This week InnovationManagement spoke with Idris Mootee – worldwide strategic innovation advisor and CEO of the global strategic innovation and design firm, Idea Couture Inc. Read more about his views on innovation management and why he’s passionate about transforming large, complex, even successful organizations into innovative organizations.

What is innovation management to you?

The Economist magazine called innovation the “industrial religion of the 21st century” and it is quickly becoming one the most popular buzzwords. While innovation management is a relatively new discipline, it is the core of economic progress and the heart of a company’s business strategy.

Innovation management is more than just new products, creative brand extensions, or technological inventions – it is a systematic way to actively realign a company to a common goal. Innovation management is about unlocking hidden value in existing products – thereby reinvigorating a business without necessarily reinventing it. It is a disciplined process that results in significant economic value creation, meaningful differentiation, and improved customer experience. Innovation is by nature unorthodox. It happens when there is sufficient variety of insights, foresights and action. When you dig beneath the veneer of any innovation success story there is always a series of trials and errors before the (sometimes accidental) eureka moment. Innovation management is a multi-discipline professional practice that encompasses skills and capabilities that can be learnt and implemented. Around every complex problem solving process there appears to be a bit of magic but at the core there is a rigorous framework and methodology.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?

Working with clients that strive for transformative or disruptive innovation is the most exciting part of my job. Businesses that are willing to explore daring innovations that challenge their mental models, their overall design, and their organizational structure are more successful than those businesses that seek only incremental benefits. It is also rewarding to work with so many people from so many disciplines who are determined, committed, and dedicated to challenging the status quo.

And the most frustrating parts?

It is frustrating when a company cannot move beyond ideas. Imagine a large organization where the corporate strategy is incomprehensible, the marketing effort is massive, and information is abundant. Size does not necessarily equal quality and this is the common situation in many large complex organizations. Executives know that innovation is necessary to stay ahead but only a handful of them have the conviction, discipline, and energy to act on that knowledge. Most companies lack a rigorous approach in their innovation management process – they are missing the true consumer insights, the strategic foresights, and language and visual metaphors that facilitate the innovation dialogue.

What is the most common challenge you encounter?

The biggest challenge is advising successful companies to think about change.  When a company is expanding, when a manager starts saying “our firm is doing great”, or when a business is featured on the cover of a national magazine – that’s when its time to start thinking. When companies are under the gun and things are falling apart it is not hard to find compelling reasons to change. Companies need to learn that their successes should not distract them from innovation. The best time to innovate is all the time.

About Idris Mootee

Idris Mootee advises on strategic innovation, applied strategic foresights, and new venture business design. He is the CEO of Idea Couture Inc., a global strategic innovation and design firm with offices in San Francisco, Toronto, Washington DC, and Shanghai. Idris partners with clients in all sectors globally to identify their highest-value innovation opportunities, address their most critical challenges, explore strategic options, and develop new-game strategies. Working with many blue chip companies, his client list includes LG, TD, AARP, Humana, Diageo, Pepsi, MIT, Liberty Mutual, Kraft, and AstraZeneca. Prior to Idea Couture, Idris was Senior VP, Global Chief Strategist at Blast Radius (WPP) working with Nike, Starbucks, AOL and BMW. Before that he was head of strategy at Organic (an OMG company), CBIZ e-solutions, and Chief Strategy Officer of Live Lower and Partners (an IPG company).

Idris has worked across the globe in many major cities including London, Milan, Boston, LA, Hong Kong, Toronto and San Francisco. He is the author of four business books (many of which have been translated in multiple languages), an avid photographer and designer. He received extensive management education from London Business School, Harvard Business School, Brunel University Graduate School, and Ivey Business School.