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.

Piecing innovation together

Completing the innovation design

Completing the innovation design

When you look at all the (broken) parts within innovation it takes some time to figure out how you can piece it all together to make it a better whole. Innovation and its management is just this place this needs to be pieced together. It often cries out for it.

Most people that work in our business organizations are spending their increasing time in piecing their part of the innovation equation together to make innovation work and trying to improve on the existing conditions to deliver new products and services. They have to work on fixing the system and its many faulty parts, let lone work on their new concept. Is it not about time we stepped back and really thought through the design of innovation and its managing? Why is this so hard to do?

The negative cost of rework.

When you don’t understand the parts that make up the complete system, you end up with an awful lot of rework that really should not have been necessary. This rework is different from experimenting and learning, where you gain positive insight that improves the innovation activity you are working on. No, this is the negative stuff, the attempts to ‘keep the show on the road’, to keep the momentum and commitment focused and so often this requires a lot of messy, fiddling and fudging of the parts to keep it functioning.

Why is it we often forget not just the innovation project we are working on, needs goals and a clear picture of where we are going although this is heavily influences by what we are learning and absorbing on the way, yet the innovation system never gets this constant, focused attention?

Have you ever completed a 2,500 piece puzzle?

Try completing a 2,500 piece puzzle without knowing the finished picture (or objective). In the jigsaw puzzle we always have the corners and as we spend time looking at each of the pieces we see the unique way they fit together. It is by this dedicated focus we can piece together the final puzzle. The point is, if we have a clear picture to help up, we can piece it together a whole lot quicker. Innovation management needs that final picture, the one where we can constantly refer too, to put together all the pieces and complete the puzzle. Its strategic and it needs to be provided by the leadership of the organization for each of us to work within.

The problem we often face is deciding on the type of innovation puzzle itself.

Innovation and its management does need to always figure out is what it is trying to achieve early on. If you don’t have this clear strategic picture how can you set about delivery of innovation that fits in? If we don’t have clear alignment of innovation to strategic objectives and goals, we end up with thousands of pieces of innovation effort all designed to fit but not pieced together to make the complete design as they lack this overarching picture.

I was checking out on Wikepedia on the puzzle and you can apply some of the attraction that innovators have with solving their puzzles. The entry within Wikipedia suggests you should treat puzzles a little more seriously. “Solutions to puzzles may require recognizing patterns and creating a particular order. People with a high inductive reasoning aptitude may be better at solving these puzzles than others. Puzzles based on the process of inquiry and discovery to complete may be solved faster by those with good deduction skills.”

Can you see managing innovation in this puzzle analogy?

We need to design innovation and its management in purposeful, well designed ways. Often we never seem to know what types of innovation are really needed, we lack alignment to the strategic goals, so we settle on less risk and more incremental solutions, smaller puzzles we can quickly resolve and get a ‘notional’ pat on the back for but fail to really move the innovation needle for real growth.

The other thought is how we love to treat innovation as a mystery.

 Tim Kastelle wrote a great article on both the puzzle and the mystery called are you solving a puzzle or a mystery. He rightly suggests that the problems that lead to disruptive innovations are often mysteries. This means that we need a different toolkit to solve these problems than we use when we solve puzzles.

Tim’s article is based on reviewing the book by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie pick up on this distinction in their outstanding book Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers.

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie in their book "Designing for Growth"

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie in their book “Designing for Growth”

He provided this “designing for growth” visual, which I think is great, it is not an aside, it can help in this ‘puzzle’ thinking.

Tim goes onto argue in his article: “We are strongly drawn to puzzles because of how clear-cut they are. Unfortunately, many of the big problems that we face are not puzzles, but rather mysteries. Mysteries are messy, and the methods that solve puzzles don’t work for mysteries, and they might actually make them worse”. This is a great insight that I am sure is built on Tim’s own personal experiences constantly tackling both mystery and puzzles on many occasions.

We are messy in mysteries and equally in solving puzzles

How do we set about designing innovation management systems? Tim provides a great starting point “when the parameters are basically known”. We just need to find the right information to develop the innovation parameters that will guide and frame the problem.

So what makes up the parameters within innovation system design?

The sad fact is that most organizations never bother to fully understand the multiple levels that make up the parameters needed in designing an innovation management system. They just seem to just love the rework, all that negative stuff!  Surprising when there is so much talk on the emphasis on driving out inefficiencies. Perhaps innovation falls outside the mainstream comfort zone for applying efficient design?

