship and Intrapreneurs, b) Entrepreneurs and Intrapreneurs. He discusses at length successful Intrapreneurs and Intrapreneural patterns (i. Money is not the measurement, ii. Strategic scanning, iii. Greenhousing, iv. Visual thinking, v. Pivoting, vi. Authenticity and integrity). Other important aspects are: a) Supportive Environment for Intrapreneurs (Extreme challenge to solve, Freedom to find solution, Supportive environment, reward and motivation), b) Extreme Challenge to Solve, c) Freedom to Find Solution, d) Supportive Environment, e) Rewards and Motivation. The chapter concludes with apt suggestions: i) For managers concerning intrapreneurs, ii) For aspiring intrapreneurs, iii) For human resource leaders, iv) Teach to think small and fast.
Sourcing Radical Ideas in Chapter 9 focuses on how ideas are the starting point for all innovations as the more radical ideas lead to radical innovations. The author pinpoints two critical strategies to fill innovation pipeline: 1. Allow ideas to travel and grow in your organization, 2. Leaders and managers: Learn five power skills to help find uncontested ideas.
He points out The Path: How Ideas Travel ( to become innovators through- i) Creativity, ii) Design, iii) Invention, iv) Innovation). Assessment of ideas call attention to: a) Source of Creativity, b) Quality of Ideas, c) Critical Thinking and Creative Thinking.
In order to keep the idea pipeline every organization need to teach the Five Power Skills to Source Uncontested Ideas:i) Develop discontent, ii)Convergence thinking, iii)Find pivots, iv) Overturn orthodoxies, v) Think frugally.
In the concluding Chapter entitled The One Secret about Innovation, Jatin opines that the one secret about innovation is within one’s grasp. He writes: “If you activate this hidden secret, it will enable a tremendous number of innovations. You will still need to support this secret with a good innovation strategy, a playbook, and an execution methodology” (213). The author brings out the success story of Silicon Valley with its mantras: 1) Challenge the status quo, 2) Think new and novel, 3) Improve the lives of everyone on Earth. The success of Silicon Valley points to Playful Independence (taking note of – i) Different view of failure, ii) Key value of teams, iii) The source, iv) Finding disruptive opportunities, v) Benefits of playful independence, vi) How to cultivate it?).
Expressing his Final Thoughts, the author calls attention to the ability to see something new on a daily basis with the advice to young intrapreneurs in the making: 1) Work should be worship, 2) Live a life of integrity, 3) Be willing to unlearn, 4) Welcome painful lessons, 5) Commitment is the highest virtue, 6) It is all about the art of living, 7) Don’t be a hero, be a zero.
Innovation Engine is a must-read for every executive wanting to become word-class innovators, giving him/her tools and techniques to achieve the impossible. All the chapters have sufficient case studies to add to the theoretical explanations throughout such as MacDonalds, Whirlpool, Himalaya Drug Company, Smith Corona, Silicon Valley, along with the great success stories of Indiana Jones, Tim Maurer, Chester Carlson, Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the like. The book is the result of the author’s interaction with executives who have shared with him their innovation experience such as AT&T, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo!, Prudential, The Hartford, Merck, Macy’s and Myers Squibb.
About the author
Jatin H. Desai, born and raised in Gujarat, immigrated to USA in 1973. He holds B.S. degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the University of Connectitut. He lives with his wife and children in the United States.
He is a very experienced executive officer of The DeSai Group, which he cofounded in 1983. He has been in the field of motivating innovators to achieve the best results for their organizations. His firm’s clients in the USA, Europe and India include – The Hartford Insurance, Bristol-Myers, Cigna, merck, Macy’s, Atkins, Wal-Mart, Vistage, Ketchum, BIC, Pitney Bowes, Prudential, ESPN, Durracell, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky Aircraft, Hamilton Sundstrand, Aditya Birla Group, Bangalore Airport, Bosch, Coromandel International, Cognizant, Infosys Infotech, Larsen & Toubro, Siemens, Titan Industries, and UPL.
He has also lectured extensively at IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, University of Mysore, Sri Satya Sai University, Alliance Business School- Bagalore, MS Ramaiah Institute of Technology – Bangalore, and CII- Bangalore.
Desai, Jatin. Innovation Engine: Driving Execution for Breakthrough Results.
New Delhi: Wiley India Pvt.Ltd., 2013.