Innovation Continues to Confound Even the Most Savvy Business Leaders: Too Many Ideas, Too Little Payback ... and No One 'Owns' the Problem Companies Must Employ New Discipline and Better Metrics to Stack the Odds

in Favor of Investments that Win Rather than Continuing to Feed 'Cash

Traps,' According to New Book from The Boston Consulting Group

Payback: Reaping the Rewards of Innovation (Harvard Business School Press,

January 2007) Addresses the Innovation Disconnect - and Shows Companies How

to Manage Innovation for Profit and Use the Cash Curve as Payback Reality


    BOSTON, Jan. 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Although 90% of senior executives rate
 innovation as a top strategic priority, almost half admit to being
 dissatisfied with the return they get from their innovation dollars,
 according to a survey by The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) of more than
 1,000 decision makers.
     A key reason is that most companies confuse ideas or inventions with
 innovation. True innovation must lead -- directly or indirectly -- to
 increased profits. And even when companies recognize this, they're
 generally unsure how to determine which innovation efforts are on the road
 to payback, and which are destined to become "cash traps" -- projects that
 drain valuable resources that could be better invested elsewhere.
     That's according to James P. Andrew and Harold L. Sirkin, BCG senior
 vice presidents and co-authors of the new book, Payback: Reaping the
 Rewards of Innovation (Harvard Business School Press, January 9, 2007).
 Based on BCG's innovation-focused work and research involving hundreds of
 innovation decision makers and global corporate leaders, Payback analyzes
 the innovation problem and uses scores of detailed examples to show that
 companies can get beyond "innovation intoxication" and gain a clearer
 picture of innovation efforts from which to make smart decisions and align
 key players.
     "Focus & Finish" - And do it Faster
     Says Mr. Andrew, "The innovation problem has little to do with good
 ideas. There are a lot of them. In many cases, idea worship derails and
 dilutes companies' focus on getting payback from innovation. Even at the
 best companies, up to a third of all innovation initiatives are wasting
 cash and human resources and will continue to do so. Cash traps in
 innovation portfolios are more damaging -- and prevalent -- than most
 companies realize." The challenge is to identify which projects need to be
 curtailed so ones with real potential can be focused on and brought to
 market faster-with a higher probability of success. In many companies
 nothing is ever finished. Companies need to ensure they put real critical
 mass against their winning ideas and accelerate their path to market -- and
     Innovation's Missing Links: Managing Innovation as a Process and Having
 a Reality Check
     Adds Mr. Sirkin, "Companies aren't very good at identifying,
 establishing and sticking to evaluation metrics that assess projects
 through the lens of payback, or incremental profit -- metrics that would
 help leaders make the right choices in terms of trade-offs, further
 investment, giving projects more (or less) time, and so on. Often this is
 because innovation projects are 'homeless' within an organization, owned by
 too many people or by no one at all."
     The Solution: The Cash Curve
     According to Payback, the cash curve offers leaders a way to create a
 picture of any innovation effort -- a "payback profile" of an innovation
 and its critical stages. This picture helps ensure that everyone involved
 is seeing and evaluating the effort from the same perspective, and provides
 the basis for sound, reality-based discussions and decision-making. The
 cash curve takes into account the four key variables that contribute to --
 or prevent -- payback: start-up costs; speed to market; speed to scale, and
 support costs.
     "We call these variables the 'Four S's', and they're the levers that
 innovation leaders can use to fine-tune efforts. By analyzing these
 variables on a cash curve, companies can clearly see when to kill an
 effort, when to invest more, or when to speed up or delay a launch. The
 cash curve provides a clear picture of whether innovation efforts are on
 track to payback, and is an effective tool for alignment and intelligent,
 dispassionate decision-making. Getting the cash curve right takes effort,
 but it's probably the most important thing an innovator can do," says Mr.
     The "Right" Innovation Metrics Are Also Critical
     Measuring innovation is another issue that companies struggle with.
 Explains Mr. Andrew, "Most companies are looking for a 'silver bullet'
