I wonder who is withering on the innovation vine?

Dying on the grape vine 1This week I tuned into the Pipeline virtual conference for product development practitioners and gained an encouraging feeling that innovation is progressing along nicely. Packed all within a day there was plenty of material ‘fodder’ to feed off of and learn from.

A really good conference but what quickly followed was a strong dose of that withering on the innovation vine.

I read two consulting surveys around innovation

I’ve been suddenly pulled out of my virtual bubble back into the harsh realities of where innovation really is. Just simply how innovation is struggling and that lies far more at the top of our organizations than below, those below who are simply trying to ‘get on with the job’ but with at least one hand (or even two) tied behind their backs.

I have been reading two sets of observations, one from Fahrenheit 212, the other from Innosight and my mood began to change. I’m suddenly back in reality where we have this huge gap between those ‘working’ innovation and those at the top simply not engaging with innovation or still failing to understand it or even failing to connect the dots.

That growing gap at the top in what they need to do to make the connections both inside and outside the organization to manage the changing landscape. One that still suggests we have this consistent failure to align the strategic and innovation activities and provide a more balanced orientation in the mapping to different horizon thinking that is needed. It seems perspectives are totally out of whack.

The Fahrenheit 212 Post on their recent observations left me perplexed.

PerplexedFirstly Fahrenheit 212 asked 100 chief innovation officers a set of questions around their getting their innovation projects to market. They claim that forty-five percent of respondents said fewer than 10 percent of their projects make it to market.

Fahrenheit claim that was an “eye-opener for understanding the challenges that innovation practitioners have,” where Fahrenheit was suggesting 60 to 70 percent of incremental innovations should be the success rate.

As this view came through the Washington Post under “Corporate attempts at innovation are overwhelmingly dying on the vine” I was not able to view the actual results directly or more of the thinking that went into this and can’t find any further reference on this on their website besides a Facebook entry. I’d like too.

Why? – well surely there are significant differences between projects being managed or piloted at the CINO level than passing through the organization as supportive and incremental? Yet until I can understand the context of these ‘statements’ it is hard to judge this piece of information and its real importance, presently it lies as a “oh yeah”. As a starting point what is judged as an innovation project from the CINO’s perspective versus the everyday innovation occurring. Are these numbers so “eye opening”?

The whole position and value of the CINO is certainly up for grabs and in a ‘forming’ stage. One really good point made as a quote by Jon Crawford-Phillips, a partner at Fahrenheit 212 was this: “The primary value of the chief innovation officer is the connectivity between the company’s growth strategy and the decisions and focus of the senior leadership team and the translation of that into an innovation agenda”.

Crawford-Phillips was recommending corporations don’t align innovation with their financial interests and suggesting establishing this. He comments: “There’s a strategic way in which they allocate resources to core innovation, and there’s clear metrics around the performance of core innovation and a clear understanding of the financial impact of that innovation on the company’s balance sheet.”

I struggle with what I should be getting out of this ‘report’ as Fahrenheit 212’s suggestions because if they are determining clear metrics in core innovation performance and a clear understanding of the financial impact on the balance sheet then it is no surprise innovation practitioners have difficulties in getting initiatives and projects through organizations. Can projects that are in themselves innovative be measured on the same metrics as established known ones?

The comments reported from the survey leave more questions than answers and has this set of observations really helped ‘advance’ innovation? Maybe more will emerge. It seems to fit perhaps with their Money and Magic message.

On the other hand Innosight and their Strategic Readiness Survey really is the actual eye opener.

Eye opener 1Innosight offer an executive briefing on their “Strategic Readiness and Disruptive Change” and this survey throws up some serious worries for me.

The report prompts deeper thinking on how organizations are really having difficulties in transforming themselves with all the disruptive change going on around us all. A real eye opener.

Innosight’s summary provides a good snapshot of the issues:

“Disruptive change is accelerating, driven by the rapid emergence of new technologies, the blurring of lines between industries, and competition from both traditional and non-traditional players. As a result, corporate lifespans are shrinking”.

“How does the shifting landscape affect enterprise strategy and corporate innovation efforts? To see how organizations assess their ability to anticipate and respond to disruptive change, we (Innosight) recently surveyed more than 800 executives across 20 industries. The results shed new light onto the challenges and opportunities that leaders face in crafting strategies to steer their companies in both the near and long term”.

Top-level findings included:

  • Fully 85% of respondents say their organizations need to transform in response to disruptive change – yet only 49% say that feel very confident or confident that their organizations are prepared for transformation in 3 to 5 years. That number drops to 42% in a time frame of 5 to 10 years.
  • Large companies face an even greater “strategy confidence gap.” 83% of respondents from companies with over $1 billion in revenue agreed with the need to transform, and only 36% say they are confident to do so in a 5 to 10 year time frame.

The confidence gap suggests that organizations lack both the long-term orientation and the tools to plot long-term strategy. The survey bore this out:

  • Only 12% of organizations have a formal growth strategy with at least a 5+ year time horizon.
  • The remaining 88% either have no formal growth strategy or it is shorter term.

This short-term bias has implications for the ability of companies to develop disruptive or transformational innovations—the kind that open new markets and attract new customers—and which typically require a longer-term perspective.”

What a difference a well-structured survey and report can make.

I would recommend taking the time out to read this report. It signals much of what is so wrong at present in the sacrifice of the future, even the eventual existence of the organization in years to come.

This report seems to reflect a broader trend that this frightening “strategic confidence gap” is a huge one, where senior executives are seemingly being increasingly caught up in the short-term demands.

They seem to have scarce time to re-equip themselves, let alone their organization, for the changing landscape and are simply ‘kicking the bottle down the road’ and taking the pay packet that goes with short-term performance. Surely this has to change? Is it so bad?

This report is indicating it is really bad.

I liked the heading to each part of the executive briefing from Innosight as they do summarize the challenges that need to be faced and resolved.

