The power and promise within innovation: shifting up our gears

Are the rules around innovation changing? Are we spotting the changes in the drivers and current deterrents of innovation? What are the present day perceptions around the innovation challenges?

GE released their first-of-its-kind “Global Innovation Barometer” at the end of January 2011. It is focusing on identifying the changing landscape for innovation in the 21st century. It suggests innovation will be a catalyst for improving multiple areas of citizen’s lives in the next ten years. In many ways it paints a very optimist future for innovation. Innovation, the survey predicts, will create jobs, improve lives, address more human needs, find better ways to collaborate and learn, and simply create good in people’s lives with the promise of prosperity.  I wonder a little differently: are we not placing too bigger a burden on innovations shoulders?”

This report (http://bit.ly/dPyT0j ) follows a previous one that came out in July 2010 that was an European survey, again sponsored by GE, (http://slidesha.re/ecqMfl ) on the current barriers and the current state of innovation policies within the EU, just prior to the release of the much awaited EU Innovation Union document (http://bit.ly/bEDLNh)  outlining their strategy for achieving the 2020 goals. The EU survey is not what I’m commenting upon here, although I might come back to it in a subsequent blog as it supports significant change to the EU’s approach to innovation.

The burdens of expectations placed on innovation seemingly are growing

Reading both reports commissioned by GE there is a heavy weight of expectations to come from innovation. The  global survey has many significant aspirations and to list but a few:

  • The belief that innovation is (truly) global and the main lever for a more competitive national economy
  • It is the nature and value of innovation that is changing
  • Innovation will be centred more on prosperous and competitive activities
  • Innovation will be the best way to create jobs in countries
  • Innovation and competitiveness are inextricably linked through growth and jobs
  • Innovation will increasingly integrate more social and human dimensions
  • Innovation will address societal needs, green the world and improve lives (health, energy, education)

The new model is the power of “I” for impact.

Innovation will be totally different than how we have innovated within the past according to this report. Some of the key aspects given are:

  • It will need to be more localized to service specific markets
  • It will focus on individuals and SME’s who will be more or equally innovative as the large organizations
  • It will call for integrated solutions that bring value to society as a whole.
  • It will require more impactful innovation, focused on human needs more than just profits
  • It will require incorporating partnerships between several players to bring success

The perceived barriers for the Innovation Optimism Paradox.

The survey looked at country perceptions. In this survey only 12 countries were surveyed and the optimism continuum shows real differences on the belief and trust placed in the country’s ability of innovation to transform their society and improve citizens’ lives. These clusters of optimists, traditionalists and pessimists are driven by the country’s relationship to innovation changes, sources and purpose.

I found this (attempted) comparison on this optimism continuum as interesting and useful. Stuck in the traditionalists are five of the twelve countries. These were USA, Israel, Australia, Sweden & Germany. These are all in amongst the present day leading innovative countries. The others within the survey as optimists were Saudi Arabia, UAE, Brazil and India and in the pessimists were China, South Korea and Japan.

There are many thoughts that possibly can open up with this sort of designation but let me stay within the confines of this report. Traditionalists by the surveys definitions were mainly “driven by hard science, serve global markets’ products and services needs and not specifically to serve society needs. These want to protect what they have more than adhere to a new model, their needs are very specific and diverse”. This definition does sound very US & EU in its reality today.

My real concerns from this GE sponsored Global Innovation Barometer.

There is a lot of ‘open’ interpretation from this global survey. GE has taken the optimistic route, perhaps for self justification, perhaps because it needs to manage its own changes towards managing innovation successfully. That has a potential great takeaway for the future direction for GE if they can grasp it, although it will be a bold step. The comments made in the press release at the time by Beth Comstock, chief marketing officer and senior vice president, GE holds promise: “the results clearly demonstrate that globally our priorities are shifting from innovations that simply make money to innovations that also create good in people’s lives.” And “fosters creativity, and emphasizes solutions that meet local needs. I feel GE are dipping their toe in these innovation waters more and more, it is getting nearer in time for them to make the real deep, all committing plunge, if they believe their own research.

I reacted in some different ways, certainly optimistic about where innovation fits within the future thinking on creating jobs, improving society and addressing human needs. It has the potential to do this but…

The pessimist side also kicked in. The survey was based on interviews with 1,000 senior business executives, conducted by telephone across 12 countries. All respondents are directly involved in their company’s innovation processes and are VP and above with 30% of those surveyed C-suite. Is this truly representative of the world of reality surrounding innovation? Don’t this group have a vested interest to promote innovation in these ways?

The fear of groupthink needs resolving in future surveys.

These are people working within their own innovation bubbles, wanting to relate what they are doing with the bigger societal issues we need to face but is there a touch of “groupthink” here? Wikipedia defines ‘groupthink’ as a type of thought within a deeply cohesive in-group whose members try to minimize conflict and reach consensus without critically testing, analyzing, and evaluating ideas. It is a second potential negative consequence of group cohesion. Individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking are lost in the pursuit of group cohesiveness, as are the advantages of reasonable balance in thought that might normally be obtained, in this case by more open discussion and not (semi) structured questions asked over the telephone . The survey should counter balance those from ‘within’ with those that are still ‘without’ to clarify innovations impact.

You can get a ‘warm and fuzzy secure feeling’ also

I welcome the report, don’t get me wrong, it helps point us in new directions because of the changing need that innovation can help deliver but these will not on just innovations own. It has many positive pointers but it does not address the gaps, the report itself reveals. Perhaps this will come from future surveys, I think they should be less on a barometer of the innovation climate but more on assessing the changes identified within this survey. It should point more of the ways to shift this innovation barometer.

The survey brings out perceptions that need resolving. Some of these for example are:

The positive perceptions show the general public is not so convinced of the value innovation can bring to their day-to-day lives

In the balanced perceptions there are three lags that need improving: the (lack of) speed at which innovative products are adequately coming to market, trade regulations are still a limit (or constraint) to commercial success and thirdly, private investors are not supportive of companies that need funds to innovate.

The most negative perceptions are that government support is not as efficiently organized and coordinates, governments should allocate more share of their total budgets to support innovative companies and thirdly, that Public authorities do not support SME’s and large companies that want to innovation.

In all of these there is possibly nothing new but as they are focused on the ‘known’s’, the current drivers and present deterrents, and not the ‘unknowns’ or less articulated needs, for making societal innovation happen as GE wants to paint the picture of moving to a new innovation paradigm.

Lastly within these concerns I would have liked to see from this survey more on possible solutions to the future bigger innovation picture.  I come back to the Traditionalists, here lies a real roadblock. This is where innovation is truly stuck. “They want to protect what they have more than adhere to a new model, their needs are specific and diverse” Here lies the big challenge to overcome.