I just think we can design the innovation system, structures, process and their governance so much better to allow those working with their innovation puzzle a better chance to piece it together as they can understand the end goal, of fitting their innovation into the bigger frame of the organization’s strategic growth goals.

For each of us to achieve that, it needs both the puzzle and mystery to be taken out of the innovation system and this is where leadership plays its part. It is by designing and communicating this in an innovative strategic way, may I suggest through the Executive Innovation Work Mat. It offers the framework for the design by providing its distinct edges for the pieces to be put together and offer a completed picture to work within, it starts to set the parameters needed.

Seven Parts to the Innovation Leaders Litmus Test

Seven parts to the Innovation Litmus Test for the Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology

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

To gain growth and improvement on the existing position you need to harness innovation in sustaining ways. We need to test for our ability to manage innovation in a well-structured and thoughtful way. The leadership of organizations needs a way to provide an overarching framework, where innovation ‘works’ within.

A crucial part of this is to gain organizational alignment; we need to see if innovation is being adopted, if innovation is cascading through the organization, if the people involved are talking the same language, working towards the common goals. We need to manage and organize how the organization and its people view innovation and respond to the challenges provided from the top.

How do we harness all the necessary efforts for a positive ‘reaction’?

I’ve discussed these seven parts to a litmus test before but I’d like to give them a renewed ‘sharper’ focus here. These are testing for:

1. Translation points in value, impact and alignment – the value of the Executive Work Mat is to gain alignment, to promote value and achieve a better positive impact from innovation. We must test for this through the Work Mat framework.

2. The Leadership Commitment – how leaders chose to engage, to encourage and promote innovation activity is critical. They need to mentor, coach, listen and respond to the concerns, opportunities and offer their contribution and judgement. It is the time they commit to making this Work Mat vigorous, robust and dynamic is all important.

3.  Testing for People’s involvement – In some recent research by Deloittes on what is required for successful collaboration they felt three conditions needed to be in place. These I really resonated  with strongly, in where I feel any litmus test for innovation should focus upon these factors when it comes to people and their engagement with the challenges presented by the organization:

  • Do they Belong: people collaborate on behalf of organizations they feel connected too.
  • Do they Believe: people collaborate when they commit to carrying out specific actions
  • How do they Behave: people collaborate when they share a common understanding of how things are done. It is through the Work Mat you can gain this common understanding and identification.

4. Designed-In All Necessary Aspects – the effectiveness of any innovation system is within its design, its processes and functioning. Here within the litmus test you are looking far more at establishing, generating, exploring, validating and using what is available and learning from it. It is in the care and thoughtfulness of the design and its environment and through these, its strong governance and structures.

5. Engagement, Understanding & Trust Outputs – the ability to communication, to find a growing common language of innovation is vital to sustaining success. It boils down to the relating, the responding and the respecting of this. Identification and dialogue allows innovation to flow more freely. Respect generates growing trust. Trust is vital to innovation. Knowing the context you set about your work is essential.

6. Risk & Rewards are both needed – Always the risk and fear working on innovation naturally comes up, it consciously needs to be addressed. To assess the exposure, the barriers, the balances and checks needed, the learning from success and failure needs openly exploring. The more we work on the risk and rewards and treat them both equally in discussions and evaluation, the more we encourage innovation that changes those existing paradigms and pushes for growth beyond the norm.

7. Finally, we always need Outcomes - Any effort or initiative has to have outcomes measured on its return of effort and cost involved. It is focusing on effective implementation, on execution, on gaining a ROI and on achievements you can raise the awareness and value of innovation. Outcomes become essential to drive and sustain innovation. People hunger for success, leaders also, so never forget to analysis success and its ‘transforming’ impact.

Working the litmus test

We work these seven litmus tests work through the Executive Innovation Work Mat framework in a gap analysis, in workshops, in discussions, mentoring and insights, to deliver a positive cascading result that ‘resonates’ throughout the organization.

We are looking to conduct a ‘decisively indicative test’ in the effectiveness of taking this holistic approach to innovation and through testing in these areas we can provide a good indicative litmus test of overall robustness to harness innovation activities.

Adopting the litmus test for delivering sustaining innovation

So for me, to achieve a lasting value out of the suggested Executive Work Mat you need to do these litmus tests and impact assessments to gauge the successful cascading and alignment effects. You are looking for the connection between engagement, alignment and ownership through deepening this growing identification of where innovation fits.