  • The Confidence Gap: The Desire – But Not the Ability – to Transform
  • A struggle to Keep Pace : A Sense of Falling Behind the Market
  • Strategy Shortfall: Growth Plans Focus on Near-Term
  • Process Shortcomings Undermine Long-term Planning
  • Technology and Changing Consumer Preferences Expected to Be Most Disruptive
  • No Lack of Ideas, But Difficulty Getting Through Innovation’s “First Mile”

The last heading is a clear nod to the topic being explored in a new book. Recently Scott Anthony , Innosight’s managing partner, wrote a book “The First Mile: A Launch Manual for Getting Great Ideas into the Market”. That first mile—where an innovation moves from an idea on paper to the market—is often plagued by failure, in fact, less than one percent of ideas launched by big companies end up having real impact. The ideas aren’t the problem. It’s the process.

Gaining value from consultants insights if it enters the public domain

Thought leadership viewWe should get solid value out of research or insights from any consulting research if it is published. So two of our leading innovation consulting companies, Innosight and Fahrenheit 212 approach knowledge sharing in different ways.

Innosight provide a good depth in their report, although it is perhaps light on final takeaways and conclusions, whereas Fahrenheit 212 reported comments are just, well, simply ‘light’ and lacking the depth I would expect from them. At least their survey should link into their own report. This I simply can’t find.

I finally reflected on what makes good thought-leadership from consulting practices
Take a look at this from http://www.sourceforconsulting.com/whitespace/

What makes good thought leadership?

“The clients of consulting firms are inundated with information and analysis from every direction. Unquestionably, the vast majority are binned or deleted instantly”. So what are the factors likely to attract attention,  Sourceforconsulting.com suggest the following:

Differentiation – will the potential reader pick up and begin to read this piece of thought-leadership? (If it is actually available even!)
Appeal – does the writing style and presentation encourage the reader to keep on reading past the introduction and beyond? Where do they go from this?
Resilience – will the reader feel confident in what they are being told? Whether a client buys into the idea a consulting firm is trying to put across depends on the evidence.
Prompting action – ( I kept all the guidance within this section in, as it is relevant to the two reports I have focused upon) Will the reader do something because they have read this report? Good thought leadership takes the reader beyond the ‘that’s interesting’ stage – it gives them the tools and inspiration to identify issues in their own organization or to begin to address a pressing concern. We ask whether the next steps for the reader are clear. We also check that the material isn’t a poorly disguised sales pitch which would undermine its credibility and chances of prompting action.

A tale of two both working innovation consulting.

Two innovation consulting firms offering up their insights and I feel the one from Innosight is simply much further down the thought- leadership path, in its linkage of its practice and report around disruptive change. It ‘calls for’ and ‘prompts’ action.

Perhaps Fahrenheit 212’s report should have been rooted far more in what it does, that is identifying, developing, designing and implementing profitable new products and services and then framing this within their survey remarks, as this is the space they play in and by all accounts play well. It would have made better sense to me.

I think we all need to think about why innovation might be withering on the vine. We all need to ensure the contributions we make, into conferences, summarizing reports, writing blog posts or being engaged in innovation activities, as consultants or practitioners that we do not lose sight that innovation is still struggling to make headway in the ways it should, with the appropriate messages getting delivered effectively and sometimes we all often miss that ‘line of sight’ on that.

Any thoughts on the observations from the reports or what they contribute into our thinking around innovation?

Organizations are in a constant dilemma concerning innovation

Organization's innovation dilemma.The issue of “where does innovation fit?” is one of the most difficult ones to address in many organizations. It seems to fit uncomfortably for many.

At the top of our organizations they ‘require’ innovation but will often not want the potential disruption this might entail.

Yet the organization today is being challenged like never before, it has gone from managing the predictable business to responding to the unpredictable, more opportunistic and alert to change, a place innovation can fit within the need to respond to this different environment.

This is the final post in the series that has focused on the innovation work mat components

Within this final post I look at why innovation needs to align into the organization. Innovation seems to be in conflict and tension within so much within our organizations. Innovation is challenging the established order; today’s world is also demanding a new organizational design. The Executive Innovation Work Mat offers a framework to gain a higher level of strategic focus around innovation. Innovation requires engagement throughout the organization to deliver in today’s tougher, more challenging world.

In this series of articles I have looked at the seven components to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

Adjusting our innovation systems to the changes happening all around us

Constant changeI certainly believe there is an awful amount of change occurring around innovation. Organizations are attempting to integrate innovation far more into their existing practices. I think many of these attempts will fail. Existing practices often are not innovation friendly!

The old organization model built on efficiency and effectiveness, operating in predictable conditions is being destroyed, we are in the world of the disruptor. Innovation needs to be more central to organization design to counter this challenge. Innovation thrives well in networks, it gains from ‘being connected’

Innovation is at the core of a new battle for securing an organizations future, in its relevancy and importance, yet our organizations continue to struggle with where to box this. If innovation stays a side-show the organization faces a slow demise, as it hangs on grimly, determined to continue to work in ways it has become comfortable with.

Those ‘old’ ways that values controlling in prescribed hierarchies and through rigid plans are simply struggling in today’s more connected world. We are in uncomfortable times where past systems and structures are not fit for purpose.

What is valued more today is “guiding coalitions” where iterations and co-creating thrive. Strategy and execution are highly interrelated and it is the power of a connected network, working on common cause within innovation that can generate powerful results. ‘Connected’ and ‘collected’ intelligence gives us fresh capacity and far more promising futures.

Innovation is operating in this growing organization world of the designers’ dilemma.

Old and New SchoolThe middle of our organizations continues to focus upon constantly looking to achieve efficiencies and effectiveness to deliver that more predictable result that the top really prefers. Much of middle management is working with yesterday’s tools and techniques. Innovation is caught up in this middle kingdom and continues to be in conflict. This needs changing.

The innovator themselves, those beginning to roam around the organization, are seeking to disrupt, to challenge, to alter the established pattern as their remit is to bring new innovations into the world. They often face considerable resistance from so many antibodies to this new way of managing.

