Innovation struggles to integrate fully within the organization

In the past few weeks I have outlined the existing gaps at the leadership level on innovation engagement and innovations continued lack of being integrated into an organizations strategy. Time and time again there are new reports, surveys and different comments made on this serious disconnect still going on that needs clear resolution.

It is always pleasing to sometimes be on the same track as the Big Consultants, for working on and moving beyond the trends they are spotting and highlighting, into some clear tangible solutions, to help resolve these. Recently McKinsey Quarterly conducted an on-line survey of just under 3,000 executives on issues surrounding innovation. The report is entitled “Making innovation structures work”- see the link below.

They confirm much that I have seen or gained through my research and point very specifically to the key difficulties organizations are presently having around innovation.

This report feeds directly into the solution work I’m undertaking

The results feed directly into the work I have been undertaking on the leadership gap and the suggested framework of the integrated executive innovation work mat that has been discussed in considerable details in the past few weeks. These have been on this blog site of mine, as well as ovo innovation’s  my collaborating partners, and also on  innovation excellence’s web site, where we had a whole week of featured articles, discussing the work mat component parts, or as we entitled it, the essential seven domains of innovation that make up this work mat.

So what stands out in the McKinsey report?

The innovation structure is evolving; organizations rely on exploring various organizational models to ‘house’ and execute innovation. They work with multiple structural models to drive innovation efforts and often have separate innovation functions, located in multiple locations. It seems there has been an insurgence of structures in the last three years that are currently being worked through.

 Presently there is no uniformed view on innovation organizational design

According to the report, the innovation’s function has shifted in the functions location, in its financing and ownership and increasingly reporting into a C-Level, or even directly into the CEO.

The designs involved include innovation centres, a dedicated new-business development function, emerging business opportunities and technologies groups (often separate) and having advanced technologies institutes as part of the mix.

It still seems where it ‘sits’ partly depends on the time the innovation function was set up. The older structures, set up more than ten years ago 46% of those surveyed report that innovation “sits” at corporate headquarters compared with 65% at the organizations with younger functions. Younger functions also focus more on profit but presently have fewer market successes as they have had less time.

What is the innovation they are working upon?

These are with functional focus on identifying new business opportunities, such as blue-sky innovation and developing potentially disruptive technologies and those report directly into the CEO at around 44% of the functions at present. That maybe the wrong side of the 50% mark I’d like but we seem to be making progress of linking innovation directly to the leadership of our organizations, or are we? Read on.

The factors of success

This is the area of most interest to me. Although it is prefaced by a matter of maturity (whatever that means) there is a ongoing debate on how separate or aligned with corporate strategy an organizations approach to innovation should be. To quote from the report “What is affirmed that strategy (particularly one that is focused, clearly articulated and integrated) is key to successful outcomes. At companies where innovation is fully integrated into strategy, executives are SIX times as likely as those without an integrated strategy to say their separate functions meet their financial objectives effectively, actually very effectively or extremely effectively”

Equally where there is a successful integration there is a sharing of the organizational elements across the portfolio. This includes sharing strategic priorities and focus, knowledge and insights, research insights and analysis, leadership teams and approach to governance with lastly a good talent flow and exchange.

The challenge for innovation is still around strategy though

Only one-third of the executives report innovation is fully integrated in corporate-level strategies,  and nearly half say integrating the separate function’s strategic objectives with those of their core businesses is one of their functions most significant challenges.

Those that achieve effective outcomes have clear leadership support

Fifty-six per cent of all the executives surveyed identify C-level and leadership support as a driver of success (second only to strategic focus). There is a more than interesting effective outcome split within the report (exhibit 4) that the level of interact frequency with the C-level team makes a real difference.

Surprisingly but fitting with my own observations and research, is the frequency of interactions between the separate innovation functions and C-level leadership. From this report those deemed as “very frequent” is only at 40%. Can you image the wealth creation, new growth potential that innovation provides yet C-level engagement is only at 40% for very or extremely frequent in discussions? So is innovation that important to the C-level really?  Something is wrong here, badly wrong.  “Somewhat frequently” comes in at 17% and “rarely or not at all” is 22%. This is the leadership gap we have suggested needs addressing, urgently. Clearly innovation “sounds good, a good sound bite” but is not top of mind for C-level as they would like us to believe, it seems.

Then McKinsey outlines the involvement with separate innovation functions at the C-level as actively involved in the innovation process, from idea generation to commercialization, is only 38%. Those involved in the evaluation and feedback on major innovation decisions, about strategic decisions and priorities of investment makes up another 35%, yet only 26% serve on an innovation council or committee and 14% report that their leadership is not involved with innovation functions at all.

So we are still badly lacking that deep C-level engagement, although the line into them is improving. The need is to get the C-level strategically engaged at least and convince them to provide the innovation framework for others we are proposing, so they do become fully involved and those responsible to work within innovation can conduct their work through the framework we are suggesting to strengthen the C-level engagement and cohesiveness of strategy with innovation activity.