The Executive Innovation Work Mat Approach

The Executive Innovation Work Mat Approach

If you have not yet considered the Executive Work Mat then I would simply encourage you to reach out and make that first connection, knowing a positive result from the ‘effect’ can make or break your organization. We need to pull together much of our fragmented parts of innovation into a cohesive whole.

The approach taken within the Work Mat is to emphasise that to succeed in innovation you need a more holistic approach.

I’d suggest this Work Mat methodology can provide this. Interested to learn more?

Forming the unified view on innovation design

Although we are seeing a number of cases where innovation in its structures, functions and design are evolving, we still have not achieved the mainstream recognition of innovations importance within the boardroom. In many organizations it still lacks a clearly separated ‘voice.’ Its present voice tends to be fragmented within its parts represented by the separate functions providing their narrower view of innovation.

You still have marketing, research, financial, strategic development all offering their unique views of what and where innovation can contribute. This often ‘fragmented’ approach reduces the promising breakthrough effect of innovations potential contribution. By not having this comprehensive and cohesive viewpoint articulated at board level by a fully accountable person, the Chief Innovation Officer, innovation often stays locked up in one position or another. No one is stepping in and unlocking its full potential from a holistic viewpoint, totally responsible for innovation by structuring it, for adding real scale, giving it momentum and growing sustainability but more importantly driving it throughout the organization from the top board room perspective.

What this ‘combined’ voice can really bring too many present and future growth orientated discussions is real strategic alignment  significance; it can transform discussions and significantly influence directions the organization can take and where to allocate its resources. Yet innovation still struggles to be fully accepted as a fully functioning discipline and expertise needed in the boardroom to focus innovation on providing real sustaining growth, fully integrated and aligned across the whole organization for its value potential.

The exploring going on around innovation

Many organizations still are exploring how to approach innovation and you can see plenty of experimentations and I’d say interim ‘bridging’ solutions. We are making some progress within innovation for its function, location, financing and ownership, as these have shifted more towards the top of organizations, yet they still lack that final unifying catalyst, of appointing a chief innovation officer for many, and innovation as a strategic activity being pulled together in a unifying strategic innovation framework.

Some that have made this appointment are still working through the make-up of the function and how the ‘arm-wrestling’ works out between the existing groups making up their part of innovation and this new realignment can be hard work. Often, as the CEO lacks real innovation expertise to effectively arbitrate such an appointment, to design in the real accountability and appropriate weighting for managing such a critical component needed for growth, it does not have the executive strength built into the position to make it the pivotal role it should be. The role remains poorly understood in its focused value and contributions, and can be reduced to this in-fighting and trading, to make slower headway than it should.

Driving outcomes often required separate innovation functions.

Added to the lack of recognition of what ‘makes up a clear innovation function’ many organizations are still rather stuck in a silo thinking that innovation is only about developing products and services based on traditional functional lines. Innovation has evolved way beyond this product and service view only, or certainly should have done.

We need to explore making major shifts by thinking through different business models, working on a variety of collaborative platforms and ventures, having increased agility to explore, experiment and step far more out of the ‘classic’ core, into new adjacencies, or even investigate whole new ‘white spaces’ for business opportunities. Many are leaving this to others as they stay ‘locked into’ traditional viewpoints of what innovation contributes.

These significant changes on ‘how to innovate’ are creating organizational tensions that do need resolution as they are increasingly colliding against each other, like tectonic plates. These tensions are disrupting organizations and having a lot of internal friction that reduces performance, at this critical time when a unified approach to tackling external challenges would be better served by aligning the innovation view.

In some ways organizations are experimenting in different innovation designs but these still tend to be ring fenced, islands of experimentation that stay locked in their space and unable to be seen, strategically, for their (rapid) scaling opportunity due to this lack of a comprehensive, innovation view, from the top.

There are different designs being explored, often within the same organization. All serve a ‘given’ purpose but perhaps stay constrained by this lack of an overarching strategic understanding of innovation and its contribution to strategy and driving growth. We might be in real danger of dispersing innovation energy when we should be unifying it.

Diversity is made up of innovation experimentation.

We see today innovation centres, new-business development functions, separate emerging-business opportunities groups and selected incubators along with emerging-technologies business groups and even advanced-technologies or institutional collaborations. Each has a focused and valuable role to play but the cross-over values, the ability to drive cross collaboration and learning often lack that overarching coordination that only a dedicated top person can bring in bringing this together to serve the strategic purpose of the organization. Usually we also have the older established research and development centres, the marketing pilot plants and other more established and traditional avenues that product and service tend to work through.