Expectations come with changing parameters

I hope this ‘first-of- a-kind report” can really build on this initial work. It ‘hints’ at a new innovation landscapes that we need to take foward. It indicates to GE and others who care to read this, that globally our priorities are shifting from innovations that simply make money to innovations that also create well in people’s lives and meet their local needs.

I welcome GE’s exploration and hope for its future innovation barometers it can set out more of the enablers to make this journey to the new landscape reality. None of us need a warm and fuzzy understanding only; we need clarity so we can all move towards this new innovation dawn, with some fresh light and power from more of GE’s help and investigations. GE have the global innovation promise in their hands.

Social innovation comes of age in Europe

Social innovation is about new ideas that work to address pressing unmet society needs”

The shifts taking place in Europe

The competitiveness and challenges that Europe faces in the next ten years are significant. Innovation has been placed at the heart of Europe’s 2020 strategy. It is this clear recognition that innovation is the best means of tackling issues that will affect our future living standards is not new in itself, but it is this real political recognition of its place and importance, now that is.

Innovation is also our best means of successfully tackling major societal challenges, such as climate change, energy and resource scarcity, health and ageing and becoming more urgent each day to address in more systematic ways.

European funding of innovation in recent years has perhaps placed far too much emphasis on research and development to deliver the growth and jobs it requires. In many cases it has been outperformed by other competitors and has not been as well linked as it should have been to country or EU policies. The EU is presently going through a public consultation to strengthen its new “Common Strategic Framework” to get into the system more efficiency, not an easy task across 27 plus countries and better uptake across a wider audience.

Societal challenges are where the next big challenges lie.

The recent global economic crisis has raised society issues far more. Social innovation will begin to move from the margins to the mainstream to tackle a range of these society challenges. It will inevitably need more structural support; it needs more coordination and alignment by all the stakeholders involved, it needs organizing and being recognized in its own right.

“Social innovation’ as a term is still relatively new one but social innovation is of course not. There are many examples but establishing a “field” of social innovation is certainly necessary and needed to get a broader momentum behind multiple initiatives.

Any new ‘field’ needs debate. It needs common terminology, clearer definitions of what it covers, a growing understanding of the different tools, techniques, methods and establishing a knowledge base to draw down from. Social innovation has no given geographical boundaries; it happens across society that involves all sectors of a community: public, private and non-profit. Actually one of the real challenges is managing across the boundaries between sectors.

An emerging social economy is replacing much of what we have known.

I recently wrote in this blog (4th January 2011) about how social will dominate our thinking in 2011 and beyond. Here is the link (http://bit.ly/eYV9E9).  It is very different from economics based on the production and consumption of commodities. It has five very distinctive differences from existing innovation approaches

  1. It has an intensive use and reliance on distributed networks to sustain and manage the relationships that constantly need to be brought together to resolve a ‘given level’ of societal challenges. They are fluid, constantly changing and never fixed.
  2. It has blurred boundaries between production and consumption, across sectors and traditional ‘mixes’ of innovation. Often there are no clear ‘black or white’ solutions, many will need de-constructing and re-constructing on distinct challenges and context.
  3. The emphasis on collaboration and repeated interactions need greater care and maintenance than much of our present ‘one-off’ consumption. Society is quick to mobilize today, playing off the defensive is not the answer, it is leading the offensive and shaping these interactions becomes critical. You cannot be passive, you need to be ready to experiment, learn and move on through this learning and confront, irrespective.
  4.  There is a significant emphasis on value and missions to build momentum and overcome many challenging barriers so as to achieve those solutions that provide improvements on existing approaches. Passion runs high, solutions become very emotive. It needs a consistent and strong commitment to execute from this value and mission, you need a bedrock of belief and commitment.
  5. The consumer or final receiver of the social solution dramatically changes, from being a passive to a very active, and highly engaged participant. Many of todays solutions based on the presentl linear process cannot work or applied. Solutions based on consistent interactions must be built on ecosystem platforms. I’ve touched on ecosystems previously here (http://bit.ly/icrzGb ).

Early recognition of these differences or where innovation is merging today around social and end consumer unmet needs will need ‘fleshing out’ in any future debates.

What is distinctive about social innovation?

Besides the five points listed above, there are many distinctive differences about social innovation. The emphasis is firmly placed and measured on outcomes; it raises relationships, cooperation and collaboration to far higher heights than innovation coming from business has seemingly been able to achieve or so it seems from the countless comments made. Perhaps it might accelerate this end of the innovation debate and ‘fuse’ innovation at the end result not at the present ‘fuzzy front end’ or in the process but solving the execution challenge through new novel ways.

As a result, the processes, metrics, models and methods used in the commercial or technological field of innovation may not be directly transferable to the social economy, or it might be a real mistake to attempt this. This is one of my major concerns from the EU commission merging this into their innovation activity under one overarching innovation initiative as the real danger becomes one of the ‘easy’ use of existing policy, mechanisms and frameworks for present innovation structure are applied to this. This would be the wrong model for social challenges. This needs clear difference from day one. This needs to be part of these intial debates.

Innovation as many understand it is always chasing for a clear measurable result. The more unambiguous the result the more the market values it. Scale, market share and profit rule the thinking. There is far more contestability when it comes to understanding value for society and will make for ‘generic’ answers as not as straightforward or potentially transferrable. Social innovation will be hard to often transfer as the context will be distinctly different. Recognizing the successful aspects and separating the ones applicable to a certain challenge will become a significant skill to ‘scale and scope’ social innovation when we want to benchmark others and try to duplicate those efforts as ‘our’ answer.

Let the debate begin.

For many who have been working within the social area what I have commented upon so far is nothing new, far from it. There has been a significant ‘work-in-progress’ for some years. The change lies in my opening comments, if social innovation goes mainstream, then debate also goes mainstream and becomes a deluge of conflicting advice and thinking.

How any social innovation Europe initiative is managed will depend on the strength of the work documented, proven and ready to be applied from the past as a good starting point.  A consortium of European partners has been working upon this and you can find some good background material from the web site of the EU on social innovation (http://bit.ly/i7bfoD ). Two other sites worth referring too are http://www.socialinnovationexchange.org/ and one of the leading researchers and influences on policy to date in this social innovation area has been http://www.youngfoundation.org/ . I’ve drawn a lot of my insights from the work they have pioneered.

The official launch event is in March 2011

The adoption of social innovation will have a launch event for the Social Innovation Europe initiative in Brussels on 16th & 17th March, 2011. (http://bit.ly/eJ09d5 ). This event will attempt to put a face on the policy, discuss implications and showcase a number of social innovation pioneers. It officially begins the EU leading social innovation. Should we be afraid of this or grasp the opportunity of what it can bring for the pressing society problems that are pressing in on us? I choose the later- embrace.