Divergence and philosophical tension in innovation

So the McKinsey report is more than helpful (and timely) on providing a snapshot of practices, successes and challenges but they do suggest there is a divergence and reflection on the struggle and philosophical tensions surrounding innovation. For instance, equal shares of those surveyed, state their function exist to turn a profit, or have no financial targets at all. Equally there are large splits on measuring individual performance with only 30% having the same performance metrics as the rest of the organization, while 32% have innovation-specific metrics and some (23%) seem to straddle the middle of the two. The lack of leaning to one form of measurement or the other needs resolution or is it evenly split due to the nature of the innovation activity the function is working upon?

The one aspect within the report I find really shocks and disappoints me

The concern lies in the number of dedicated employees on innovation, 35% of executives (out of 2,927) have ten or fewer full-time equivalents working within their function and 30% saying at least 51 full-time equivalents dedicated and working on innovation.

That is staggering low in my opinion for the area that is reportedly consistently within the top three priorities of the CEO. No wonder we have the slow innovation cycles, the poor success rates and the lack-lustre performances from innovation if these are the dedicated numbers working on innovation.  This is appalling. I just wonder how many efficiency and effectiveness people are employed across some sizeable organizations yet innovation seems grossly undeserved by these results. Putting your future into too few hands, to work on breakthroughs, those new disruptive areas means you must be forced to end up with incremental innovation for maintaining performance, and we all are seeing that clearly emerging time and time again, from most organizations not balancing their innovation activity in a well- structured and thoughtful way.

Risk, poor incentive, under-resourcing innovation and fear still dominate. When will stakeholders start asking more direct innovation questions to the boards of organizations?

The last part of the report deals with the difficulties aligning innovation.

The significant challenges in meeting strategic objectives are hampered by a range of difficulties, the highest as a % of respondents was 53% on the competition coming with short-term priorities from other parts of the business, 42% for difficulties in integrating functions strategic objective with those of the core business, 29% in difficulties in defining the functions business case or value proposition to company leaders, with 19% seeing the challenge of being separated from the rest of the company.

The conclusions  drawn from the report.

The report concludes many of these issues are cross-cutting and perennial challenges not just for innovation but for the organizations as a whole.

It reaffirms the absolute need for strategy to precede structure when organizations decide to create new innovation functions and the enabling effect an engaged C-level support brings in driving innovation success. Also it suggests that a real care to tailor the function to existing organization objectives and culture are important.

The report recommends the following:

1)      Organizations should not rely on a single innovation function, it must integrate with the entire organization

2)      There must be first a well-established and clear strategic focus

3)      A clear garnering-in from top management

4)      That C-level support is a key factor for innovation success

5)      The measures should focus more on the performance and success on the functions role in the innovation value chain, not necessarily financial targets as these can be an unreliable measure or guarantee of success.

This report is timely

After the last few weeks in laying out the business case for having an integrated framework for innovation through our executive innovation work mat, this McKinsey report reinforces that we are on the right track.

I feel even more confident that this framework we offer to bridge the innovation leadership gap can make a solid, maybe significant, contribution to reducing some of the issues and challenges that have been raised within this McKinsey report.

The McKinsey report can be found through this link.

The Overarching Proposition for the Executive Innovation Work Mat

When you begin to think through something that might change the present dynamics within innovation and its management it becomes exciting. When you develop an emerging answer , by recognizing one really critical gap that needs filling, it becomes hugely exciting actually. Not just in researching it, in debating it but in eventually constructing a sound framework, that is visual, easy to connect too and for hopefully many to become involved and engaged with, brings this work together into a realization that is really rewarding.

For Jeffrey Phillips and me, we believe we are offering something that makes sense through our framework, which we call the Executive Innovation Work Mat, with a link to the short introductory series, published in September 2012.

In our initial White Paper there is the outlines of our thinking behind this Executive Innovation Work Mat.  The important message is that we want to deliver the message into the boardrooms of as many business organizations as we can, with this message of intent which can be simply summed up as “we believe we have a framework that will help the leadership of organizations to identify with, understand their role in this and in this strategic participation and framing innovation intent, so advance the contribution of innovation within their organizations and beyond.”

Let me lay out the overarching proposition for this.

We believe there is an essential gap within the way we set about innovation today. There is a need for a well-articulated and well-communicated innovation strategy that can be delivered in an organizing framework that we have called the Executive Innovation Work Mat.

Seven Essential Innovation Domains in the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The work mats aim is to engage the top of our organizations to lay out the conditions and result impact they expected from innovation.

This framework provides the guidance through its seven innovation domains that combine to move towards an explicit innovation strategy, that is looking to align far more to the organizations growth goals and strategic intent than most organizations deem to achieve today.

In obtaining the right innovation engagement at the top of our organizations, well communicated, we reduce distance and bridge many current disconnects surrounding innovation.

The end result is we gain identification and we believe improve organizational responsiveness through this involvement. It can deliver the essential alignment that innovation requires to support an organizations strategy and goals.