 metric to help them predict or force a perception of profitability -- or
 they're using a collection of metrics that aren't very valuable. What they
 really need is a set of metrics that provides not only a picture of the
 outputs of innovation -- cash payback and indirect benefits -- but also
 inputs, including time, money and people, as well as the overall
 effectiveness of the innovation process."
     The "Indirect" Benefits of Innovation: Even These Must Generate Cash
     Payback addresses a number of the "indirect" benefits of innovation
 efforts -- including knowledge acquisition, brand enhancement, ecosystem
 strength and organizational vitality. But the book stresses that these
 indirect benefits have little value unless they too add to profits.
 "Pursuing a project simply for morale or knowledge could be
 counterproductive if that added knowledge or morale, in a measurable way,
 does not lead to incremental profit. So the answer to the question, 'Is
 innovation about more than just money?' is 'No!'" Mr. Sirkin contends.
     The Best Approach to Innovation Often Lies Outside A Company's
 Experience and Comfort Zone
     Payback explores the three business models for innovation: integration,
 orchestration and licensing. Companies may have experience with one or two
 of these models -- and thus a comfort level and tendency to use them by
 default. But this is a mistake, since the choice they make affects payback.
 "The right business model depends on the cash curve, as well as the
 company's risk tolerance and resources," explains Mr. Sirkin. "For
 instance, a company that's always done everything itself -- an 'integrator'
 -- may need to start licensing in order to get an innovation to market
 quickly enough to make money."
     Payback Analyzes Innovation Successes and Failures
     To underscore the importance of the cash curve and a clear focus on
 payback, the authors explore the experiences and lessons of "payback pros."
 These include Samsung, which transformed itself from a maker of cheap,
 copycat products into one of the most respected -- and innovative --
 companies in the world; BMW, whose tightly aligned organization supports
 innovation and payback at every level, from strategy to measurement;
 Seagate, which has mastered the "integrator" model of innovation by doing
 everything in-house; and Microsoft, the greatest innovator -- in terms of
 payback -- in business history. Payback also examines innovation failures,
 such as Polaroid's attempts at the digital camera and the Concorde -- great
 inventions that never generated payback.
     About the Authors
     James P. Andrew is a Senior Vice President and Director of The Boston
 Consulting Group, and heads the firm's global innovation practice. He has
 been with BCG for 20 years, in both the US and Asia. Mr. Andrew leads BCG's
 annual global Senior Executive Survey on Innovation (conducted with
 BusinessWeek), and works with leading companies around the world and across
 industries on their innovation strategies and related organizational
 issues. He regularly counsels senior executives on innovation culture,
 performance, and leadership.
     Harold L. Sirkin is a Senior Vice President and Director of The Boston
 Consulting Group, and leads the firm's global Operations Practice. He has
 been with BCG for 25 years. Under his leadership, the firm has emerged as
 the foremost driver of client results in two areas critical to profitable
 growth -- innovation and globalization. Mr. Sirkin previously led BCG's
 E-commerce and IT practices. He regularly counsels senior executives on
 innovation, globalization, operational capabilities, change management and
     About the Boston Consulting Group
     Since its founding in 1963, The Boston Consulting Group has focused on
 helping clients achieve competitive advantage. Our firm believes that best
 practices or benchmarks are rarely enough to create lasting value and that
 positive change requires new insight into economics and markets and the
 organizational capabilities to chart and deliver on winning strategies. We
 consider every assignment to be a unique set of opportunities and
 constraints for which no standard solution will be adequate. BCG has 61
 offices in 36 countries and serves companies in all industries and markets.
 For further information, please visit our Web site at .
     To receive a copy of Payback and supporting materials, or to schedule a
 conversation with one of the authors, please contact Alexandra Corriveau at
 Sommerfield Communications, Inc. (212) 255-8386 or

SOURCE The Boston Consulting Group

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