I’m presently reading an interesting book that does relate to this social set of challenges. Although it spends much of its discussion on business solutions it does certainly go well beyond the business world in lots of the examples to draw from and apply to social innovation. It is written by Gaurav Bhalla and called “Collaboration & Co-creation- new platforms for marketing and innovation”.

In this book he offers a simply but powerful framework that would apply here. Listen > Engage > Respond.

My hope for the EU Social Innovation debate

That the EU and all the ‘collective’ wisdom that will convene in Brussels will listen, not just to each other but to the crying needs of society as the issues have incredibly wide boundaries that are indeed unmet today. The challenges are big.

The EU does engage in a completely different way to tackle social issues. The platform that needs building has to be open, very fluid, often experimental and using all possible means of social tools to make it fully engaging.

Thirdly the ability to respond to such a different, diverse set of society challenges is going to call upon the ingenuity of the Commission. It will need to respond not just to the established parts of society, the institutions, public and private but to the third sector. This sector is passionate, driven and highly committed to the causes they personally sees as vital.

This all requires this social innovation ecosystem, the network of networks, that draws in civil society, government, business, institutions, not for profit charities and non-governmental organizations for example.

The Listen, Engage and Response principle is going to be a tough area for a body like the EU to manage but they will have to fully embrace today’s social tools (and tomorrow’s improvements) to stand a chance. A social challenge in itself!

Accelerating the evolution of Innovation Management PLEASE!

Sometimes you become concerned, this is one of those moments. I’m getting concerned that we need to take some urgent action.

The Corporate Innovation Manager- is stuck in the middle.

Recently I was going through a report, a very helpful one, by link  http://bit.ly/gWqmO7 supplied by www.innovationmanagement.se on the on the Corporate Innovation Function- key findings and detailed results, commissioned by HEC Paris.

I was also reading  some views expressed by  Reinhard Büscher, Head of Innovation Policy at the European Commission, http://bit.ly/eB02ZR on the role of the innovation manager (IM).

Both paint a rather dismal picture of the position of the Innovation Manager within organizations- very fuzzy not yet well defined.

Briefly although HEC’s study suggests the main role of the IM is to create growth and to differentiate the company in its markets but it also paints the IM into a corner and certainly not in the corner office! The IM seems to be locked into the process of managing ‘just’ innovation projects, fighting the resistances and misunderstanding of middle managers and relying on symbolic projects that are short term. Mr. Büscher seems to be equally implying IM’s (current) role is managing the contractual innovation process.

Also both see the IM as often self-taught, limited in organised help, needing resources, having a reliance on external consultants and that the roles are very much a work-in-progress where the IM has limited time to explore and learn, they are busy fixing the plumbing!

Can this perception be reality and can it be altered, should it be?

This is a shame, a great shame, if both observations reflect the present evolution of IM. It is further back than I thought, hence why I’m more concerned than I should be.

If the IM is consigned to this as his role- managing the process; innovation will never rise up fully to the top of the organization, it will be consigned to specialists and board members will simply just refer to ‘these’ people, as and when. Innovation will never achieve the necessary daily ongoing dialogue in and around the board if it stays locked outside. How can this be altered?

Innovation is consistently ranked among the top three strategic imperatives within organizations yet it is not fully represented by an Innovation Management specialist. Can you imagine not having finance in board meetings?  Of course innovation is represented part time, by the Marketing Director, by the Research Director, by anyone who wants to jump on the innovation bandwagon if it fits their personal agendas. I’ve read it should be the CEO’s role but 99% of the time it is not, much as it would often like to be. Will it change? If so soon?

Some personal suggestions- firstly the recognition of IM’s problems lie deep.

Julian Burkenshaw & Gary Hamel have been arguing about the need for Management Innovation for some time, visit their site of the Management Innovation Exchange or the MIX (http://bit.ly/aodOaE  ). They state the most critical challenges facing management today and relevant to the IM’s role.

  1. We need to retrain managerial minds- wealth creation needs creativity skills and we need to reduce down the reliance on analytical and deductive skills.
  2. We need to unleash human imagination. The lack of often human engagement is not given enough space today in the traditional organizational structures, this is suppressing the flow of knowledge.
  3. The depoliticising of decision making. The personal agenda’s at all levels of organizations blocks. Autocratic leaders, stubborn middle managers and an organization steadfastly refusing to change still prevails in many instances.
  4. A lack of holistic performance measures. Often the bias towards quantifiable, short term metrics and narrow stakeholder interests tend to dominate. How can a broader set of stakeholders needs be accounted for, especially the consumer. Measuring on the impact of our activities on the ‘multiple’ communities touched is beginning to emerge. There is hope IM will get more onto this agenda as it can drive this substantially.
  5. The overworked dual dilemma of reducing fear, increasing trust is the last one of the five challenges. The nagging sense of uncertainty dampens initiatives and supports mediocrity. The ability to manage this is vital for innovation to permeate down an organization. It can be such a positive force to bridge this fear versus trust equation that will always be in ‘play’ and needing active blalance in our uncertain world.

What can the IM do about overcoming these 5 big challenges?

Firstly they have to be acknowledged, recognized. A bit like Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) perhaps- they need talking about. They need framing and this leads to another part of the Mix story

What is stopping IM’s moving forward?

  •  Limited bandwidth: not enough time or resources- how to build slack into the role, how to show increased long term value.
  • Surrounded by old and orthodox thinking- where to seek out like minded individuals
  • Disincentives to act: fear of change, executive self-interest- prepared to disrupt the status quo by seizing on all the winds of change swirling around the organization and offering a road map out of these through innovation.

Of course there is a big gap between healthy rhetoric and reality-addressing this is something we need to do.

Here are some of my thoughts, supplemented by others within this blog site already outlined that might help in thinking this through.

The best step is to build a deep capacity for innovation within youself.

This needs to become an overwhelming force of innovation knowledge and value that it gets noticed, it gets valued, it gets appreciated, it gets adopted by many who see the value in following this approach.  It trickles down and contributes everywhere. It is truly open innovation management.

Firstly, it is based on the five essential skills the external consultant should posses as the IM is the internal consultant, the Intrapreneur that is working towards recognition and seeking change. These are:

  •  Persuading– the proposing and reasoning
  •  Asserting– setting expectations, evaluating, using incentives
  •  Bridging– involving, listening, disclosing everyone to everyone.
  • Attracting– finding common ground and painting a vision that others share.
  • Moving away– the disengaging where necessary and the avoiding to reduce conflict and confrontation.