Organizations have to face this constant ‘tension’ around innovation and where it fits in design, function and structure. Innovation is today not the most comfortable space to work within in our organizations. It often seems to ‘rub’ up against much that seems immovable, innovation generates often unwanted heat and conflict. Yet innovation is essential, it ‘must’ reside, so we need to manage this ‘creative’ tension to achieve real value out of innovation, results that have lasting impact.

Moving through this disruptive and tense world calls for a more radical response.

Tension within the systemOrganizations want to see well-defined processes and coordination happening across the functions undertaking the activities of innovation. It wants innovation to fit within existing organizational design.

This struggle that innovation has with this ‘need to fit’ is a tough challenge. The resolution requires senior management attention to work this thoughtfully through.

It is through this designing of all the essential parts that make up innovation, that will give it the functioning fit for ‘innovation purpose’ but this takes time, engagement and dedicated energy. It needs integrating and co-ordinating throughout the whole organization.

Innovation is certainly no different from other functions specializing, it does need to be well-designed into the organization but it needs carefully managing, piloting through the organization and that attention to its needs has to come from the top, as it can challenge many established practices that need resolution.

Innovation requires a well-designed system, this is where risk can be managed and defined. This requires having in place a well-designed innovation framework that accounts for and builds around all that good innovation needs.

Designing an integrated innovation system that can ‘pilot’ the activities safely is critical. Organizations will not permit undue risk unless they are in desperate situations where radical actions need to come into play, regretfully these are often too little too late.

How do we design innovation into our organizations systems?

Designing innovation into our systems 1Innovation overtime I believe will become more of the core of an organization. To do this it needs to be well-defined, fully resourced and valued. It constantly needs to demonstrate value creation.

Organizations need to set about building distinct set of capabilities that deliver on the essentials to provide the future health of the organization.

Innovation offers ‘much needed’ fresh oxygen that allows an organization to thrive and grow. If it starves the organization of this oxygen not only innovation dies but over time so does the organization and it will die.

Innovation must fit somehow into an organizations thinking, find a way to be worked into the routines and practices to do its job of creating the growth, the advancement in new products, services and business models to compete effectively with others to attract the customer to buy. It needs to balance risk and opportunity; to deliver both efficient and effective results, be highly visible, organized and able to deliver on its future promise.

The design of the organization’s innovation engine room is the place for managing the future growth. It needs examining and managing carefully. As the current organization tensions are being navigated through with new organization designs emerge, Innovation has the potential within its possible design and management that could significantly contribute to this new emerging organization order.

Every organization has some clarity in their design, function and their innovation process yet it is constantly constrained by these tensions within organizations. Today there is a need for a new architecture of design for our business as outlined here, a post relating to designing new business models.

The call is for a well – designed innovation framework.

Within this series around the Executive Innovation Work Mat we covered the different components that make up this work mat. The overarching aim with the work mat is to address one of the missing links we face in innovation today.

We need to achieve a clear alignment and engagement on innovation with the top through to the bottom of our organizations, where a strategic innovation document or framework lays out the integrated thinking for innovation and its contribution to the strategic needs of the organization. This can provide a clarity and purpose to unite behind.

This intent is determined by aligning innovation with the strategic needs and business outlook from the Chief Executive downwards.

In conclusion to the innovation work mat series.

In my view organization engagement comes from adopting a framework that prompts identification. By working with an integrative innovation work mat it outlines innovations critical aspects to be worked through across the organization, to gain this greater alignment to the strategic intent of the business.

Seven Domains for Innovation AlignmentAny design and engagement needs to be highly dynamic, where the learning taking place will flow throughout the organization, top down, bottom up, to make innovation alive and all connected.

This endeavour starts creating a thriving innovation ecosystem. One that is fuelled by energy and organization commitment as all can see the connected parts and their contribution into this.

Can the Executive Innovation Work Mat be the catalyst needed? I think so.

How are you evolving the function and design for innovation?

Organizations are struggling to forge a new path that captures opportunities fast and also exploiting that increasing need of being adaptive and flexible.

They are looking at structures for their innovation activity that are taking a more agile and focused approach, wanting to push for constantly accelerating the process. New practices are emerging.

This is demanding more radical redesigns of the function, processes and structures around innovation. Innovators are being more challenged.

Against this need for new, more radical designs there still lies that underlying concern, often at the top of our organizations, on how to manage innovation risk without significant organization disruption. There is this lingering fear that pushing for more radical innovation can create significant upheaval within the organization. Innovation is being challenged by the view of “we want predictable innovation but radical enough to make sure we grow.

Innovation has to manage within this conflicting message. It is through the well-designed system, processes and function that this can happen but this needs redesigning fairly radically to adjust to today’s world of wanting innovation faster than ever.

This is the sixth post centred on the executive innovation work mat

Within this post I focus upon the function, design, structure and processes needed for successful and sustaining innovation within organizations. In this series of articles I have looked at the seven components to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

The lexicon of today’s existing management of innovation needs rebuilding.

common language is neededYou can read an incredible variety of advice on designing the innovation process. These can include managing through idea management system software to reverting to simple ‘pen and paper’ brainstorming environments and spreadsheets. Simply having in place some structured processes is essential to managing innovation. These can become very complex that go from idea all the way to final execution.

Then we get into the approaches to designing a portfolio to balance your innovation activity, the use of stage-gates to manage this, the whole product life-cycle process, the need for robust pipelines and well-designed platforms all enter the lexicon of managing innovation. It has become part of the lexicon of the innovator but not yet the common language we speak of, that a whole organization can talk and gather around.

Many of these systems we have become comfortable with, by working with them everyday but I believe there is the need of some radical challenging and redesign needing to take place around these. Much within the innovation system needs designing out.

We need to rebuild a new common language surrounding innovation that is broader and more inclusive to all within our organizations. We need to recognize the changes taking place in competition, the need for a sense of urgency for growth and a ‘breaking out’ of the incremental mindset, that is still prevailing in many organizations.