The framework provides both formal and informal mechanisms, it combine the intrinsic with the extrinsic, so as to make up a more effective way for decision-making and creating innovation to take place. This combination effect provides the necessary support to the efforts involved in discovering, exploring and executing innovation and a significant contributor to the strategic and tactical linkage needed within the organization.

In summary let me articulate the potential this work mat can offer:

Key implications

Innovation is not an isolated event; it is not made up of islands of knowledge. Innovation requires a “pulling together” and needs this overarching organizing framework, that provides the deep, enduring commitment to its constituent parts from the top of organizations in the support and the understanding required to make this happen. The framework provides the innovation leadership, it lays out the “conditions”  for innovation through the work mat methodology.

The leadership  have the underlying responsibility to establish it, leverage it and effectively work it fully through, using this framework as the mechanism for sustaining the innovation focus in a well-structured way. This gains a real organizational value as it provides the top-level understanding of the seven essential domains needed to support innovation that covers the structure, design and process, governance, motivation and metrics and the conditions to strengthen the climate and environment to bring this to life.

Points of emphasis

This framework provides a uniforming and growing cohesion required for innovation to be focused, it seeks greater alignment in activities and engagement around innovation; it actively works at reducing barriers and many of today’s uncertainties through its constant engagement, communication and dialogues prompted by its construct.

The framework becomes the document of the leaderships commitment and engagement, it raises innovations visibility in a structured thoughtful way, it seeks to encourage and draw in the organization for them to gather around.

Eventually we can see this framework becoming a sort of innovation mechanism for the “collecting house in meaningful exchange on innovation” where the essential strategic activities are captured and where the actions can be recognized, measured and valued. It triggers engagement and provides the motivations to delve even deeper into generating greater innovation outcomes as the end result around its framing ability.

The essential Common Language

Common LanguageEventually it forms a significant part of the required innovation ecosystem. A place where a common language forms, a clear explicit place where context connects with the work going on and the value of this is how the people involved in innovation work, connect and engage.

A dream, no, it can be a reality. We need to provide increasing clarity and purpose to each persons daily work, to their innovation activities, so all draw meaning and value from the connections across the framework, they recognize the boundaries and push beyond in confidence, not fear. They need the appropriate “signal” and guidance from the top to gain encouragement to push the boundaries of potential but set within this overarching frame.

Risk is identified through dialogue and governance on what any actions mean and the understanding of these for any impact, negative or positive, on our innovation ecology can be evaluated. This pushes innovation beyond the normal incremental approach often found today, as leaders become more aware and can “frame” issues and understand opportunities better through their strategic lens.

Achievement Goals

The leader’s role is to provide guidance, strategic and sometimes tactical guidance, as well as to offer inspiration and clarity of purpose. They need to “draw out” the essence of an organization’s desire to innovation. By both articulating and nurturing innovation through this framework then innovation is driven and directed, then surely we are headed in the right direction.

An organizational framework for innovation draws people in, it achieves connection and engagement. If innovation can “resonate” throughout the organization it gains the “required attention”. It becomes embedded as the “force” essential for growth and over time part of our “natural”  daily occurrence .

Motivation to innovate

Motivate to innovateWe need to cultivate innovation. It is the primary source of new wealth creation, of sustaining a healthy future, of securing that future.

Each of us needs to personally understand how innovation happens, what are the ‘multiple’ connecting points, all the intersections and cross-over points needed to make it work, and work well repeatedly. Innovation cannot be delegated, it needs to be mastered, it needs to be shared.

We all need to become “innovating conscious”. Everyone needs to “get it” not just a few selected people today.

Shared understanding and consistent follow up

What the executive team does, in what it communicates in its actions and behaviors, in its participation and its resource funding of innovation, becomes vital. Innovation runs counter to many of the existing (accepted) processes and faces stronger “head winds” and resistance because it challenges many of the existing practices and processes honed and established over many years. It needs executive leadership to manage these tensions and dynamics. To show innovation leadership.

This framework becomes the “glue” that connects across the seven domains essential to innovation and re-enforce a consistent need to challenge, overcome yet equally maintain performance.

Changing Behaviors

People make or break innovation. Innovation is an inherent social activity that needs relationships, networks, structures and supporting systems. People need to belong, belong in an environment that nurtures and encourages innovation, in a community that balances risk and learning, a place to generate and execute. A place to experiment and learn.

From the top to the bottom of the organization requires active engagement, growing identification and understanding and knowing that the skills, exposure to competencies and building capabilities is an on-going process that feeds off a climate of trust, mutual respect and ever evolving partnerships to achieve the work that is needed can be done.

