By Alph Bingham
This blog is the final installation of a four part series: "The Profound Importance of Challenges," by Dwayne Spradlin and Alph Bingham, authors of The Open Innovation Marketplace, published in 2011 by FT Press. To read the previous posts, click on the links below:
The Profound Importance of Challenges (Part 1 of 4) by Alph Bingham and Dwayne Spradlin
In this last segment of the series, we will address the role of a Challenge as an instrument of strategy.
Too often organizations measure their innovation success by % of sales spent on R&D, how many patents they own, or whether the leading academics in their fields are on retainer. However, in today’s economy, these should all matter much less to the management of the organization or to the shareholders than whether they can get a new product to market before the competition and dominate the category or whether resources are being managed to ensure the firm can aggressively pursue new business opportunities when they emerge.
Too many organizations struggle to even clearly define their problems and goals, much less to innovate with the precision and efficiency needed to compete in the world today. Whether building better business processes or designing new technologies to dominate a market, traditional business practices are no longer sufficient. Nowhere is this truer than in large corporations where years of accumulated standard operating procedures, poorly aligned incentives, ever-increasing bureaucracy, and entrenched culture work together to ensure that increasingly expensive and mediocre innovation is the best they can do. The existing systems are failing and firms are in desperate need of new methods to improve responsiveness and competitiveness.
Dictionary.com defines a “challenge” as “a summons to engage in any contest” or as “a job or undertaking that is stimulating to one engaged in it.” However, it is much more. Well-constructed “challenges” are an astonishingly powerful and uniquely effective tool for focusing the energies of multitudes of creative, inventive, talented audiences on the important problems facing organizations, nations, and the planet on which we live. These audiences can be employees, customers, partners, and a planet of resources.