We want to invent the next killer app

Editor’s note: PARC contributed this post to Front End of Innovation. You can see the original post here.

“We want to invent the next iPhone”

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve heard this or its equivalent (just insert your industry’s killer app in instead of “iPhone” above).

Because most companies have incremental and next-generation innovation down – it’s the disruptive, non-core, “next big thing” innovation that eludes many and presents the most challenges.

Yet this type of innovation is a necessity for any business that wants to access new markets, create a new line of revenue, or re-invent themselves in anticipation of future directions.

So here’s my question: what happens AFTER you conceive the next iPhone (or killer app for your industry)?

Beyond the frontend

Even though the Front End of Innovation conferences highlight the “frontend” of innovation, the fact is, we cannot ignore the backend of innovation at the beginning of the innovation process! Especially because many companies are front-loaded for bringing in new ideas (e.g., they may have dedicated technology scouts or new business divisions)… but don’t necessarily have the infrastructure, commitment, critical mass, experience, channels, and more to execute on those ideas once they come in.

For example: if you’re a printing company that wants to move into digital, what happens to the sales force, customer support, marketing, and all other business functions that are entirely oriented towards the core business? There’s a paradox here, because on one hand these functions should be focused on the core business in order to be successful – yet this very expertise can be a handicap when faced with the changes resulting from novel innovations.

In other words: you can invent the iPhone, but your business might not be able to successfully absorb it and do anything with it.

And that’s the fundamental tension between incremental and disruptive innovation, which presents a very different set of challenges and risks for all kinds of companies regardless of size. In my talk at the Front End of Innovation conference in Boston on May 16, I’ll be discussing some of the challenges of managing disruptive innovation – especially for companies figuring out how to enter new markets – and will share some case studies, lessons learned, and a portfolio management framework from PARC, which today is in the business of disruptive innovation for multiple clients… Watch this space for the slides.

UPDATED: slides below

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