Real Value Points

Value PropositionFor engagement in the Executive Innovation Framework, the work invested in this work mat exercise offers as real value benefits:

  1. The framework can create cohesion and consistency of innovation purpose that will reduce many existing barriers and uncertainties around innovation
  2. As the leadership does become engaged this will demonstrate a significant commitment and promise that will certainly increases the visibility of innovation, lowers risks, encourages more involvement and generation of better ideas.
  3. The framework itself will generate work flows that link, become more dynamic to explore and promote the innovation skills, capabilities and competencies needed. They become more cohesive, coordinated and focused. It seeks to reduce tension and increase the dynamics within innovation.
  4. As the framework connects, in its understanding and as its impact grows, we certainly believe, confidence builds. Both formal and informal areas are addressed in parallel, growing all-round identification and alignment.
  5. You begin to align compensation and incentives into your abilities to generate the innovation activities that provide the impact the organization is looking for.

While CEOs or other senior leaders responsible for innovation they don’t need to dominate innovation activities but they do need to fill this critical role to ensure:

  • linking of innovation activities to corporate strategies,
  • communicating the importance of innovation consistently and demonstrating their personal engagement,
  • aligning the corporate culture and compensation programs to innovation goals and activities
  • creating innovation governance frameworks and provide the environment to allow innovation to function and thrive.

The essential role that leadership plays in innovation

Executive need to engage for innovation 1While few executives will conceive the ideas that become best-selling products and services, executives must orchestrate and lead the rest of the organization, in building a culture that embraces innovation and provide the leadership and guidance innovation demands.

Leadership is certainly seeking more innovation in their business models, more distinctiveness in their innovation offerings, a wish to explore different options. To meet this, they need to become more involved in all aspects of innovation to achieve this innovation improvement and reduce uncertainties that lies often within their own minds. I would suggest it is through this framework that it becomes the focal point and offers the mechanism to provide these necessary conditions and can set the “pulse”that enables the innovation juices to flow.

The competitive pace today and for a sustaining future requires innovation engagement from the top. Executives who understand their role in shaping innovation frameworks and activities, and, more importantly, increasing opportunities and engagement for the entire organization, that can be “driven” through this framework, will deliver better and more sustained innovation outcomes by its engagement effect.

Innovation needs to be seen coming from the top as compelling.

There are some very compelling arguments why the leadership of our organizations do need to become fully involved in providing and guiding the innovation design. Organizations need an overarching strategic design for innovation and this must come from the top.

Here are two series of short papers laying out the business case for the engagement of the top of our organizations within innovation, based initially upon turning the buzzword of innovation into the imperative and a further set of papers based on leaders need to engage and drive their innovation needs to achieve the strategic growth they believe is achievable.

We need to reduce this present gap of poor innovation leadership; we believe the Executive Innovation Work Mat approach can definitely help towards this goal, it has real value to investigate, construct and implement as an overarching framework for innovation alignment within organizations.

Lining up the fundamentals in leadership and innovation

A week can feel like a long time, actually this present week has got condensed from six months of investigating, exploring and debating but even now it is only the beginning, that public ‘coming out’ of a new framework for innovation. It is what happens after this first exposure, that we will this find its value and contribution and that does depends on a lot of factors, mostly in other people’s hands. Those that will recognize a clear value to help them and their organizations should welcome this, we hope.

So what am I talking about?

The development of an emerging framework, which we call the Executive Innovation Work Mat, is where we are suggesting, lies the responsibility of the CEO or senior executive, to construct and enact. Executives need to fill a leadership gap found in innovation, and define a robust innovation framework.  They can deliver the missing innovation alignment part by engaging and providing this leadership required in innovation that is often missing. What these contain are outlined in our framework that we have exposed this week in a series of seven blogs. Just click on the link above for the foundation article.

There is a movement detected in the innovation air!

We are seeing that innovation is becoming a more vital part of organizations ability to manage their future. There is an emerging formalized need for innovation within organizations but its whole structure, the innovation ecosystem or whatever name you want to call it, is today being simply left to chance. Its construct is not pieced together in the best coherent way to build a culture for sustaining innovation. Innovation lacks people who are specifically accountable, it gets built-in often ad-hoc, piecemeal fashion. It leaves many involved in the process frustrated with the amount of effort innovation needs and the lack of results that have not delivered that necessary impact and performance-effect often promised and so desired, to break from the competitive pack.

We are failing to build and nurture this ‘innovation ecosystem’; we are not formulating and communicating where innovation links into strategy, it stays inarticulate and poorly communicated, it is left to others to interpret with a hope it fits somehow. Because there is often lack of internal clarity, there is also a poor connection to the external environment where opportunities are never recognized for their value. Equally where the customer remains dissatisfied with the present offering as one not meeting their explicit needs and where they often have to continue to compromise waiting.

While we continue to lack this explicit innovation structure or only recognize parts of it, it does have both short and long-term implications to the business. Businesses gets locked into set pathways; they tread the simple incremental path, for fear of stepping off it, is stepping into the unknown, just a foreign, really alien place where fear and failure lurk behind every tree. Each sound carries warning and cries out danger. We believe clearing a new pathway leads to better innovation

Closing the disconnect on innovation

There is such a disconnect going on. The organization ‘demands’ innovation, the leadership presents innovation at every opportunity, often more as a fig leaf for the embarrassment that eventually arrives, as innovation into the market place. We need to set up a real connection between rhetoric and having in place real innovation infrastructures that work and are fully supported from the top. The leader is the source or energy point to make that happen, no one else. It cannot be simply delegated away. Whoever wants a leader that simply delegates growth, new wealth creation and your future to others?