Secondly, IM has a role of advocacy, supportive and a real broker of innovation knowledge that helps others in their roles. These form the three inter-related circles that provide a IM’s true value.

Thirdly, the person needs to focus on four aspects that they measure themselves against in their daily tasks to act and contribute, manage and support

  1. Have Creativity and Continuous Improvement as a consistent MUST.
  2. Risk-taking for calculated risks and entrepreneurial push always in the mind.
  3. Relationship building to maintain and build relationships that are through visible networks
  4. Implementation obsession that always wants to turn ideas into actions, then into results that are seen and valued to have impact and return.

Fourthly, develop or work actively upon important personal characteristics

  • A person that has innovation in their DNA, that possess that natural inclination to explore and articulate and not just passing through, they are in for the long run. .
  • Already s very experienced and capable strategic thinker with the ability to extract and shape those ideas on the journey to commercialization for others to ‘see’.
  • Solid and broad strategic and commercial tactical experience;  you can quickly zero in on the core challenges and then map these out, creating an inspiring plan of action to address them that gains identification, balances reality and pushes beyond to achieve something new and different.
  • Creative Sensibilities and a Contagious Positive Passion: You get excited by big transformational ideas but you work tirelessly on moving innovation through the system.
  • You have strong opinions: always ready to defend your gut feel but support it with commercial and strategic rationale by seeking it out and bringing it to the decision table.

Fifthly, manage the Ten Commandments for IM’s (Timothy Schellhardt, adapted)

  1. Do any job needed to make your project work regardless of your job description if it promotes innovation.
  2. Share credit wisely and lavishly.
  3. Remember, it is easier to ask for forgiveness than seek permission
  4. Come to work each day willing to be fired, ready to be hired.
  5. Ask for advice before asking for resources, so essential.
  6. Follow your intuition about people; build a team of the best or always want to work with the best, others will follow quickly to be part of it.
  7. Build a quiet coalition for your idea, early publicity triggers the corporate immune system and let the results deliver the message so it becomes ‘invented here, supported there’.
  8. Never bet on a race unless you are willing to run in them to the end and if you have to, then run it to the end.
  9. Be true to your goals, but realistic about ways to achieve them. Set challenges for yourself that grow your innovation knowledge stock on a daily basis irrespective of pressures.
  10. Honor your sponsors, never talk behind their backs, and always talk them up irrespective but factually and with decent insight.

Six, have a clear roadmap- agreed as you enter the job and to be measured against.

This should include:

  • Clarity about the innovation strategy and how, where and why it fits from the Board- no one else so you have a clear mandate that you apply.
  • Ensure recognition is being granted for a place on innovation at all management meetings at all levels to raise its importance. Establish that.
  • Get innovation seen as the ‘beating heart’ of all work that creates value and provide the message, time and time again until all hear it.
  • Design a clear strategy to break down the resistance at middle management level from day one and reduce their misunderstanding and personal fears of what you represent and get that measured by others to show progress.
  • Seek to take a longer-term perspective in actions, orientation and solutions and make sure this is ballanced against the daily delivery need of the role.
  • Build a network of collaborators, integrate IM knowledge, offer collaborative tools and create simple but reliable innovation tools and get those out!
  • Make sure you can be judged on projects moved through the innovation process and you have identified key success indicators for impact, value and return, how ever crude.
  • Traverse across the whole organization, don’t favor one group over another but equally be realistic in where the resources and mutual support derives from.

Finally, yes do use those external consultants, the ones that bring deep innovation knowledge to your issues and challenges. Rely on them to provide you leading practice, common sense advice and deep emersions into subjects and topics you need answers too but can’t find the time to investigate. They can become your personal innovation coach, managing the innovation stock and ensuring the innovation knowledge stock is flowing through you.  This is far more than training or simply information; it is them possessing deep competences in the subject of innovation that you need to extract  and apply to your situation.

The innovation manager needs a new agenda.

One that reflects the value and importance of innovation inside (and outside) the organization. If this is not well articulated, the role will be consigned to being delegated down the organization and I’m not sure it can afford to be.

The beginning of a new era for innovation, truly global.

Braden Kelley wrote an article entitled “Is the era of Innovation Over?” ( http://bit.ly/h9FCr6) which I would like to build upon.

Braden is the author of “Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire” from John Wiley & Sons and is also the editor of Blogging Innovation (http://bit.ly/d2c9aW ).

Braden picked up on an article lamenting the seemingly poor state of Canada’s innovation efforts (http://bit.ly/fdLeI5 ) with the view that “Innovation is literally hitting a wall”. Braden has also commented about the recent US approach to resolving their innovation approach and believes it is limited in its understanding and appreciation of innovation.

Here in Europe we are certainly going through the same crisis of confidence with innovation, it is not producing the wealth and growth expected and needed to fuel our economies. The EU commissioner for innovation, Máire Geoghegan- Quinn, the EU’s first innovation commissioner, has started to created a lot of positive energy around some exciting new initiatives but are they enough? My answer is simply no.

For a very thoughtful article on the EU and innovation (http://bit.ly/hCZWdO ) published in www.innovationmanagement.se by Ann Mettler, Executive Director of think tank The Lisbon Council and here she gives her take on policy and innovation.

Ann Mettler comments “One needs to distinguish between policy levers and policy drivers such as competition. It is about levers versus drivers. One key here is to look at the money and how the EU chooses to spend. Current spending priorities are the antithesis of innovation. If we continue to spend the largest proportion of the budget on the common agricultural policy we cannot with a straight face claim to prioritise innovation”.

Braden states the same within the article he was picking up upon, written  by University of British Columbia economics professor James Brander. (http://bit.ly/fdLeI5) that explores this sobering possibility of “hitting a brick wall” in a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Economics. Brander concludes that the pace of innovation is slowing dramatically in four key areas: agriculture, energy, transportation and health care. The consequences could have a profound impact on our lives if these are slowing down. Others will pick up any slack.

For me reading about Europe and its innovation policies it does seem Europe faces an “innovation emergency” because its businesses are falling behind its US and Japanese and now China as rivals in terms of investment and new patents, graduates and investment start ups. We are facing many challenges that seemingly the Commission cannot get the necessary momentum behind to reverse some frightening trends and quess what, the developing world is rapidly catching up.

A good understanding of the policies emerging from the approaches to be taken  for EU innovation can be read here (http://bit.ly/gFZ6EF ) in a series of interviews written by Haydn Shaughnessy.

So I do agree, we are actually in crisis. I also agree we really do need a new era of innovation as the old one has clearly not worked. It has to be bolder, more radical and more reflective of what innovation is providing for us. The realization is innovation cannot be contained within borders, it needs to be encouraged wherever it goes, and the Governments need to work on ensuring they keep a stake of it. Presently this is not as good a stake as we need for the level of growth, jobs and economic prosperity.

