Pascal Finette, Director, Office of the Chair at Mozilla, will be presenting at PIPELINE 2013, the online conference for innovative product development. Pascal’s PIPELINE presentation will recount the inspiring story of Mozilla’s entry into the browser market, which was dominated by Microsoft, and how they ultimately succeeded through an open source model and focus on innovation.
Pascal shares his insights on innovation in the Q&A below.
Q. What are the critical components of an environment that fosters innovation that works? Are there specific organizations that come to mind who exemplify these characteristics?
Pascal Finette: I am a believer in the open innovation paradigm – by opening up your innovation process and including your lead users you can reap incredible benefits. Companies that apply open innovation methodologies to their innovation efforts see significantly increased innovation input (often from adjacent fields that would otherwise not be considered) and, through the often iterative nature of the process, more robust results than traditional, closed-off innovation efforts. And this not only applies to external users but also to the talent companies have in-house.
Innovation in its most elemental form is a funnel process: You start with a larger set of ideas that are moved through phase gates where you assess feasibility, problem-solution-fit, etc., and, in the end, your innovation falls out of this funnel. The more ideas you can generate at the onset, the better your innovation will be (numerous studies have shown this).
Which means that you need to design for participation – be it with as many internal experts you can gather (and don’t forget people from adjacent fields or further down the reporting lines) or external users.
You can find companies which excel at this in pretty much every industry: From Mozilla to Linux and the broader open source movement in software, to Patagonia in the world of sporting goods, or Cheerios in the food industry.
Q. What strategies related to innovation were crucial in your organization’s success or for the success of the businesses you advise?
Pascal Finette: Mozilla started out to do the impossible: Compete with the largest software company in the world (Microsoft) whilst being a tiny non-profit. The only way we could compete and innovate heavily along the way was by completely opening up Mozilla. Literally anything and everything at Mozilla is open and designed for participation. We have volunteers write code and invent new features for our products, localize the product in 90+ languages, test every release, and market it. It’s an incredibly powerful way to operate.
Mozilla’s structure is surely unique in that way and commercial entities often can’t (for numerous reasons) emulate our way of operating. And yet I strongly believe that even the most closely operated company can reap significant benefits from opening up parts of the innovation process and inviting participation.
Q. What are the common challenges of innovation you see within organizations?
Pascal Finette: Speed. Whilst working with Fortune 500 companies, it struck me how few capabilities large companies possess to run smaller-scale experiments or tests. Without the ability to “fail fast and cheap” you end up with a system that either paralyzes you (as the product has to be perfect before you can release it) or you spend large amounts of time and money creating something that often fails when it hits the market.
The other challenge seems to be around the notion that innovation comes from above. The belief that innovation only comes from a certain part of the organization (the part that is paid to do so), is fraught with error, you find innovation on all levels of your organization. Encourage this and turn your organization into a living, breathing organism where you make each and every one of your employees a potential innovator and you unlock incredible potential.
Q. Given those challenges and with this year’s PIPELINE theme of “Change the Game with Innovation that Works” in mind, what tangible steps can product developers take to effectively use innovation to drive meaningful change that can increase market share? (be it organizational change, product change, or market change).
Pascal Finette: Unless you are in an industry where innovation comes with a high price (e.g. pharmaceuticals), I encourage people to take a leaf out of the lean startup movement: Create a minimum viable product (the smallest possible set of features that demonstrate what your product does for a customer – often this can be something as simple as a sketch), show it to a couple of potential customers, collect feedback, refine your product, repeat. Innovation is an iterative process that you can make much better if you include your customers as early as possible in the process.
The moment you create something customers want, customers will buy. Focus on this. Without superior experience and utility the rest is meaningless.
Pascal Finette is a speaker at PIPELINE 2013 taking place on Thursday, May 16th. This free online conference features expert practitioners sharing their industry knowledge and thought leadership related to innovation, product development, and product portfolio management. To learn more, register now for PIPELINE 2013 and be sure to attend Pascal’s presentation on May 16th. Register now to reserve your spot.
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