There is a new chase for growth and even more through purposeful design.

Puzzling out innovationThis end choice is not which system or process has the best functions, the sexiest piece of software or the coolest design for its platform, it is about going back and asking the basic of basic questions to the organizations top leadership: “what do you want innovation to achieve?”

You will get the simple answer: “growth” and also “innovation delivery needs to speed up in new products and services”. You will also get “we need to outperform or at least keep us competitive in the market place” and then perhaps “innovation is expected to deliver what the market wants”.

These statements are all helpful but quite simply not enough. To deliver on innovations ‘promise’ you need to go deeper. Besides having a clearer strategic vision, for innovation there needs this greater alignment to the strategic aspirations. For that, innovation needs explicit links and all of these point back to the strategic needs, goals and visions. The innovation work mat aids this exploration.

Achieving a well-designed design, function, structure and process is utterly dependent on the organization to translate the innovation needs and aims, define the work-flow that ‘this’ will follow and how and where this will take place. Then it needs fully supporting and resourcing.

Today we need to think innovation outcomes differently.

Image credit: mi2.org thinking-differently

Image credit: mi2.org. thinking-differently

The higher demand from innovation requires the system to respond far quicker to breaking opportunities.

Innovation needs to have a system that is constantly adaptive and flexible. Most of the rigidity needs to be designed out.

Organizations are requiring structures and processes that are far more agile, nimble, constantly recognizing speed as the essence of today’s competitive worlds.

The challenges that need to be addressed are replacing a linear system with a spiral one, where you constantly loop back to refit your innovation understanding back into the idea-to-launch system from the new knowledge you are gaining. The system needs resetting around shorter bursts of high intense activity that factor in risk-based contingency, are encouraged to keep exploring and adapting.

The criteria to measure innovation passing through development, needs to become more open-ended. This can allow greater discovery periods to go where it is needed and not what the system is forcing it squeeze through a gate. The ‘go/kill’ criteria needs to change.

The system becomes a learning process to reduce uncertainty but keeps advancing on improving insights and physical demonstration that what is being investigated. This is through constant prototyping exploring and meeting customer or market needs with these stakeholders involved. As innovation discovery advances, the outcomes become more tangible, risks reduce.

We need to reduce where Innovation often sits waiting.

the waiting gameWe need to challenge the constant waiting within the development processes for innovation. This can be achieved through better designed systems of management perhaps a more value-stream analysis, accelerating by overlapping stages, encouraging concurrent activities, ensuring dedicated teams are assigned to properly resource projects.

We need to challenge and reduce the built-in slack within the innovation development system, wherever we can.

Today the emphasis is to maximize speed, working really hard on scoping the front end in greater detail really helps, and asking key questions on where the right track is and what this needs in resource, time and development and committing dedicated teams to the tasks.

We need to find better ways to incorporate lean principles, even six sigma into reducing the non-added value out of our innovation system. We need to provide succinct deliverable packages that tell the ‘advancement’ and learning story as the innovation concpet moves along its development path.

Changing the milestone dependencies by using canvas techniques has exciting potential

blank canvasWe need to reduce the dependencies on financial milestones and make these more physical, with constantly evolving and functioning prototypes that demonstrate new value, so stakeholders can understand and provide even greater inputs on ‘seeing’ new value creation.

The principles that are being built up around the Business Model canvas within our business organizations offers much to be re-evaluated within our development life-cycle.

The introduction of new thinking such as the value of starting with a complete blank canvases or allowing the radical reworking of existing canvases of innovation concepts can offer new concepts to begin to be tested and evolve for products, services as well as new business propositions.

The physical activities of testing, validating, clarifying a more integrated design across all the parts does allow for exploring the uncertainties and risks in potentially imaginative ways. Taking a different design-thinking to the development process can challenge old assumptions and processes.

We can constantly determine the critical but evolving assumptions, and then work at delivering updates that can advance the development process through a dashboard approach of informing when critical assumptions or learning change.

We can take a more imaginative approach to the business model canvas to adopt many of its emerging tools and methods but this calls for a completely different mind-set in larger organizations in my opinion to their whole development process.

We are in real need to reinvigorate our innovation systems.

As I have stated in past posts, our legacy systems  are holding us back today. We need to challenge our innovation functions, our existing design of the structure and processes to bring innovation into the core design of the organization, to align its value to present business conditions, where growth is required.

These do need to be more agile, adaptive and accelerated to meet the challenges and uncertainties organizations are facing. Innovation needs to step up to the plate and respond differently than in the past. It must rethink and challenge. Our processes and structures to manage innovation have become too linear, too rigid and far too planned, grinding through the innovation system.

Rethinking our innovation in function and designs calls for a more integrated approach offered in the Executive Innovation Work Mat. Each of the seven components need carefully designing to bring innovation far more into the core design of the organization and fully understood by all.

Successful Innovation needs a common language, context and communicating

The story of Babel

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

People disconnect because they lack what is needed to connect!  Innovation thrives from knowledge and you need to make sure this is allowed to flow. To achieve those essential knowledge connections, you need a shared understanding of innovation, that common sense of purpose as a framework. This will though, always stay a work-in-progress.

You need to begin to build a common language of greater understanding. We need to unite around innovation. Imagine if you work consciously to put knowledge in the hands of people willing to make innovation happen, what the potential might be?

Give people the power of the context for their innovation engagement and that shifts everything to give them a clearer shape and meaning. You are laying out the conditions, criteria and circumstances, giving innovation its foundations.

Connecting the seven parts of the Innovation Work Mat

In this series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the executive innovation work mat to raise questions, to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations around building innovation that sustains and delivers to the strategic need.

This is the fifth post in the series, here I’m exploring the essential need to build a common language, gain growing identity through knowing the context for your innovation activities by communicating these to build a lasting innovation connection and organizational awareness. This flows from the top and cascade down the organization to make the essential connections and alignment.