Innovation policy makers need a better understanding of innovations parts.

  • Any innovation policy is a formidable task, innovation by its nature and understanding is very broad. How can policy guide and stimulate innovation differently?
  • Braden is right in his article, the heavy emphasis on applied science and investments in research and technology as the keys to innovation is not the complete answer but it is part of it, of course.
  • Increasingly within the EU there is a growing realisation that all this research effort that is being heavily supported through grants and funding is falling very short in the commercialisation of inventions. There is a shift to measuring impact on society, in the delivery of benefits and that is important.
  • There is an increased realization on bringing new services and products to market and this comes through the SME. This is where it becomes harder to administer and develop levers for the SME to thrive. Often the argument for Governments is to simply get out of the way and let the market manage this. In the EU, dispersion of grants or funds will still have bureaucratic strings attached to it, so this is unlikely to happen.

The new recent US & EU initiatives on innovation

With the announcement of new initiatives on both sides of the pond I still get the distinct impression the policy makers are simply re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic- to do something that will soon be overtaken by events, or that contributes nothing better to the existing solutions to our current problems and that is a worry. We do need something more radical. Policy needs to be bolder. We simply don’t need just another sputnik moment, a realization others are beating us, we need to put that man on the moon to  make sure we mobilize society around innovation.

The real challenges needed to be faced.

  • The first big challenge to innovation is really a management challenge, not a research challenge, and it is not clear how the latest policies will succeed on this front. We do need to recognize managing innovation is rapidly changing the way we need to work. Is this being fully accounted for within new policies or pushed more? Remaking management to innovate is essential to deliver through.
  • Innovation has fragmented; today’s ‘innovation’ means what? We do need to understand the different ‘types’ of innovation needed to perform the specific task. I am not sure the policy makers understand the really important differences between open innovation, needs based innovation, service dominant innovation or where Business model innovation fits for support or development to name a few. This needs to change by rethinking innovation. Break it down more. It is not an internal event; it is an external collaborative event beyond a few PhD scientists to deliver innovation. Innovation needs to engage society more, not at the end but throughout the whole innovation development process.
  • There is a greater emphasis on innovation partnerships as innovation comes about at the intersection of different disciplines and relationships, so this is very positive. Bringing a diversity of people and what they can contribute together is positive. I’m not sure yet if this will be understood enough this includes the final consumer with this.
  • 70% or more of GDP comes from services. Many service areas don’t depend on research; they rely on ‘gut feeling’ instinct and quickly spotting ‘breaking’ opportunities, they utilise and combine knowledge more than product alone. Speed to market or first mover advantage can be much more important and how do you account for this in policy? We need to find better ways; we need to push more of the levers that help in this. We need to develop more knowledge platforms that combine knowledge to make better intelligent products.
  • I do share this opinion expressed by Ann that there is still just too close a relationship and political patronage of certain sectors that are leading to a kind of inbred relationship between government and companies, leading to lagging performance in terms of international competitiveness and protective positions that are not actually creating new jobs,  they are simply sending jobs away.
  • US economist Tyler Cowen argues, there are huge economic implications if innovation stagnates. This is what lies behind what he calls The Great Stagnation: How America Ate All the Low-Hanging Fruit of Modern History, Got Sick, and Will (Eventually) Feel Better. What underpinned the great postwar boom was the industrialisation of inventions made between 1910 and 1940. The goods that poured out of the west’s factories between 1950 and 1975 provided employment and rising real wages for the mass of the US’s and Europe’s citizens. But the “low-hanging fruit” that delivered such benefits is disappearing, he argues.
  • So are we actually stagnating? So perhaps the era of current innovation activity is over. We are clear of the importance of innovation as a driver of growth and the imperative to exploit it. Perhaps if Innovation was left to look after itself a little more, it could really flourish and provide real breakthroughs that did altered our lives as in 20th century very radically, that seemed unfettered far more.

I very much liked Ann Metters final comment in her article. “The biggest problem, however is that we don’t appear to respect the process of innovation itself in the EU. Innovation is not unidirectional. It does not lead to success nine times out of ten. It is by nature experimental, disruptive and unpredictable. We have no formula for it. We can’t control it top down. And that’s hard to accept, particularly if a lot of money and institutional reputations are at stake. So we create our formulas around R&D, shy away from risk and expect success. But it really doesn’t work that way”

So for me the battle of ecosystems becomes the necessary innovation platform.

Great advances do exist and many are still out there hanging on the tree. We do need to get past the low hanging fruit but to do this we do need our institutions to step back and provide a new ‘enabling’ infrastructure, we need to build the scaffolding to pick this new economic fruit. Government need to stick more to their basic knitting, focusing upon developing the conditions for building the ecosystem in which innovation, experimentation and investment can really flourish. We need supportive innovative management or investment ecology not micro management through administrating funds.

If we want to step up the pace of invention, there has to be a huge shift in the way we think and who does what. We are all presently trying to do each other jobs, often we are falling over each other, we duplicate effort, dilute innovation competition by accepting incremental innovation as the end result. We can’t continue that way, we all need to be bolder, to realize we are in crisis and where bolder innovation (and invention) can provide solutions.  Government needs to design markets and build institutions that promote innovate and let the markets build their individual ecosystem on which innovation, experimentation and investment come together on platforms that provide broad benefit to all that participate. Let the market fund these, let Government encourage the enabling platforms, the brokerage to bring these together and ensure it anchors part of that for its society.

Are ecosystems and platforms the global answer to innovation acceleration? I think the more the Governments promote innovation platforms, provide the levers, infrastructures and technical backbone to allow this to happen, the better. I think we can see rapid acceleration of ecosystems and then innovation by encouraging these platforms and new business models that can dramatically transform many industries. Scale and scope will be seen differently, these are global not country specific. Individual Governments need to help to build the global cake and ensure they get a slice of it. It will often be messy, unclear and not as well defined as policy makers would like but that is the nature of innovation.

Focusing more on building different ecosystem becomes main stream for innovation delivery and we usher in the new era of global innovation. We need to move beyond today’s innovation thinking so the new era of global innovation can emerge.

Welcome to the brave new world of innovation ecosystems

Will ecosystems replace simple ‘old’ innovation collaborations as we know them today? Open innovation has suddenly lost its pole position. Board rooms around the world will be thinking through the events that unfolded yesterday and I’m not talking about Eygpt.

Just get into the story that has been unfolding at Nokia in the recent weeks, it has been breathtaking but it signals a massive change in where innovation will be going. Let me summarize some of this story and add some of my own thoughts on what this means.

