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Secrets of successful digital innovation

The goal of any innovation effort is to deliver business value and competitive advantage. Two IT leaders share their secrets for meeting those measures.

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What is the secret to great innovation? Most successful organizations have arrived at a simple formula: start with a business person with the "right" business problem, partner that person with an IT enabler who understands both the business and innovative technologies, add a goal-minded expert technologist, and, finally, incentivize their collective imaginations to invent new ways to apply science and technologies to solve the problem in as-yet undiscovered ways. Then, make the process repeatable.

The right problem is one in which the value of the innovation team's work is magnified and where business outcomes deliver high-demand, scalable multipliers of value. At the same time, business outcomes deliver sustainable value by widening the innovation gap with capabilities that the competition cannot offer.

Identifying the right problem at Georgia-Pacific

Michael Carroll, VP of Innovation and Operations Excellence at Georgia-Pacific, describes the issues that hindered the company's previous innovation process. "In the past, we had a ridged process where you needed to know exactly what you wanted to do," he explains. Carroll challenged his teams to show how they could calculate an accurate ROI for something they'd never done before; they simply couldn't do it.

Since then, Carroll has introduced a new approach to innovation. "When we took market-based management principles and applied them to innovation, we started thinking differently." It's simple, he says, and the process starts with two questions: What are the customer's pain points, and how do we solve them?

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