Achieving innovation alignment always needs clear framing.
I would argue most problems or disappointment with our innovation efforts can be attributed to a lack of alignment to the organizations strategy and/or its poor governance with our end results. Here I am suggesting a way to overcome this constant frustration.
Poor strategic alignment can be overcome by working through a comprehensive approach to addressing all areas that impact innovation. One such framework I believe can help, as explained here, through the work mat approach.
I believe this work mat approach does moderate and organize innovation for greater alignment. It allows for the senior management to become engaged and shape the direction as it takes a more holistic approach. The work mat contains governance as specifically part of its framing as this can do far more in driving the conditions to innovate.
The intent with developing this work mat approach has been to clearly set out that much-needed ‘greater’ strategic connection through engagement at a senior level, they drive the outcomes, they provide understanding beyond the vision to make the neccesary connections, they fuel the engine and ignite the energy that innovation needs.
Tackling the culture and climate that is needed to create a thriving innovation environment is complex.
In this post I can only touch on certain points to trigger that deeper examination and offer the stimulus and considerations it needs.
Within the Executive Innovation Work Mat we have seven domains or components that need bringing together to form a new integrated knot.
The aim of the work mat is to draw the senior executive into the innovation process and to support them as they think through what is required to build a more sustaining and integrated innovation understanding within the organization. Their role is a strategic one that sets the conditions and overview on innovation.
I recently participated in a survey for APQC that was looking to identify the hot topics within product development and innovation. One or two hot spots surprised me, others less so.
In the round-up of results almost two-thirds of survey respondents have placed refining the identification of customer needs and remaining competitive in terms of profit at the top of their product development agendas. I like the increasing emphasis on identifying customer needs
Among the potential research areas respondents were asked about, they felt that developing talent to drive innovation was the most important. The second one was around rapid product development: How to Move Products to Market Faster.
The one that really caught my eye was organizations have allocated the most funds to improvement in developing talent to drive innovation. This is heartening but also a worry.
Alignment of Innovation to Organization’s Strategic Goals
Working in most organizations you spend a disproportional amount of time on looking to achieve alignment. This can range from aligning your meeting schedules to the bigger strategic issues by gaining agreement on the way forward.
I would bet you that working on alignment is certainly one of the main tasks that is sucking up a large part of your working day. Interesting enough the higher up in the organization you go, the more you have to seek alignment. Gaining alignment is actually very hard.
In corporate life we are constantly attempting to also link organizational goals with our own personal goals. To make this alignment, it requires the difficult aspect of achieving common understanding of all the parties for the specific purpose you are requiring, so as to achieve a consistency between ‘agreed’ objectives and the implementation of these across those involved.
In pursuit of alignment
Intractable’s needing resolution for innovation to flourish in organizations
So what does block innovation? Arguably there are plenty of things up and down organizations: a lack of resources, an overcrowded portfolio of ideas, a lack of dedicated people, treating innovation as one off, keeping it isolated and apart from mainstream activities. The list could go on and on, no question.
Let’s take a different perspective.
If you could ask those that lead innovation, your senior organizational leadership, a series of question that might help unlock innovation blockages would that be valuable? This would need a good external facilitator as my recommendation who has deep innovation knowledge and expertise, able to manage the ‘dynamics’ within the room.
What would happen if you could get the leadership in a room together to discuss innovation which would allow innovation dialogues to emerge? Perhaps allowing those conversations that begin to build a common understanding, a common language for innovation? Different views can surface for the challenges but they all need addressing. Gaining a working consensus to share across the organization so these blockages can be openly discussed and in time resolved.
Seven parts to the Innovation Litmus Test for the Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology
Let’s cut straight to the chase. To achieve the alignment of innovation to the organizations strategic goals and ambitions is so highly critical, yet we are, in so many cases, failing to meet this essential objective. We end up in that position that innovation disappoints.
We should bring together all that makes up those considerable efforts that goes into all our innovation activity. We need to work at strongly aligning all the innovation activities into the organizations goals and agenda. So how? Stay with me, I believe its valuable to your finding better innovation solutions.
To this end the Innovation Executive Work Mat was designed. I would recommend you consider this within your innovation thinking. It provides a structured framework for an organization to gather around but it is leadership driven and often this is simply missing within innovation activities.
We are in need of fresh growth through innovation
Julian Birkinshaw, the London Business School Professor for Strategy and Entrepreneurship wrote in his book “Reinvention Management” about the failure of management. He is a strong advocate of reinventing and broadening out the awareness and need for a more disciplined and up to date practice of management
Working through a kind of contingency theory of management
Julian points out different situations demand different kinds of management. To be effective, a manager needs to adapt to the demands of the situation. Managerial behaviour is mapped on four dimensions: bureaucracy-to-emergence, hierarchy-to-collective wisdom, alignment-to-obliquity, and extrinsic-to-intrinsic motivation.
The principles of emergence, collective wisdom, obliquity and intrinsic are newer ways of thinking about management. I must say I like these as I do his framework as a really good way to think about the approach we need to explore that fits with the strategy and the way we want to develop a business and its environment.
Innovation needs to exploit all the ‘opposing’ principles across the four dimensions