Firstly the famous burning platform memo within Nokia.

In early February Stephen Elop, the CEO of Nokia issued a ‘burning platform’ memo internally

  • We are standing on a “burning platform,” and we must decide how we are going to change our behaviour.
  • The burning platform, upon which the man found himself, caused the man to shift his behaviour, and take a bold and brave step into an uncertain future. He was able to tell his story. Now, we have a great opportunity to do the same
  • And, we have more than one explosion – we have multiple points of scorching heat that are fuelling a blazing fire around us.

While competitors poured flames on Nokia’s market share, what happened at Nokia? They fell behind, they missed out on some big trends, and they lost precious time to multiple competitors. They now find themselves years behind. So in a brutally honest assessment Nokia has lost market share, lost mind share and lost time. It needed something radical.

There are many other organizations that should be as honest as this. Automotives come to mind for example. Burning platforms are one of the best ways to galvanise and generate innovation. There are many burning platforms out there- Health, Government, Social Services, Age concerns, Poverty, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, Energy and Climate (and many others) are all burning platforms needing bolder solutions.

If leadership sees it, then disruption follows or rapid decline can set in. Competition in the world is getting mean.

The new war of ecosystems

To quote Elop: “The battle of devices has now become a war of ecosystems. In this case it is where ecosystems include not only the hardware and software of the device, but developers, applications, ecommerce, advertising, search, social applications, location-based services, unified communications and many other things. Our competitors aren’t taking our market share with devices; they are taking our market share with an entire ecosystem. This means we’re going to have to decide how we either build, catalyse or join an ecosystem”.

Today, the battle is moving from one of mobile devices to one of mobile ecosystems in Nokia’s case and perhaps many other global businesses.

Again Elop: “Ecosystems thrive when they reach scale, when they are fueled by energy and innovation and when they provide benefits and value to each person or company who participates”.

Back to Nokias CEO Stephen Elop brutally honest ‘burning platform’ memo.

“The first iPhone shipped in 2007, and we still don’t have a product that is close to their experience. Android came on the scene just over 2 years ago, and this week they took our leadership position in smartphone volumes. Unbelievable.”

“We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.”

Overall, the communique laments Nokia’s lateral movement while Apple and Google have started eating its lunch on the mid- and high end and Shenzhen-based off brands have started to cut into its traditional dominance in emerging markets, leaving Espoo with virtually zero market leadership.

So enters Microsoft needing at least one solution to its own burning platforms .

A long term strategic alliance between Nokia and Microsoft was announced on Friday 11th February 2011, proposing to build a global ecosystem that creates opportunities beyond anything that currently exists. This ecosystem offers a serious alternative to the existing choices to operators, developers and consumers. Bringing together highly complementary assets and competencies will allow this ecosystem to achieve more than any other industry partnership could achieve. Welcome to the third ecosystem of mobile devises to compete with Apple and the Google’s Android.

Does it make sense or as one commentator commented “ Nokia: here’s why we jumped off the “burning platform” into the frigid North Sea by choosing Microsoft and its Windows Phone 7” as its smart phone platform.

  • Together Microsoft and Nokia have some of the most globally recognized and treasured brands on the planet. This can be leveraged for the benefit of the ecosystem and the products.
  • Nokia plans to help drive and define the future of the platform. That could include contributing expertise on hardware optimization, language support, customization of the software and helping bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.
  • Nokia operates an established, global supply and distribution network with the capability to bring products to almost every corner of the world. That provides the capability to take potential Nokia Windows Phone products and make them globally competitive.
  • Scale is critical to a winning ecosystem. Together, Nokia and Microsoft would bring unrivalled scale in global reach, brand identity and product breadth.

It seems a winning idea: world’s biggest handset maker plus most profitable software firm.

A turkey or an eagle has been raised with this strategic partnership

One further commentator (http://bit.ly/effPog) quoted:

“On paper, it looks like a simple win: the world’s biggest handset maker joins the world’s most profitable software maker, which dominates the PC platform. Why shouldn’t it be an open goal on mobiles? The problem is nobody thinks of Nokia or Microsoft when buying a “smartphone” because that means “apps”, for which everyone thinks of Apple (330,000 third-party apps) or, increasingly, Google’s Android (200,000 third-party apps). Developers know they can make money on either platform if they have a hit like Angry Birds or some other app, and companies know apps can drive commerce to their business.

By contrast, Windows Phone 7 offers fewer than 8,000 apps. And instead of courting developers, Nokia and Microsoft have undermined them: Microsoft by abandoning Windows Mobile a year ago, by unveiling Windows Phone 7; and Nokia abruptly announcing on Friday that its best-selling Symbian platform was in effect dead and would not be used in future smartphones. Symbian developers will probably retool to write for Apple or Android rather than Nokia. Without developers, you don’t have apps, and without apps you don’t have a reason for people to buy your platform over another. Open goal? More like closed doors.

It might mean many possibly heading fast for the exit. As an interesting question for a developer is, where best would it be to put their skills to write code for Windows Phone 7, for Android, or Apple’s iOS?

Rebuilding fortunes

Embattled mobile phone firm Nokia has now signed up to a “broad strategic partnership” with Microsoft in an effort to rebuild its fortunes. It is most likely to go beyond just smart mobiles.

Elop said the partnership meant the mobile market was now a “three horse race”, with Nokia-Microsoft competing strongly with Apple, and Google’s Android platform.

Let’s see how HP reflects on this; will they join this ecosystem or stay with their own efforts to battle on the hardware front? They might be forced to join one of the three ecosystems themselves as they will increasingly find it expensive to build another alternative.

So the battle of ecosystems becomes the necessary innovation platform.

Are ecosystems and platforms the global answer to innovation acceleration?

I don’t think this set of events is contained to one industry. I think we will see the rapid acceleration of ecosystems; new platforms and business models will suddenly transform many industries. Scale and scope will be seen differently from this move of Nokia and Microsoft.

Take a quick look at what these ecosystems can bring in this Nokia- Microsoft deal.

At present in what must be a fairly fluid strategic rethink, Nokia said it will continue to make phones running its Symbian operating system, thus “leveraging previous investments to harvest additional value”. Symbian, though, will be relegated to the status of a “franchise partner”. Third world phones suddenly have a fairly decent operating system at affordable prices perhaps?

MeeGo, Nokia’s Linux-based open source mobile operating system, will also continue – but with a focus on “longer-term market exploration”. This seems like picking the parts that are different and merging these into the Windows Mobile 7 platform in the next few years.