There are certain correlations between leaders who are immersed in innovation and their organizations superior performance. This has been spoken off as one of the principle reasons why certain organizations have an innovation premium in the minds of customers, shareholders, investors and the community at large.

This week we offer a framework, the Executive Innovation Work Mat, that offers a real way to bring innovation as a topic to the highest level of the organization through its organizing mechanism of the seven essential domains for their engagement.

These efforts rely on mutual recognition that this leadership gap does exist and that it needs narrowing. It is for the leaders to construct the alignment points of the innovation efforts that deliver on the strategy and vision the leadership seeks.

We ask, Jeffrey Phillips and I, that you share our thinking and deliver this White Paper into the boardrooms of your organizations. Be those champions and advocates to place innovation in the spotlight, demanding it has to be changed. Within this spotlight the aim is one that seeks to improve the organizations ability to achieve more than it offers today from its innovation activity, because its leadership is engaged and inextricably connected. If we can accomplish that growing recognition, we can then go deeper into a specific set of dialogues that ‘fits’ with your organizations innovation aspirations. We stand ready for that set of challenges.

We start by talking about the issues and this is what this week has been all about. Talking and explaining this need for leadership engagement within this framework, first to the innovation community and equally across Jeffreys and my own networks, so as to gain a recognition and we trust a certain traction from this that we believe is valuable to achieve .

Will you become engaged in this?

Seeking engagement for innovation change

I’m right in the middle of a launch of the Executive Innovation Work Mat approach, a series of seven blogs outlining a framework and structured approach to this.  During the seven days these will document seven important “domains” that determine innovation success or failure.

Each domain creates innovation potential, but sustained, successful innovation requires a unified “framework” in which all of these domains are appropriately engaged and aligned.  The development of this framework, which we call the Executive Innovation Work Mat, is the responsibility of the CEO or senior executive.  They can deliver alignment by engaging and providing this leadership required in innovation.

Introduction to the Series of the Executive Innovation Work Mat with image credit: opening curtain image from bigstock

If you have the opportunity, do go over to the www.innovationexcellence.com site to see the first two blogs, the foundation document and whose role it is to design this and why.

The first document is called The Seven Essential Domains for Innovation Leadership – the Work Mat Approach and the second The Critical Role that Senior Leaders must fill for Innovation Success

As this is a collaborative effort between Jeffrey Phillips and me, we see this opening series as the engagement to the innovation community. We are looking for feedback and thoughts to take this forward as we clearly believe it is an important problem within innovation to break down

Seeking reactions, searching for the barriers and issues is critical.

On my previous blog on this site Leaders need to engage and drive innovation I receive a really encouraging set of comments around many of the issues and barriers we seem to have when we want to engage our leaders in business on innovation. Go and take a look, add more comments if you would like- I’m open to listening on this as I believe it vital to ‘crack’. I have ‘pulled out’ three that strike at some of our issues in getting the concept understood and adopted. Three comments I want to highlight here

Comment 1-  the risk-adverse top executive

One comment was from Joachim von Heimburg who is certainly a very experienced practitioner of innovation. He commented: “Top executives are risk-averse. But innovation is scary. Most senior business leaders made it to the top of big companies because they were successful as (current) problem solvers, not as innovators. They are not that interested in considering a new business model or going after an amazing yet high-risk breakthrough when that may undermine their current profitable business. And who wants to risk having a major innovation effort fail on their watch?”

My reply was partly: You strike at the heart of the problem. Getting the senior business leader looking more towards innovation, it will happen as you say if one targets the wider community (investor and Shareholder) even the end customer voting with their feet. Thankfully survival is changing as tenure reduces and something will eventually ‘give’ to alter their risk appetite. In some ways we do not want to change their behaviour, more change their engagement and alignment to innovation that goes on.

The link between strategy and innovation, if we can reduce this gap then it begins to ‘appeal’ to the leader as one less problem for greater utilization and tighter performance -which does play into their short-term performance mindset. If they can set the frameworks more, still stand back and make the necessary judgement calls then we have shifted the ground. If they engage even more and become more comfortable with increasing risk by increasing their understanding, again there is a real gain.

Comment 2- the fear of disruption

For my second comment was offered by Drew Marshall who runs his own practice Primed Associates, LLC and one of the founders of the weekly innovation chat under the hashtag  of innochat. He offered the view  “Too many leaders are distracted by the simple solution and frustrated by the fact that their complex problems are not resolved. For many the notion of inviting disruption into the systems and processes that they have often spent careers building and protecting is anathema, and the risk acceptance and resilience capacity necessary to embrace it is too often missing in action. There is much work to be done”

My reply to Drew was: Drew, it is such a persistent problem, as we say, it has become a boil on the back of our neck, and it needs to be ‘lanced’. Of course there is so much to distract leaders, they are pulled in so many different directions but you don’t delegate growth, new wealth creation, your future to others. Presently many of our leaders simple do that! There is much work to be done, I call this the new work of this decade and this only comes through innovation. Leaders need to get it!

