Slow Innovation: PROs, CONs and Tips

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Anneke Zwart
Student (University), Netherlands

Slow Innovation: PROs, CONs and Tips

When we talk about innovation, we often associate it with disruptive innovation efforts / large-scale processes that change an organizationís business model or products quite radically. But, there is a slower form of innovation that needs attention as well. Slow innovation emphasizes slow changes, for example in cultural patterns that will slowly transform organizations or sectors but that don't have a big immediate impact.
Slow innovation projects can be just as valuable as the quick and large-scale ones, in the long run. However, as the benefits are not reaped as quickly, it is sometimes harder to convince boards or key people and funding is harder to get.

So what is the major advantage of slow innovation? According to Ford and Tarditi (2017), it is about prescience. The key is to act patiently and to be committed to an idea or gap in the market that eventually might lead to transformative business endeavours.

However, naturally there are some important difficulties with slow innovation:
- Because the issues addressed by slow innovation usually do not have a large impact on the organization on the short term, it is hard to get a go from management.
- When the current ways of thinking are not yet causing problems, it is hard to convince management that they might do so eventually.

TIPS in fostering a deeper commitment towards slow innovation:
  1. MANAGING INTERNAL EXPECTATIONS: as already mentioned, it is not so easy to convince people to change the way of thinking while the current ways of thinking are not perceived as troublesome at the very moment. It is therefore important that you clearly and carefully conceptualize your ideas.
  2. CLAIMING WINS: it is easy to be stripped out of success stories when aiming to create internal wins.
  3. INVESTING IN INTERNAL RELATIONSHIPS: this is important especially when investing in slow innovation, as trust need to be created to slowly translate discoveries into innovation.
  4. REALIZING THAT 'SLOW INNOVATION' HAPPENS EXTERNALLY: people outside the organization are less obstructed by corporate priorities. Let people outside discover new cultural patterns and other slow changes, so that you can transform those new findings into the internal slow innovation teams.
  6. LISTEN AND OBSERVE: keep in mind that those are not equal to hearing and seeing respectively. In order to grasp the slow patterns of change we must be able to see and hear the meaning of talks and behaviour in their cultural context, filtering, synthesizing information and trying to find patterns.
  7. FOSTER SERENPIDITY, RADICALLY: take the time and put energy to find the unexpected; to put teams out of their comfort zones needed to finding new discoveries.
⇒ What are your views on Ford's and Tarditi's arguments on slow innovation?
Source: Ford, S and Tarditi, F.R. (2017) "The Benefits Of Taking a Slower Approach Towards Innovation" HBR

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