I think we definitely duplicate resources, loose knowledge, constrain expertise and don’t get the potential innovation ‘horsepower’ out of the combining effect as and when needed. Can this change?  It certainly should to extract and unlock all of innovations true potential.

How we align innovation will decide many of our futures.

Alignment between the goals and objectives at the top of our organizations is still at serious ‘odds’ with what is being worked upon. We need a real strategic innovation framework. I’ve offered some thought on this in the past if you care to pick up on this as one starting point, in this article “The Overarching Proposition for the Executive Innovation Work Mat.

We are daily being faced by significant challenges in meeting our strategic objectives and where often innovation fails to bridge. Examples of this can be seen in the ongoing competition with short-term priorities from across the parts of the business as well as the difficulties of integrating different function’s objectives with those of the core needs.

Then there is still the poor business case or value propositions made often to corporate leaders, or that consistent dilemma of withdrawing funding from an idea that has not lived up to its promise and become one that drags and diverts away critical resources. All work against innovation delivering on its much-needed potential.

We are managing more cross-functional issues than in the past.

The more we engage with open innovation partners or begin to develop promising new business models then more we conflict with many established positions. This slows the real contributing value of innovation. These new challenges need a different type of boardroom representation, it needs a clear mandate for a Chief Innovation Officer, to bring the ‘disparate parts’ together and explore the broader potential that wider innovation can bring in all its potential forms.

A call for a new concerted effort for providing an overarching innovation design

Designing a new strategic innovation framework at the top of organizations helps close the many gaps we see today. We need to move from ‘disconnect’ to ‘reconnect’ and make innovation more centrally designed to meet today’s challenges, those that are cross-cutting, to allow innovation that greater freedom and scope to contribute into the growth organizations leaders are demanding.

To align innovation to the organizations strategic goals, we need to challenge many of the established practices and functions to allow innovation to fulfil its promise of being the true catalyst to growth.

A new raison d’être for HRM through Innovation

Innovation is in need of a significant transformation on how it is designed, developed and executed in most organizations. Traditional approaches to managing this simply need ripping up and redesigning to allow innovation to become more the central core.

In most organizations the Human Resource Management (HRM) function seems to have been far too often side-lined on shaping and influencing how innovation should be designed as a critical part of the future for the company. Many of the existing traditional HRM solutions might actually be in conflict and working against innovation actually.

If we look at the broad areas that HRM has to cover and master in organizational development today, it can, perhaps, leave little time for adding in innovation into this array of demands. You can understand that HRM has little time to master a ‘decent’ understanding of what makes up innovation, when they are grappling with so much already but they should. It might simplify or promote a rationalizing of some of the existing practices built up over considerable time as the expedient option but this is still creating a ‘lagging’ set of effects and not offering the ‘leading’ ones that innovation demands.

Today’s HRM role is demanding and complex, no question.

Let’s firstly remind ourselves what does make up a current HRM role in leading or participating in many crucial areas needing constant attention. These include planning and designing and the executing of change management, seeking out potential leaders, participating in career development and recruitment, managing organization capability and effectiveness in all its different demands called for across a diverse demanding organization.

This goes along with seeking out different designs to team building, organization transformation, building knowledge and talent capacity, let alone the classic payroll, reviews and turnover questions brought on by volatile markets, change of directions or global expansion.

I could add more but organizational development is an extremely tough, challenging and pivotal role, often under-appreciated and struggling to gain their rightful seat at the top table.

Adding innovation as a simple add-on will not work

So adding onto this veritable list of tasks we are appealing for a different approach and more focus on innovation, maybe a little unfair because it is unlikely to work.  I believe HRM should have a new raison d’être making innovation the central, repeating theme running through of all the activities currently being undertaken and mentioned above.

Presently HRM is little involved in the current innovation process where innovation is focused on developing and designing new products, services and often even excluded from the design of new innovation business models to find the best ways to break these out from existing organization design so they thrive and not just survive due to patronage alone.

The management of human resource needs to be replaced with the management of human creativity and ingenuity, as this is the triggering point to innovation success. The critical role of innovation is without question needed for the future growth, wealth creation and organizations potential survival. Who is to drive the human change required here?  I believe HRM should have a lasting design impact and central engagement role in this.