Comment 3- the lack of industry participation in discussions about innovation

The third comment was from Jack Hipple, who is without doubt very well-respected in TRIZ and its practice and who has written continuously for years on the subject of innovation. His comment that I picked up upon was: “all the participants in these discussions are by consultants and no one from industry ever participates. Why?”

In many ways this is the most disturbing, because Jack is right that across so many suggestions on innovation (good and bad alike) there does seem to be this absence of the industry practitioner themselves engaging and participating with their insights, knowledge or counter observation.

I replied to Jack: “It is frustrating that the actual community that is working innovation stays silent on so many forums or discussions on innovation. Notable exceptions are where leaders of innovation initiatives have their own blogs or deliver ‘thinking’ pieces into some of the established innovation knowledge sites. I know many read the articles but feel often ‘constrained’ by who they work for and not feeling they can participate, even if the views expressed are theirs, or feel sometimes a little daunted entering into areas they feel they lack that broader experience, both constraints are a great pity.

Perhaps the number of consultants or ‘experts’ drown out the voices from industries and often provide conflicting advice that can leave many simply confused, it is better to just get on with what you are doing. Equally they feel they don’t have the time or intellectual curiosity and simply just get (stay) within the bounds of what they can influence to apply their energies. Not an easy one to resolve”.

Making it happen depends on you wanting it too

The engagement that is required to make innovation happen is demanding.  Deloittes Centre for the Edge has looked previously at the connections between passion and engagement and found that only 20% of the sample regarded themselves as “passionate” about their work. That begins to point to a lack of real engagement and just passive interest that seems to occur within many knowledge communities. Secondly there were marked differences in employees in large firms and those self-employed with higher scores of disengaged,and passive for firm employees.

Unless the environments change in large organizations where the feeling of having a “safe place”, not always needing “permission” and one where people can “think out loud” and have “ownership”, not precise goals underwritten by tight measures but by suggesting “broader parameters” we might see a re-engagement, a reactivation and “sense of pride” but it lies in the hands of the leaders to construct this. Where those within the innovation community they need to push back up the organization a different view, one that offers a different “construct” to manage innovation.

We are trying to offer that thinking through this present series and in the final framework we are suggesting. Why Jeffrey and I feel you need an integrated innovation framework approach as we are outlining this week, is critical to innovations long term sustaining future, let alone the immediate term of boosting quarterly results so often the judge of organization effectiveness and management.

The Seven Domains for Innovation Alignment within the Integrated Executive Innovation Work Mat

The need of collaborators and champions

Turning prisoners from being captive within organizations into “partners, collaborators and champions” that grow in their identity with what innovation provides to the cause and mission of the organization, is powerful. It unleashes much.

Why do I call them prisoners?

Well today I was reading a short paper from Richard Merrick, the CEO of Inspiration Engineering on Engagement and Innovation they suggest from studies on engagement the average workforce is divided on something of an 80/20 basis between the ―Instigators (the passionate and enthusiastic), ―Willing passengers (who turn up and do as asked) and ―prisoners (who would rather be somewhere else, but are afraid of leaving). It could be described in a similar way to Rogers adoption curve: (% for illustration, based on Centre for the Edge)

The challenge it is suggested, in rather same way as Malcolm Gladwell discusses in ―Tipping Point, is to enable the ―instigators, enthuse the ―Adopters and convert a good number of the ―Passengers to ―Adopters. Prisoners may be more problematic and longer term issues.

So will we get the adopters to “push” the Executive Innovation Work Mat and gain conversions, not just in colleagues who would like to get more engaged but find the way to place this series of blogs under the noses of the leaders, that all crave for improving innovation performance but perhaps did not recognize the essential role they should play?

We hope we can say “welcome on board” and “sit back, buckle up and enjoy the ride” to many within the innovation community and we can achieve a better all-round service performance because the leaders of our organizations finally do get to understand their role to play in the innovation sphere, as outlined in the Executive Innovation Work Mat series.

A role that can help unlock all those prisoners that are currently residing within organizations, who can offer so much more, if they are given the encouragement and the organizing framework to guide them back into being engaged employees seeing innovation for what it is, a place for identification and pride.

We see the CEO has the ability to:

  • link innovation to strategy, and
  • create focus, engagement and passion for innovation, and
  • direct funds and resources to good innovation programs, and
  • speed good ideas to market as new business models, products and services, and
  • ensure defined innovation processes and metrics exist so innovation is sustainable.