Giving people space through communicating the common understanding

What would happen if you allow people to openly invent, to brainstorm, to generate initial concepts and prototypes because they understand the strategic innovation framework. One that lays out a vision of meaningful innovation that would be valued as it is more aligned to the strategic direction.

For me, the executive innovation work mat moderates an organizations innovation. It can go much towards reducing the multiple interpretations and personal agenda’s of a variety of initiatives, often described or justified as essential innovation but constantly miss the strategic mark.

The need to cascade innovation

Closing the innovation gap design

If you have in place a clear innovation framework you offer a communicating mechanism to guide innovation activity. The framework can establish a common language, a growing sense of common cause for this to ignite innovations focused activity.

You can cascade this down the organization and actively look for the cascading effect to flow back up in new ideas, a sense of engagement and purpose.

You are looking for everyone involved to understand ‘the bigger picture’, to look towards the communicating platform so they can move their innovation activity back and forth within the structures, processes and systems designed for innovation to align them to the organizational strategic need. Innovation becomes increasingly more connected as it is more integrated in its designs, use of resources and outcomes, to meet the more complex challenges being face in a competitive world.

Engagement can become the behavioral footprint needed for change 

If you give each person a sense of meaning, that explicit and implicit encouragement because this is coming to them in an integrated message- the seven components of the executive innovation work mat – it can shift their mind, it can direct their energies. Engagement can become the catalyst for exciting innovation if there is this sense of trust, continuity and the identification is well-constructed and makes sense.  Organizations do need a commonly shared framework that moderates innovation

There are so many aspects to get right in innovation. These can be ensuring the culture, climate and environment for innovation are working well, it could mean setting up processes, well-designed procedures and structures, it can be providing innovation governance. Each part has a vital part to play in being combined for innovation, so it can function but these are not the core. Our identification with innovation is that core.

Working on innovation needs a deep commitment

Building Innovation

German Late Medieval (c. 1370s) depiction of the construction of the tower.

We need to work hard to communicate that innovation is different than ‘business as usual’. The fact ‘we’ are building something different and we need to build this together.  A counter to existing processes, the commitment need is to overcome practices honed over many years. This needs thinking through in its value and importance.

If the Senior Executive is not totally involved in creating the imperatives needed in innovation then the organization lacks the context. Signalling the kind of innovation and breadth of impact – delivers the vital aspects. Well stated innovation objectives can shift the focus of the organization substantially. It generates collective building capacity.

Incremental to Disruptive requires different engagement points – actions send signals to the organization and having a clear governance provides guidance to risk, principles and the mechanisms to manage these two ‘extremes in innovation and all in-between.

By providing a strategic innovation framework you provide a consistency in purpose, you are aligning innovation to strategic need and by actively engaging across the seven components, sharing their conclusions, these can create the dynamic aspects and sense of growing identity. You need to send a compelling set of messages throughout the organization.

Innovation engagement needs a common language, a clear sense of purpose of innovations context and the mechanisms to communicate and cascade these intents throughout the organization to bring people onto the same page.

Obtaining a ‘given’ flow for innovation

Designing a new strategic innovation framework at the top of organizations helps close the many gaps we see today. There is a flow for improving innovation performance. If we don’t frame the business context how can we compare and contrast?  How do we know what we are missing or what it is meant to be achieving? When we go about seeking out opportunities we need to understand the context these are placed in.

Educating, informing, clarifying constantly simply helps formulate understanding and aids execution. We need to find ways to communicate a common language, a common way to frame the needs expected from innovation.

When we work together we can move mountains

You can eventually achieve a common identity that begins to move ‘mountains’ through collective achievement, one that is both distinctive and unique to your organization. A clear uniqueness that can never be copied, one that allows you to stand out as true distinctive innovators, admired and even envied.

We get closer to achieving a consistent, more vibrant innovation as it becomes more routine and embedded, for it becomes increasingly linked to everyone’s goals, a certain oneness and because of this, it is sustaining. We identify as we understand what our contribution will be, then the leadership has done its primary job, its aligned innovation purpose to the goals, by laying out the parameters to achieve this.

Successful CEO’s achieve organization connection

CEO’s that are seen to be successful achieve connections, what is often called that emotional connection through describing the context, setting the values and vision driven criteria and by often pushing the organization towards ‘impossible goals’. It is amazing how this brings alignment as long as it is consistent, constant in its messages and widely shared and understood and the organization see’s the leadership engaging, visibly seeking and believing in innovation and what it can potentially deliver.

Delivering a coherent and consistent innovation message that resonates

Choice cascade model

The Choice Cascade Integrative Innovation Model

This engagement needs a different honing than most organizations are certainly not capable of delivering, without thinking long and hard about the way they must undertake a more transformational pathway.

I suggest the Choice – Cascade integrated innovation model. One that can connect and deliver a consistent and coherent innovating performance across the organization.

I believe there is an essential gap within the way we set about innovation today. There is needing to be well-articulated and well-communicated innovation strategy that flows both ways in searching for the best solutions that align to the organizational strategic needs.

We need to find more fluid and flexible organizations that respond through searching for innovation consistency. They need to have a ‘flow’ of knowledge, of clarity, of a sense of scale in their learning and dialogues that promotes greater successful innovation outcomes as the sense of on-going mission.

The orchestrator needs to orchestrate.

 We need to align, offer clear vision and purpose and this needs orchestrating from the top of the organization to the bottom. Organizations need an integrated innovation strategic framework that can deliver commonality in understanding, in purpose, in language. Then this needs to be cascaded

To do this you must orchestrate the capabilities, to purposefully build innovation. Orchestration is fundamentally dynamic, full of uncertainties but the need is still to connect the parts. To orchestrate you need to communicate and conduct to make the innovation music

The important “C’s” of innovation

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

For me, the central part of the Executive Innovation Work Mat has been deliberately placed, it conveys the important “C’s”of innovation.

This is made up of the search to build a common language, to put innovation in its appropriate context, to work on communicating and cascading this throughout the organization can spark the distinctive aspects.

