Every company worth its balance sheet swears it believes in innovation. In practice, though, the way different organizations approach innovation varies widely. How do companies identify new ideas that eventually turn into products? How do they identify and overcome barriers to innovation? How do they build an innovative culture? Knowledge at Wharton asked these questions and more to participants at the Ben Franklin Forum on Innovation held recently in Philadelphia. These included experts from Wharton, the Boston Consulting Group, as well as executives from companies such as Procter & Gamble, IDEO, Intel and Microsoft, among others. In this series of podcast interviews, these experts explain how they think about innovation and its challenges.

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David Schmittlein, professor of marketing, the Wharton School

“When we think about innovation, we should take a broad view. Innovation does not relate just to a new product that would come into the marketplace. Innovation can occur in processes and approaches to the marketplace, and in [decisions about] which markets the company chooses to serve. Innovation [involves] a wide variety of activities that will change the landscape of competition in business over an extended period of time. That is a pretty substantial challenge.” – 13m08s

Jim Andrew, senior vice president and head of innovation, Boston Consulting Group

“Innovation is often seen as a mysterious force that is solely the result of luck and chance. Companies put less time and effort into managing it than they do many other activities. It reminds me in some respects of the quality movement years ago where quality was something that just happened.” – 7m31s

Jeff Weedman, vice president, Procter & Gamble

“For Procter & Gamble, innovation is our life blood. Our senior management says it, repeats it, and our organization lives it. Our consumers vote a billion times a day whether or not to buy our products. You have to have things that meet their needs and that they are willing to buy. We see value in finding new ways of telling consumers what we are about, and it’s all about innovation.” – 7m14s

Hal Sirkin, senior vice president, Boston Consulting Group

“Innovation is the primary source of value in companies. If you can drive innovation in a company, you can, at a relatively low cost, get a lot of growth and increase the profitability. If you don’t innovate, you are actually destroying value because your competition will catch up to you in different ways.” – 5m16s

Tom Kelley, general manager, Ideo and author, The Art of Innovation

“No matter where you currently are, you can always get better at innovation. That is why we shy away from the word ‘creativity’ because business people tend to believe that it is a personal trait; you either have it or you don’t. But with innovation, that is something that you can work on, something you can acquire.”– 5m49s

Prabhat K. Gupta, director, Intel

“Intel has a tradition of continuous innovation. If you look at the company’s history, not only has the company restructured itself successfully two times, it is undergoing a third transformation now into a platform company. This is all driven by continuous and sustained innovation. It comes from the top. As [former CEO] Andy Grove says in his famous book, only the paranoid survive…so you have to keep looking out and innovating. Intel has been doing this successfully.”– 7m14s

Ian Sands, director, Microsoft

“[At Microsoft] we have a web based concept where any employee can submit ideas for new innovations or areas of improvement on anything from features to broader processes, and a number of ideas have come out of that model. There are many ways new ideas can come to market.”– 8m27s

Kevin Werbach, professor of legal studies and business ethics, the Wharton School

“The most common mistake companies make with innovation is thinking that they can control it and define it. By definition, innovation is the unexpected – it is what changes the nature of your business as opposed to just extends it in a linear way. Companies think they know what innovation is, when they should be open to something they did not expect.”– 7m05s

Ashwani Rishi, CEO, ITC Infotech USA

“In the past, 99% of ITC’s revenues came from tobacco, but seven years ago our chairman decided that innovation was going to be the key going forward as the domestic (Indian) economy was opening up. He decided to redefine the ‘T’ in ITC as technology, travel and tourism, and maybe tobacco. That completely changed the name of the game.”– 6m08s

Jorge Machicado, chief marketing officer, Tecmedica

“Our view of innovation is that it is fully concentrated in some countries, and we want to distribute innovation in other countries. As we look at what is going on in Chile, we see what is going on in the U.S. or in Europe and try to replicate best practices and great innovations.”– 7m24s

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