Why aren’t I good?

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April 2017, article published originally in El Periódico de Catalunya


Why aren’t I good?

Why me? Why us? And just now when we need it more than ever. Where are we going wrong? Why aren’t we good?

These pleas, or better called lament-phrases, are heard often, especially when the results aren’t on our side. It’s then that we think most about what we need and don’t have – innovation. And this can’t be improvised. Not the good kind, not the kind that allows creating lasting differences from your competitors.

No two businesses are the same and that all companies have a step, of the three in the chain, which proves to be the weakest

A few years ago, two prestigious business school professors published – in the no-less-acclaimed Harvard Business Review – the article, “The Innovation Value Chain,” which has already become a classic in managing innovation. Read it. It’s worth it (and, besides, it’s short). They state that innovation is a process that can be summarized in three steps:

  1. the generation of ideas
  2. the conversion of these ideas into viable business concepts
  3. the diffusion of these ideas to the market

These two academics, after conducting thousands of interviews of professionals on various continents from numerous businesses in diverse industries, realized that companies differed from one another with respect to the problems they had to solve. Some, for example, were good at creating ideas (that is, they had no problem coming up with new proposals) but, by contrast, they weren’t very adept at filtering which ideas were worth developing and which weren’t. On the other hand, other corporations had problems creating prototypes but later performed extraordinarily, for example, bringing them to the market. Their conclusion is that no two businesses are the same and that all companies have a step, of the three in the chain, which proves to be the weakest.

So if innovation is already complex, imagine doing it without resources

Recently, I have tried to apply this sequence of three elements to our country. In which part of the chain are we weakest as a nation? For some time now I have been visiting many provinces, talking to many businesses about innovation in the context of how to better connect with customers. And my feeling is that we have a lot of ground to cover in the three steps. Spain is a country of SMEs and SVSEs (small and medium enterprises and small and very small enterprises, PYMES and PYMPEs in Spanish), as my admired colleague from whom I have learned so much, professor of IESE, José Antonio Segarra, endearingly refers to them. In our country we don’t have a problem with the number of small and medium enterprises per capita in comparison with other countries. What we do have here is that SMEs are born with very limited resources (little capital), which causes their size to be small, making it difficult to bank on internationalization and, of course, innovation (both of which are very expensive).

So if innovation is already complex, imagine doing it without resources. It’ll be a long time, I fear, before we can root out lament-phrases from our way of speaking if we don’t create an innovation policy for competing on a global scale.


Picture of the Big Telescope Canarias, by Ondřej Šponiar.

Formado en la Escuela Suiza (habla 4 idiomas), Pablo Foncillas es licenciado en derecho y MBA del IESE Business School. Compagina su vida en el entorno académico y como conferenciante junto con roles directivos y de consultoría en varias industrias desde los años 90. ¿Hablamos? Clica aquí para contactarme por correo electrónico