The ultimate aim is identification, understanding and then build up the capability, capacity and competencies required to deliver on the integrated approach taken. This is led from the top through this work mat approach and fully cascaded throughout the organization to align and bring innovation to life for all involved.

Measuring and motivating the innovation elephant

Elephant and the blind men 1I often think of the parable of “The Elephant and the Blind Men” when I get into discussions about measuring innovation. What are truths, what are the fallacies?  The parable implies that one’s often subjective experience can be true on your need, but not necessarily the other persons view of their understanding of value.

You get, as the end result, a failure to account for other ‘beliefs’ or capture the real value and miss providing broader motivations to encourage the innovation elephant along.

Establishing the right metrics that motivate and yield the result you are looking for is sometimes a tough challenge. You should always start with the bigger picture, organizational needs and then design the metrics and cascade these throughout the organization

This part of the series exploring the Innovation Work Mat

In a series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the executive innovation work mat to raise questions to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations at different management levels determined to build a lasting innovation competence and structure.

Within this work mat series I’ve already offered some opening thoughts on the role of Governance and Innovation, and also the Environment for innovation matters to innovate followed by the innovating conditions for your Culture and Climate. This is the fourth article aimed at deeper engagement and understanding of the connected parts within innovation management on Metrics and Motivations.

Raising some initial thoughts here.

Questions, nothing but questionsWe really struggle to describe, then measure and then find the right motivations and reward mechanisms and then achieving broad agreement, on something as important as innovation.

If we link metrics into the reward and compensation structure then we release all the energy, passion and anguish and these can serve in many contrary ways.

Linking compensation into all the competing motivations to manage and reward innovation activity is fraught with problems and can have many negative consequences.

Again my elephant comes back into view wandering around in your board room – it can disrupt everything as it charges after the results that it wants, trampling much that is good in its path. Today’s particular trend of focusing on short-term performance can limit innovation significantly and has innovation consequences.

Let’s look at metrics and motivations with a greater connected awareness.

At the end of the story on the elephant and the blind men, a wise man was passing; listened to all the different views of why no one could agree on what they thought the elephant was like. The wise man then replied “All of you are right; you were touching different parts of the elephant so the elephant has all the features as you all said”

Metrics and motivation can really make innovation happen

The value of the measures lies in resolving these eight different questions: 1) are they clear and simple 2) are they relevant to you and the central issues 3)are they timely in what can be achieved, 4)are they credible to the stakeholders involved 5) do they relate to the importance of the goals or trivial, 6) can we act upon them 7) are they consistent to the strategic message and aligned, and finally, 8) are all the investment in these measurements and motivators to capture and analyse, seem sensible and affordable, and lead to real impact in aiding innovation to achieve the goals required.

We do need to focus on the future innovating purpose surely?

Sense of purpose

The innovation links to any measurement system I would argue, should point towards the organizations strategic need and the innovation outcomes required. Within this there are broadly three parts: 1) knowing the organizations future orientated vision and general direction that innovation needs to take, 2) along with the strategic carriers in types, priorities, functions, the indicated mix of innovation activities and then 3) the growth gap that exposes the organizations challenges.so as to bridge these knowledge and resource gaps.

These can build innovation capacity today for future innovating outcomes as they are focused on future work to be done.

For me the output intention of the Integrated Executive Innovation Work Mat should be driving the business case for how innovation contributes and offers the what, where, when, and why within the communications for others to be mobilized into actions and build out build upon this strategic working document.

Then we set about communicating it down the organization

building blocks to success 1I have written before about the cascading effect and communicating value that can support this. Then our metrics begins to cascade down to bring people, the process, and the innovation design of inputs and outputs turn into successful alignment outcomes can come into play. I’ll broaden out my thinking on this area in the next post.

It is within the leadership of organizations to become intimately involved in what is important in innovation for their organization, otherwise we are back to the elephant and the blind men. All  others simply believing they have the answer. Leadership needs to really engage in where it ‘expects’ innovation to yield its results and then ensures it links reward to this set of outcomes.

So what does success look like?

building blocks to successWe should start with the ideals that our innovation activities should be pervasive, to be sustainable and we need to deliver clear business results mapped to known and potential unrecognised customer needs as our primary incentive points.

We need to lay out the building blocks to ‘group’ management and employee identification with what is innovation success. It can begin to motivate all the stakeholders involved. This gives us the opportunity to evaluate appropriate resources, provide the workable benefits related to learning, encourage identification of  problems and encourage the identification of solutions and set about communicating to all involved the understanding of what success can look like.

Building the innovation metric and motivation scorecard there are hundreds of measures you could bring into anything; the skill is you need to find only the right few that focus upon the results you really need achieving. They need to somehow “talk to each other” so they are mutually reinforcing and all involved are pulling in a similar direction.

What gets measured should connect and matter – an example

Cap Gemini Measuring Concept I like one I came across some years back, by Cap Gemini, which firstly suggested you define what innovation was going to be about. Their example was “a robust creative process that turns out very distinct outputs with significant impact in the market place” and then worked on a scale for assessing the degree of innovativeness on a three-dimensional grid of Impact, Distinctiveness and Creative Process.

This then becomes the measuring and motivation barometer tied to the strategic need of an organization of what is expected out of innovation. That sort of complete picture can only come from the senior managements full committed to “wanting distinct outputs of significant impact in the market place”

I think Bain & Co offered also a really valuable performance measuring framework.

This framework offers a really good structure to begin to measure and link the organization. I think it can stimulate initial thinking well.

Bain's meauring innovation performance

(click to enlarge)

There is a case for approaching measurement differently through the intangibles that make up most of our capital.

Intangibles make upMeasuring attempts need to take into account the many intangibles that make up innovation and make them tangible. Understanding the relationships within our intangibles allows groups to benchmark, diagnose, allocate resources, inform others and compensate employee’s efforts through their ongoing knowledge learning. The understanding of our intangibles is for me vital to crack.

