Our Korean colleague, Hyokon Zhiang, is the Managing Director of a newly formed consulting practice, the Innomove group (http://www.innomove.com). He was a rising star at Bain, but decided to pursue building his own innovation-oriented consulting group after extensive experience with the tools of consulting left him discouraged. Many of the most time-honored and productive tools (such as the product-portfolio matrix, or portfolio allocation tools) are based on trends from the past. Although useful for making certain kinds of decisions, he notes, such tools aren’t really helpful when it comes to finding new opportunities. That is a process which begins with ideas, and is future oriented, rather than starting with what’s around today.We have had the same concern about other consulting type tools – such as Design for Six Sigma (DFSS). Although just fine to use in certain contexts, we’ve noticed a tendency for companies to try to fit them to everything that they are doing, with what we suspect will be disappointing results.
It all supports and argument we’ve made for a while – while frameworks and management tools can be helpful in the right circumstances, part of the skill of using them is figuring out what tool works when. Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor make a similar argument in their book “The Innovator’s Solution” in which they make a plea for better management theory to guide actual decision making. There is no silver bullet, and no one-size-fits-all approach to innovation. The good news is that there is thus plenty of opportunity to benefit from infusions of fresh thinking.