July 2012

Tata InnoVista 2012

InnoVista is a long-established initiative across the Tata group of companies, which aims to inspire all of its employees to consider how to do business differently. The competition is held in five regions, worldwide, and the finalists are invited to the global Tata InnoVista final in Mumbai.

Tata Innovista regional finals

The sixth Tata InnoVista regional competition in Europe took place on March 19, 2012 at the Crowne Plaza in London. Two hundred and fifty Tata executives from the UK and beyond attended the competition to witness teams from Tata Chemicals in Europe, Tata Consultancy Services, Jaguar Land Rover, Tata Steel in Europe, Tata Global Beverages and Taj Hotels, spend the day pitching their entries to a panel of judges, before the winners were announced, at an evening reception, by Professor Sir Mike Gregory, head of the manufacturing and management division of the University Engineering Department and of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM).

The dinner was attended by Business Secretary Vince Cable who gave an address in which he expressed his admiration for the ingenuity of the Tata companies’ competition entries. 

Amongst the winners were Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel in Europe, who went on to win in several categories in the InnoVista finals in India.

Exploding the innovation myth 

Julian Birkinshaw, professor of strategy and Entrepreneurship at London Business School, who was a judge at the Regional InnoVista 2012 writes about the importance of innovation in today's business scenario and shares his thoughts on a few key aspects of successful innovation.

Innovation matters. It is becoming increasingly important, with every company of any size naming it amongst the top business priorities. Why? Because the highly competitive nature of business today demands it.

Within this landscape there are four themes that companies are talking about and academics are shedding light on:

Theme 1: Innovation is not just new products and technologies
When we consider who the leading innovators are today we invariably think of Google and Apple because of their well-documented product innovations. But simply bringing out new products and technologies isn’t enough; it is also about ‘how’ that result comes about. Companies must be prepared to experiment with different management models to find out what works best for them.

Theme 2: Implementation is just as important as ideation (the creation of ideas)
Bright ideas are worthless without the ability to turn them into something that matters. If you have too many ideas being generated that can’t be brought to fruition you’ll end up with a bottleneck that stops innovation – it’s a problem that more and more companies are struggling with.

To address these barriers to successful implementation companies need to put in place processes by which innovation is allowed to flourish and deliver on its commercial promise.

Theme 3: Smart innovation is about doing more with less
Innovation has been expensive in the past, but it has become apparent that spending more doesn’t necessarily yield more in the world of innovation.

Current thinking says that cost effective innovation in traditional centres, such as the US and Europe, is actually hindered by wealth, whereas regions such as India (Tata) and Brazil (Embraer) have had to develop new products and capabilities with much smaller budgets. As a result, they have had to become smarter in the way they innovate and bring new products to market that are not only cheaper to develop but cheaper to buy.

Theme 4: Turning innovation into a core capability
In order for innovation to be taken seriously it must be more than a corporate slogan; it has to become a core capability and part of corporate culture. In the same way that quality has been embedded into mainstream thinking and activity, innovation has to be treated the same way.

Innovation must become a deep, systemic capability in the organisation. And with this change in culture, there has to be a tolerance of failure as well as recognition of success.

From idea to results
There is no silver bullet for successful innovation. Different business and management models will shape how and why you innovate. You can, however, increase your chances of success by equipping your people with the tools and understanding they need to innovate.