Getting this right is increasingly important as the intellectual capitals are being recognized as the real value creation intersections. Establishing the metrics that focus on generating valuable innovation also helps extend ambition and future goals, pushing future innovation strategies as you grow in confidence and understanding of these dynamics.

To end we go back to avoid the story of the Elephant and the blind men.

By taking the integrated approach through the work mat, senior leaders can  offer strategic guidelines into the measures and motivations, by laying out their beliefs and expectations from innovation. They can’t afford to leave this open-ended, just being hopeful, innovation activities need essential alignment.

If we continue to allow the ‘blind men’ to offer their separate opinions and then decide in isolation of the bigger picture, they ‘see’ only their part of the elephant.

I believe if you put in place that critical strategic innovation document, wrestled out of engaging across all the work mat parts, the metrics and motivators can ‘form’ around this strategic intent. This can drive innovation performance.

Seeing the whole picture is the team sitting on (at) the top, directing the innovation elephant along its journey to the destination where they want it to go. Metrics and motivations follow as the path is clearer to measure and travel. We need those wise men to clarify this.

The environment for innovation does really matter

Seven domains in work matThe Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology requires investigation and engagement across the seven domains or components that make up the work mat.  The aim of any work mat discussions undertaken with executives focuses upon bringing out the parts necessary for innovation to happen and that needs an integrated approach and lasting engagement from senior management.

In a series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the work mat to raise questions to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations determined to build a lasting innovation competence and structure.

I’ve already offered some opening thoughts on Governance and Innovation, for me one of the basic building blocks for innovation lies in creating the right conditions for an Environment to innovate.

So what are those environmental conditions required for innovation?

Fostering the Environment for Innovation 1You can’t escape the fact having the right environment for innovation means different things to different people. It has general conditions, a ‘broad church’ approach that needs to be consciously set about to create the atmosphere that encourages and nurtures innovation.

The environment needs to be connected into the vision around innovation, it needs to offer many of the conditions that connect innovation in people’s minds, so it translate into “that fantastic place to work” or “I feel listened too, valued and making a contribution”. Innovation needs the right conditions and for your organization to foster a unique environment to prosper and grow.

The Environment offers the place, time and space to chase after those innovation challenges. It ‘creates’ conditions that inspire you, you want to be stretched both in mind and body to achieve something worthwhile, valued and making a contribution, turning ideas into winning propositions.

The environment needs to resonate so you can feel the buzz.

Increasingly organizations are recognizing the cubicles and boxes provided are killing creativity, reducing communications and creating the space for increased withdrawal. We are killing the meaning at work.

For innovation to work, we need to open up the minds, work hard at creating a physical space that is well designed, offering the opportunity for allowing engagement in. To achieve a certain association with a working environment makes people comfortable and wanting to be more creative, engaged and eager to take part.

We need to offer creative spaces, we need to let in light, and we want to offer back the “inner work life” that gives up the emotions, motivations and perceptions as suggested by Teresa Amabile in her co-authored piece “How leaders kill meaning at work.”  People need a sense of purpose beyond the mundane and it does come from the working conditions with the consistent actions to reinforce this, and this comes from the top of organizations.

Firstly we need to reflect on what innovation needs to overcome

Challenges to overcome

  • Innovation spans multiple time frames; it cuts across business disciplines and challenges the corporate silo. Every corporate boundary set up in physical space, in rules and regulations is already full of ‘yawning’ gaps for ideas and energy to flow across and close those disconnected gaps.
  • There are considerable hurdles for innovation to overcome. The larger your organization the harder it is for innovation to flow. Executives need to consciously work on breaking down boundaries, challenge fixed mind sets,inertia or dogma’s and conflicting needs that lurk in each corner of the building or across the global organization.
  • The ability to consciously encourage a positive supportive environment is vital. The ability to draw people in, to unite them over goals, priorities and their allocated responsibilities and how they are open and receptive are simply a daily task we need to work on, all the time.

Measures for the environment start with the ‘broad brush’ and then refine

  • Executives through a ‘broad brush’ approach can define interactions, behaviours and resolution procedures. These generalizations become important; they give you the line of sight, the ability to measure your environment and evaluate how it is functioning. Your can begin to ‘sense and feel’ this.
  • Organizations increasingly need to develop the conditions that allow people the collective abilities to react quickly and be more agile in their work. The ability to be authentic and get the true needs on the table, understood and shared provides closer association and part of any organizations greater alignment objectives
  • Then you seek out the ability to create top down, bottom up combinations and where you work consciously to reduce the middle that is often blocking this.
  • Finally, the combination of abstract levels for encouragement of fresh thinking and the ability to provide degrees of freedom to organize and act are important to build for the right environment conditions.

Structuring the conditions for the innovation environment

Organizations clearly struggle with complexity. Knowing where the knowledge resides helps unlock this. The growing use of centres of excellence can help here

There is an increasing recognition that knowledge management does need a system that structures it accordingly so people can explore its key phases to help them. I’ve written a fair number of times on Absorptive Capacity and its great value to managing the knowledge flows required for innovation. We need to acquire, assimilate, transform and exploit and our complexity needs to address these basic needs.

The openness to others both internal and external, needs creating the right open conditions to change, to exchange, to encourage that ability to act so as to capture and communicate opportunities that are flowing all around you, inside and outside your organizations.

A code of trust becomes so vital to creating the right conditions for an environment to innovate. I wrote some time about the two sides of an equation for shaping innovation. One was the environment and other was its governance. Governance must be explicit on trust and how it intends to foster and manage this. If you lose trust, you lose the pulse required for innovation. These two together offer the conditions to allow innovation to prosper or be constantly constrained.

The challenge is redesigning the new workspace

New Working Environment

We are working far more at managing by exception and innovation aids this learning. We are working through the combining of vertical and physical worlds, we are extending beyond our own ‘working’ environment increasingly. Environments need to permit individuals to ‘craft their own ways’ through what they learn, how they engage, what they contribute. Our environment needs to embrace a more social one. Knowledge understanding and translation need the right environment to be allowed to flow.