Further scanning the different commentary from yesterday that while the specific details of the deal are being worked out, here’s a quick summary of what we are working towards:

• Nokia will adopt Windows Phone as its primary smartphone strategy, innovating on top of the platform in areas such as imaging, where Nokia is a market leader.

• Nokia will help drive and define the future of Windows Phone. Nokia will contribute its expertise on hardware design, language support, and help bring Windows Phone to a larger range of price points, market segments and geographies.

• Nokia and Microsoft will closely collaborate on development, joint marketing initiatives and a shared development roadmap to align on the future evolution of mobile products.

• Bing will power Nokia’s search services across Nokia devices and services, giving customers access to Bing’s next generation search capabilities. Microsoft adCenter will provide search advertising services on Nokia’s line of devices and services.

• Nokia Maps will be a core part of Microsoft’s mapping services. For example, Maps would be integrated with Microsoft’s Bing search engine and adCenter advertising platform to form a unique local search and advertising experience.

• Nokia’s extensive operator billing agreements will make it easier for consumers to purchase Nokia Windows Phone services in countries where credit-card use is low.

• Microsoft development tools will be used to create applications to run on Nokia Windows Phones, allowing developers to easily leverage the ecosystem’s global reach.

• Microsoft will continue to invest in the development of Windows Phone and cloud services so customers can do more with their phone, across their work and personal lives.

• Nokia’s content and application store will be integrated with Microsoft Marketplace for a more compelling consumer experience.

The combination of these 800lb Gorillas will seemingly be impressive

Nokia’s history of innovation in the hardware space, global hardware scale, strong history of intellectual property creation and navigation assets are second to none. Microsoft is a leader in software and services; the company’s incredible expertise in platform creation forms the opportunity for its billions of customers and millions of partners to get more out of their devices.

So the war of ecosystems is upon us.

Stephen Elop made these comments yesterday:

  • There are other mobile ecosystems. We will disrupt them.
  • There will be challenges. We will overcome them.
  • Success requires speed. We will be swift.
  • Together, we see the opportunity, and we have the will, the resources and the drive to succeed.

Time will tell on this strategic partnership, it has a massive challenge to catch up and regain lost ground but it signals the ecosystem for innovation step change is upon us.

In my view innovation has just entered a new phase

The ecosystem becomes main stream for innovation delivery. Platforms, strategic partnerships, new business models all will be on the agenda of any serious global organization. Burning platforms are all around us, welcome to the new era of global innovation. Perhaps the bold new innovation frontier.

Orchestrating the new dynamics of innovation fitness

In my work investigating different aspects of innovation activity one thought tends to dominate my thinking: “How do we achieve a better understanding of the dynamics of innovation within our capabilities to be more successful?”

I’ve already written in previous blogs about the need of “constantly checking for the pulse of innovation” ( http://bit.ly/c3G0Ta) and suggesting the way to “open up your thinking to dynamic capabilities for innovation success” (   http://bit.ly/bxTeYO).

I’d like to take this one step further in this blog and outline my thinking on innovation fitness landscapes and why they are essential  to understand .

Each organization needs to know its Innovation Fitness Landscape- why

There is a pressing need for a firm is to consistently build and reconfigure internal and external competencies and capabilities to address rapidly changing environments. It is the mastering of this ability to achieve new, more innovative forms in rapid changing market conditions that will enable certain organizations to emerge as the winners of the innovation race.

This view requires a more ‘dynamic’ set of capabilities. Often the question becomes one of “which are the critical ones to focus upon to improve the chance of greater success?

Knowing your fitness landscape does provide a good understanding of your existing position and set of capabilities and can ‘point’ you towards the ones that you need to have to move towards to have in place to improve your innovation capacity and achieve closer to your goals.

Survival of the fittest dominates

Each organization has limited resources, it is to know where to focus your limited resources to maximise your abilities to deliver better innovation. The key is to map out those current innovation capabilities to the tasks (and aspirations) at hand and identify the opportunity spaces and gaps that need to be filled to match aspiration with abilities, so as to deliver against the stated strategic need. It does seem Darwin seemingly raises his head in much of what we do to simply keep up and adapt. So we do need to understand innovation in more of its entirety not only to survive but to thrive.

So what are Innovation Fitness Landscapes?

“The greater the fitness to innovate will equate to more value creation potential.”

I believe we do need to provide a solution to this understanding the innovation challenge by constructing a more comprehensive framework. Part of my present work is to find a working model to achieve this, I’m getting close.

It is this critical need of any business organization or country for wealth creation through (new) growth and successful innovation lies in understanding the path to achieving this. But what are the factors, the enablers to support this? It is by identifying the more dynamic capabilities and then plotting these to understand your existing ‘fitness’. There is still today far too much of a ‘piecemeal’ approach in evaluating the inter-related dynamics needed for innovation still going on, both at Government and Organizational level. We need to see this differently, to tackle it in a more comprehensive manner.

If you can imagine that you are looking out over a range of mountains and valleys and you need to determine your journey to get from one point to another as your goal. You need to understand your fitness and in this case your innovation fitness of what is needed to achieve your goals with the resources you have available or understanding what will bridge those gaps and transverse the challenges you face. Let me explain this a little more.

Let’s mix the theory of fitness landscapes with your innovation objectives

  • By firstly mapping out your innovation capabilities to the task at hand enables you to understand and relate to what is needed- we call that the context for innovation. Innovation Fitness Landscapes helps in this task by identifying the opportunity spaces on where you need to focus your efforts‐ and apply the appropriate resources to navigate the terrain. The greater understanding of the ‘fitness points needed’ can transform your innovation landscape potential, or in business parlance, achieve your goal.
  • Achieving this fitness accelerates your opportunities into final tangible outcomes. Here is a little bit of the theory:  you look for those critical factors that will give higher value potential or ‘peaks’ that are more valuable to your needs. The more ‘rugged’ the landscape, the tougher the innovation challenge, can also determine the greater fitness for the rate of innovation. The height of the peaks in these landscapes, the greater value placed upon them, illustrates how intense the innovation challenge is, and the number of critical peaks shows how diverse its potentially is to provide the appropriate resources.
  • The ability to identifying the emerging patterns provides the need to act and invest, making adaptive even exploratory walks to provide the appropriate resources needed so as to move you to the higher fitness points where innovation viability is enhanced and needed to be so as to resolve the challenges faced. You need to experiment, to take these exploratory ‘walk’s to realize the potential and learn how to scale accordingly.
  • Greater fitness equates to more value creation potential. The ability to inter‐couple landscape entities, to constantly combine the different capabilities in different often unique ways and exploit individual interactions alters your dynamics to innovate and does improve repeatable cycle times from this constant recreation potential.
  • The key  is to know what these capability points are- by dynamic linking those that are important and ignoring those that are not.
  • By learning from these experiments or adaptive walks you can quickly operationalize routines that can be quickly absorbed across the organization and so reduce uncertainties and strengthen the capabilities.
  • The ability to create ‘natural tensions’ from this fitness learning triggers the need to further explore and search out different combinations, this adds even further to your dynamics of innovation understanding.
  • Clear distinctive capabilities emerge; these are your dynamic points for innovation.