Leaders need to engage and drive innovation

It continues to amaze me; actually it is depressing that although our business leaders constantly confirm that innovation is in their top three priorities yet they stay stubbornly disengaged in facilitating this across their organizations, especially the larger ones. Of course I am not suggesting this is all our business leaders but I would argue innovation and its ‘make up’ remains a mystery to nearly all our leaders. They are more than willing to allocate responsibility down the organization, failing to recognize their pivotal role in managing or orchestrating innovation engagement themselves, or even ensuring the mechanisms are fully in place. Why is this?

Time and time again you read one report after another, about the leadership gap in innovation or issues relating to innovation disconnecting from the top of the organization. You can read reports from Booz, Allen Hamilton, Boston Consulting, the Conference Board, Harvard Business Review, IBM, A T Kearney, A D Little and many others all reporting issues and gaps in connecting innovation at the top of our organizations. Can they all be wrong, if not then why aren’t our CEO’s listening? Why are we not resolving this and only just keep reporting it?

In March of this year Capgemini Consulting and IESE issued their report called the “Innovation leadership study” and this went deeper than most into the problems.

The study revealed that “the absence of a well-articulated innovation strategy is by far the most important constraint for companies to reach their innovation targets.”

In the report they mentioned not just the lack of many formal mechanisms were missing but the total environment for innovation was missing this explicit innovation strategy. That is a serious failure at the top of organizations in my opinion. How can leaders expect innovation if they remain unclear of their role and function in facilitating and encouraging it? Can this change?

A collaborative effort

Jeffrey Phillips of Ovo Innovation and myself have collaborated on a number of different innovation frameworks over the last twenty-four months or so. These have been  to offer concepts or frameworks that we felt were missing or needed explaining. We have set about the offering up of possible solutions to reduce much of this ‘mystery’  that seems to still surround innovation.

As we shared and exchanged views, we have mutually recognized our personal frustrations on this continued leadership gap towards innovation. This has been triggered even more by this Capgemini report and so we decided on a way forward as our ‘tipping point’ to set about studying this and seeing if we could find a solution to this innovation leadership issue.  Or at the very least, advance this recognition, beyond debates from this constant recognition of a problem, into offering an emerging framing on the ways to begin to resolve this.

A soft launch will happen offering our integrated innovation ‘framing’ as a solution.

We think we have now arrived at a further tipping point and will ‘soft’ launch the integrated innovation framework this coming weekend, starting Sunday 9th September 2012. We will build within a series of seven articles, one per day over a week, which we believe make up the component parts. We will attempt to explain what we see as an integrated executive innovation framework that will be delivered through a work mat methodology approach. These articles will be published initially through www.innovationexcellence.com to gain an audience of innovators and then will be taken out further by our two respective organizations in further field work, validation and consultation.

I recently wrote a series of articles in August and one is perhaps worth reading again, this is “From a buzzword to the imperative.” In this I discuss this need for a framework and then go on and explore different components within a series of subsequent articles, that I felt needed leadership attention.

The present argument needs moving on and resolving

There is no argument surely that we need to break into this leadership gap around innovation? We need to offer suggestions towards their role, to address this lack of engagement or awareness? We need to provide an organizing framework that achieves alignment into the organizations goals and provides the structure across innovation that can ‘cascade’ down and across an organization. The end aim is that so all those involved within the organization, or closely associated with it, can relate too and ‘gather’ around an overarching framework, articulated and constructed from the top, that guides innovation.

We want to narrow this leadership gap and organization understanding so as to achieve a specific connection between leaders and their role in how they can facilitate and bridge this clear divide and present seen ‘impediment’ for innovation. The leaders of organizations are no different from all the employees working within the company, they are all looking to secure a sustaining future and participate in a vibrant one that primarily comes from the innovation engine needed for all businesses and economic growth. The contribution of the leaders within organizations falls mainly on defining their role, laying out its parts in a coherent way for all to relate too. We believe this framework approach can be one of the primary organizing ways for that engagement and identification so much needed.

Tune in please and we certainly hope you can relate to what we are offering

We believe this integrated framework will require some real leadership engagement but we believe the outcome can offer four significant benefits:

  1. The framework can create cohesion and consistency of innovation purpose that will reduce many existing barriers and uncertainties around innovation
  2. As the leadership does become engaged this will demonstrate a significant commitment and promise that will certainly increases the visibility of innovation, lowers risks, encourages more involvement and generation of better ideas.
  3. The framework itself will generate work flows that connect, become more dynamic to explore and promote the innovation skills, capabilities and competencies needed. They become more cohesive, coordinated and focused
  4. As the framework connects, in its understanding and as its impact grows, we certainly believe confidence builds. Both formal and informal areas are addressed in parallel, growing all-round identification and alignment.

A challenging road to travel

To get to this tantalizing promise needs a lot of recognition, engagement, investment and commitment. You don’t suddenly arrive at enacting such a change without some ‘hard yards’ to cover and tough issues to resolve.

We are only at the starting point by offering this integrated innovation framework. We have confidence it will help, what we need is the right audience to listen and simply say “I get it.” For the leaders, to hopefully see its organizing value and fit and their critical role to play in supporting innovation through this organizing and integrated framework so the organization initiates and delivers what is expected, better than today.