We need to give greater recognition to the organizations intangibles.

We can so much easier relate to the tangibles within our organization. If you can touch it, you can measure it. Well you need to understand the intangibles make up far more of the value of our organizations, some up to 80% and also are essential to understand their source. Intangibles within our environment are made up of the attitudes, outlooks, our ability, space and feeling that allows for greater creative thinking. They make up much within our relationships, networks and connections to allow us to work or block us to feel frustrated.

We seek to encourage open expression, to challenge strange and often those many constraints in our working conditions that need challenging and resolving to either thrive or die. These are invisible walls to the naked eye but can be as permanent as any walls or the things we can touch. Much within our make-up is very intangible and implicit and needs to find space to grow, be valued and be demonstrated in explicit ways. I’ve written before about thenested effects of knowing all our capitals.

Giving responsibility for innovation to everyone

Lastly, I wrote finding space for growing innovation and it brings me back to setting up the general conditions for the environment to innovate. These statements of intent have real value: We need shared responsibility for innovation, we need to encourage knowledge as a central task, we need to work on being ‘collectively conscious, knowing our space and beyond for contributing to innovation. We need to foster respect for others knowledge and expertise and we need to become increasingly adaptive.

The environment we must seek for innovation needs to provide the ‘dynamics’ within our organization’s social fabric, to allow the conditions we believe in too simply flow. Getting those general conditions established allows innovation to take hold and become our future culture.

Correcting an innovation oversight sometimes hits you hard!

I’ve had one of those weeks where a certain realization took hold, something that had been nagging away at you suddenly surfaces and slaps you in the face. Ouch!

I have just completed my own gap-analysis on how I have explained the Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology and its value.  It actually was a bit of an eye opener. I was surprised in this audit of all associated posts, articles and papers written by myself or in collaboration with Jeffrey Phillips, that there were some very glaring gaps in my posts on explaining this methodology.

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Seven Components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat

The Innovation Work Mat has seven components or domains

What was crazy here is the fact I have the research, the component parts all worked through, structured and being used in actual engagements to prompt the essential discussions, yet I had not been publishing these enough through my posts to underpin the methodology.

I had been missing essential domain component messages that are the very essence of why you need to work around the entire work mat as essential. I was missing the opportunity to publically talk about ALL the parts as it is the combining of these that does provide its value as an integrated approach to innovation that can cascade throughout the organization.

What was leading, what was lagging?

Lead vs Lag

It reminded me on how important it is to do an audit of your inventory, where you have moved in ‘given’ directions, what you either forget or become blindsided too and what was ‘leading and lagging’ and recognize (eventually) you were missing important associated work mat branding messages that validated its real value.

My work mat messaging had been aimed more at the top of organizations and not across the organization’s working need for this work mat. I was not delivering the value of the work mat to the whole audience that requires understanding and identification for building a comprehensive innovation infrastructure.

I was focusing less on delivering the relevant messages to the very people working in the innovation space, those needing this strategic guidance and support, wanting association and the feeling of total organization engagement. That was for me a big “ah hah” moment. I needed to broaden out my message explaining the work mat components.

The tough sell of innovation

Selling innovation is a tough sell.

Selling innovation is a tough sell.

In truth, it is a hard sell to the top in organizations on innovation, they believe simply by appointing a Chief Innovation Officer and letting them get on with the job, then the board has done enough to make innovation work. Wrong!

Then they believe they can simply turn their attention to other business, still not figuring out why they are not growing enough or why they are running behind their competitors in the global market place yet they are demanding innovation!

Innovation needs the board levels explicit focus on making innovation a core within the organization.

What was lagging in explanation?

I need to gain the essential identification those that are working in innovating need to ‘spread the word’ within their organization on ALL of what needs to combine and then fit together to allow innovation to really work.

The place to start is the value of the Executive Innovation Work Mat and the Role Senior Executives must play in innovation’s success.

So I am starting to address these individual component parts. I started last week on Governance and innovation. There is a need to give each of the seven components further dedicated and explicit posts too.

I want to take each component and outline the reasons on its importance on why we must ask and explore the different questions raised by all the parts that make up innovation.

So I will explore the need for creating the right Environment for Innovation and why it is so critical. Then I felt I should be providing a greater examination of the make-up of all the aspects within Recognizing the Conditions for the Culture and Climate, so essential to stimulating the right conditions for innovation

Then I realized that all my collective material I had not focused on a more exclusive post around the thorny subject of Metrics and Motivations to Innovate – a place of much anguish!  Then I was lacking this broader exploration of our central component of Common Language, Context and Communications to achieve the deepening of innovation within organizations, although I had touched on this here. The final part I want to explore more is Function, Structure, Process and Design  as this needs some specific prompters and clarifier’s as well. Then a final summary of the Organizations Innovation’s Dilemma complete this series on the make up of the components within the Innovation Work Mat.

The seven components that make up the Executive Innovation Work Mat have been extensively researched and structured for client engagements. All the components and rational had all been covered in the initial white paper or the subsequent follow up articles but some of these had been allowed to lie a little too fallow in offering the component rationale and updating the understanding deriving from the ongoing work.

Getting the message out there for all to see

The public side of the work mat had been a little neglected; it needed some re-work beyond a lick of paint. So I thought this is the right time to resolve this and target the broader innovation audience, those that gets ongoing identification and value out of having this innovation work mat in place.

Get your message outSo I want to ‘set about’ correcting this and bring the Work Mat message back on track in recognizing the seven components that make it up are integrated and equally important.

I do need to provide the probing and prompting that lies behind the ‘promise’ by applying the work mat methodology.

I need to offer far more on what does actually makes up the content and knowledge sitting behind this work mat approach.  I only trust you see the value as much as others do, once you become fully engaged in all the parts of the Executive Innovation Work Mat.

Over the coming weeks a series of posts will emerge to address this set of oversights.

** Updated with the actual links into the posts.