Act effectively amid uncertainty

There is a consistent need to keep looking around us; on what is going on, what has happened in the past, what is alongside us, what might be ahead and the people and resources we have available. This is taught to anyone who wants to be well equipped in any mountainous area. We need to be prepared as best we can in business and be ready to anticipate different scenarios and predictions- to be ready to be more adaptive and agile. Innovation requires that.

It is knowing this so called innovation terrain, understanding the opportunities or possibilities around us along with appreciating the time pressures, positions both internally and externally in the market that provide us much of the context of why we need to innovate in a certain way. Knowing the intensity of your innovation challenge gives you a better appreciation of what is needed to resolve these challenges- your innovation fitness.

In our understanding of the often ‘diverse’ set of challenges you have to overcome and knowing what is available to you and what you need to find to bridge any gaps becomes essential. The obtaining of insights for innovation enables you to relocate or locate the resources that are capable to be combined to traverse the landscape (or challenge) and innovate better.

Innovation is complex but can be modelled.

Innovation is complex, it is the intricate and often multiple intertwined interactions and relationships that lead to innovation. The greater the connectivity and interdependence that spreads across the organization and externally in our more open innovation initatives does effects the actions, decisions and behaviours throughout the whole innovation ecosystem. We often talk about the cultural and environment needed to innovate. Knowing the inter-coupling points mapped out in an innovation fitness landscape, depicting the richness of individual interactions and combinations can alter the dynamics and your thinking of where you need to place your scarce resources to innovate better and in more sustainable ways.

Knowing what is dynamic, those critical determinants within your innovation capabilities do lead you to achieve new and innovative forms of competitive advantage. I feel it is worth understanding your present fitness levels and knowing what is required to get you to become a more ‘fit’ for the purpose to innovate on a consistent, repeatable basis. I feel it  is worth knowing, don’t you?

Writing off legacy within your innovation systems

You hear constantly the need for greater speed, increased agility, and effective delivery from ideas to implementations for innovation.  Yet we still keep these organizational needs locked into those old structures, systems and processes that have been layered one on top of the other as we learnt about innovation over the years. We  often simply kept  adapting these (often badly) into the existing way we were managing innovation. Isn’t it time we addressed this growing issue of adapting, stopped the compromising and started redesigning our innovation systems from afresh with present day leading innovation practice thinking?

Managing innovation as a system is no different from managing IT for example. You get to a given point where the costs of running innovations through your existing systems continue to rise. You begin to diminish your innovation performance. Speed to market seems never to improve the way you want it too, and more importantly delivery against the identified market opportunity seemingly gets more and more compromised. The risks of cutting corners seemingly grows every day, and you under deliver on the opportunity first seen.  No wonder eventually leaders begin to question and lose confidence in their innovation abilities. The results increasingly become suboptimal.

Is there an alternative?

I believe we need to re-engineer innovation differently and more radically. Without doubt we have all learnt enormously from the evolution of innovation and its management but there is a time to rethink the whole rationale behind innovation, its systems, structure and process. Increasingly organizations are appreciating their unique but surprisingly precious few distinctive innovation capabilities that (can) set them apart. Understanding these does start giving the strategic perspective of what is core and to be protected and developed, that meet the strategic priorities, against what needs to be increasingly outsourced or relegated in management attention and support.

We need to challenge what we have in place and understand what needs renewing and what needs ‘letting go’. I have already written about a twelve step process for innovation renewal in an earlier blog (December 2010-  http://bit.ly/gvomnr) that offers a renewal step-by-step process.

Companies have hundreds of layered capabilities built-up within innovation.

What any review should account for is the capabilities that really matter, the ones that are or should be distinctive, that can set you apart in innovation. Not just those than simply keeping the innovation business engine running but the ones that extract the maximum toque out of innovation, from idea to implementation and delivery into the market.

We do need to totally redesign the innovation engine.

The best thing possible to do though is sitting down and totally redesigning a new innovation engine that few others can emulate, based on the capabilities identified as needed and core, mapped to strategic priorities. Out of this you will begin to identify your legacy systems, the layers of obsolesce within the system to innovate that should be challenged and replaced irrespective, and updated whatever way you eventually decide to approach your innovation renewal.

A tip here is those distinctive capabilities that do or can set you apart also need to be coherent across your whole organization. Everyone needs to contribute into changing those older habits and systems as a top priority for all functions, as the identified distinctive capabilities are providing the ways to distinguish you from others. These might be based on speed and insight- to respond rapidly to changing consumer needs, translation of customer insight by meeting these specific need and ensuring delivery from idea to market is better than anyone else’s. Any redesign needs corporate backing and organisation identification.

Innovation is really the only game in town for value potential

Can we afford to keep our existing innovation ‘systems’ in place? How much longer can we keep denying to ourselves and admit that we do not have the best innovation systems in place?  Isn’t it time to retire older practices built up around innovation as they emerged in different ad hoc ways over the last few years and really redesign the innovation system, process and structures from top to bottom based on leading or emerging innovation practice?

Of course there will be most certainly regular course directions based on changing innovation understanding and there seen value (eg, value of networks, collaborative enterprises etc) but if they are based on rigorous value understanding, risk and market assessment of what is valued in innovation activity then consistent renewal is built into this work from the beginning, so ‘legacy drag’ is minimised. it would be ideal if this was driven by a core group within an innovation unit. See my blog partly on this http://bit.ly/fQW6Jq

The need is for a high level of judgement and understanding of innovation.

Of course any innovation redesign will need a high level of judgement.  There is a time where management not only should be demanding more speed, agility and effective delivery of innovation but must equally be prepared to provide the guidance and direction, so as to enable those distinct innovation capabilities to be well designed and optimal for the future delivery of the organizations innovation needs. Leadership needs to raise its own innovation bar, be prepared to junk the legacy that is built up around much of the existing practices around innovation today within the innovation systems and support and enable the organization to be able to deliver on speed, agility, effectively and on time on its core capabilities identified and agreed as critical.

There is certainly a right time to deal with the legacies within our innovation system. Approaching this through more of an optimal fresher designing approach that builds around those distinct core innovation capabilities should becomes a necessary strategic requirement, earlier than later, so organizations can match strategic desire with the ability to deliver on it through latest practices not old ones built on past habits and out of date understanding.