Do we see bumps on the way, of course, do we feel they can be navigated, again of course; otherwise you don’t start the journey. We are equipping ourselves for some demanding challenges.

We continue to invest in this framework as we see it does offer real potential

We feel this period of research, investment and consistently exchanging between us both has certainly increased in intensity over the last six months. We have built a structure; a methodology and a guiding set of approaches that help facilitate and provide the CEO and his leadership team with a way to radically reduce that innovation leadership gap.

We can offer a clear ‘way forward’ for engagement and alignment that can help, perhaps radically, the organization to establish innovation firmly into the minds of the boardroom and their vital role to play within this real need for all to engage in.

We seek to bridge the innovation leadership gap

All I can do at this stage is ask you to please explore this series of articles, don’t rush to judge and dismiss, take the more explore and reflect, approach. We simply want you to have a similar identification and equally ‘I get it, maybe we need it’ at this stage. We hopefully begin to bridge the innovation leadership gap and the role they need to play and we feel we offer a way to address the lack of innovation leadership that is clearly ‘out there missing’ in nearly all organizations.

In organizations this needs internal discussions to recognize this ‘gap’ and then gain the leaderships attention to how this can be addressed. The proposed integrated innovation framework might be the place to start and our arguments might be the catalyst.

We launch our “emerging thoughts” in this series of articles on the different innovation domains needed to be explored at the leadership level, this coming weekend 9th September 2012, and each day, during that week. We outline these through the frameworks different domains themselves. Do take a look and I hope you agree, we offer a way forward and are wanting to engage and deploy this framework to the leadership of innovation.

Innovation catalytic converters

A catalyst reactor in our hands

It is sometimes very pleasing that “what goes around, comes around”. Recently I was reading a piece by Scott Anthony, talking about the new era of innovation under his article appearing in the HBR “The New Corporate Garage” http://tinyurl.com/9fy6ua2  and I had one of those ‘coming around moments’ and went on a hunt through my old files.

Then Deanna Lawrence prompted this even further in a twitter note to me and a few others, mentioning a http://www.you tube.com discussion on catalysts and infusions which just added more of the ‘coming around’ that I’m sensing or reading about. Take a look here: http://tinyurl.com/8paprqw. In this video Dr Hans-Peter Neumann of BASF (the Chemical Company) and Marcel Vigneron, a celebrity chef, talk through and describe the unique similarities of innovative catalysis and molecular gastronomy they share in how they approach innovation. I love it when you can share a common language and set of beliefs and gain validation in what you do.

So why does this get my interest?

Well firstly I think there is some movement to a new phase of innovation, maybe to Scott’s forth-era innovation, as he is suggesting in his words: “For catalysts to flourish, companies need to embrace open innovation, approach innovation systematically, simplify and decentralize decision-making mechanisms, and be learning-focused and failure-tolerant. Beyond that, they need to make the pursuit of transformative innovation a purpose-driven activity

I think we are working at both the edges of discovery as we are equally at our core, in innovation and we do need to pursue both in parallel. We need to identify, explore and become more immersed in bigger picture innovation as well as extract from what we have already available, to extend in new, better ways. To catalyse needs considerable experimentation ,trial and error and a real passion and energy to find that ‘reaction’ point. Often it is the ‘raw’ energy and commitment of individuals that provide that catalytic effect.

We do need to accelerate reactions

We need to accelerate reactions in people, in processes, in discoveries, in research, in our thinking. We must advance upon our current state as we do seem to be stuck at this moment in an awful lot of ‘intractable’ problems in the world and not delivering the new innovating horsepower that will take us out of some tough economic times. So innovation reactions need catalysts. Seems fair enough.

Back in 2003 I worked on a concept around catalysts, more for the sister company that was more the dominating force in my life back then, when I was based in Singapore www.hocaconsulting.com. It got ‘aired’ but received little traction, perhaps it was not its time or it lacked its solution purpose .Perhaps it needs to get more tied into Scott’s suggested purpose-driven activity. It would make sense and gives a concept a clearer context. Let me offer it here, as it was presented in 2003.

Speeding up your reaction time in a catalytic ways

I started with my definition at that time “Catalysts act as innovation reactors that are connecting across economic webs, combining “raw” capability with innovation thought, to achieve unique value creation quickly, so as to compete in different ways in increasingly disruptive markets

Looking afresh at this definition it seems to have weathered the age of time. Below is my visual for that concept which seems a little busy and maybe a ‘catch all’ approach but it does provide the different aspects what need to be brought together so we can get a greater catalytic effect.

My view of a catalytic effect, like a reactor

So if we can encourage reactions, cause new activities,  prompt more transformation and unleash a whole new wave of energy, then I’m going to be happy to get involved in the next generation of innovation activity. I need to crank up my reactor concept first, though it does need some dusting down and refitting, with its mark IV innovation catalytic converter.

As Scott Anthony poses “are you ready” for the next generation of innovation?