HRM has a crucial role to play in the needs to facilitate and underpin top-line growth through innovation design and bottom-line impact through risk balance and control as people are the essence of innovation. Individuals gain (new) insights, they offer idea generation and the capabilities to implement these through the designed innovation process as new introductions into the world that improve on the existing. HRM needs to make sure this is well supports and happens by ensuring the people factor is well designed into the organization, in every activity for making innovation the ‘way of life’ and well understood as corporately vital to be well support and consistently enhance in capabilities and capacities.

Reversing the current organization design

Over the past few decades, even the past century it has been the organization ‘knows best’ and decides and passes down, the teams are then resourced and empowered and the structure is put in place for the individual to deliver. Today that is not working well.

Going forward this top down approach will simply not work. In the case of innovation the reverse actually applies. The germ of an idea or insight starts with the individual connecting different strands of knowledge and combining these in new and often novel ways. Then they must go and convince others of its value, so they will support this and turn it into a project. This then needs to move up the organization for others to come on board to offer the necessary means, resources and support to achieve the eventual outcome.

Failure to move potentially exciting but ‘raw’ ideas into projects, then into reality by attracting required resource is becoming crucial to be managed. Recognizing this essential shift of bottom up is crucial in organizational design for skill development and approaches throughout the organization.

If we take just one example, the failure to take ideas forward as one area that needs to be treated differently than the current traditional judgement or measurement metric of valuing only ideas just going through the pipeline. If we value experimentation, prototyping and piloting of innovation ideas that did not fully work out or got combined or re-scoped, we can begin to see experiences gained, challenges resolved, obstacles overcome as learning points. This gives a different measuring approach that can reverse current design and reward and show the increasing value of exposure, practice and understanding as accomplishments that build deepening capabilities and highly valued in experiences.

We should be looking for the knowledge and insights gained as part of the robustness of the pipeline. This is one area where HRM can design innovation differently and intervene so as establish the impact of learning as one of the factors to enhance innovation capability. There are many of these intervention points that have a catalytic effect.

Those that attempt innovation gain valuable experience

If HR took innovation into the core of organizational design, the mandate for each person is to get involved in innovation activity to gain valuable experience that enhances the desired capabilities for the future. If innovation is seen as core, you begin to break down the present barriers and mindsets that restrict innovation today by current behaviours, blocking innovating activity or placing constraints in allocating the required resources to ‘allow’ innovation to flourish.

HRM plays the critical role in breaking down the existing barriers (cultural, environmental, structural) and determines the need for information and knowledge sharing to actively lower one of innovations greatest barriers today, the not invented here, that existing within organizations both in themselves and in opening up to external new sources of stimulus. HRM can find clear ways to foster innovation in more open ways.

Moving beyond today’s traditional competencies

In many organisations HRM are adapt at, or certainly working hard at the assembling, managing and deploying of resources to support the work-to-be-done. They pride themselves on managing labour costs, evaluating workforce performance, enhancing productivity and focusing on retaining valued talent. These are well within themselves but are simply not enough in such changing market conditions. They are reinforcing effectiveness and efficiency and these alone are simply not enough for securing the future, it is through innovation and creativity that is urgently needed to be added.

Future leaders need to emerge not from managing existing assets well but in managing in increased uncertainties, being more adaptive, agile and responsive to changing needs. CEO’s are demanding creativity, flexibility and speed to size up, quickly seize and grab breaking opportunity. These newer demanded skills come from knowing how and where to go, to be well-connected across platforms of knowledge, having close client connectivity and being able to extract all the essentials, resources and commitments to enable execution. Adaptability to constant change has a very different mindset to be developed in our future leaders.

The changing role of organization design

There is a consistent need to sustain and secure a steady top-line and bottom-line growth, CEO’s tenure is mostly based on this. What is increasingly needed is to go beyond this expected ‘state’ and deliver the ‘wow’ factor, which comes mostly through innovation. Here top managers have to seek out speed, flexibility and adaptability as outlined earlier in this article but they also need to go beyond this.

Managers need to find the right ways to stimulate innovation in creative and systematic ways and encourage entrepreneurship, more reciprocating in the transfer of knowledge, ideas and practices for pushing across boundaries for value creation opportunities. We come back to the ability to extract new value is in the individuals identifying, assimilating and exploiting knowledge and it is in recognizing this reverse flow, is where the HRM role needs to focus on a different organizational design.

For me building absorptive capacity is crucial and HRM needs to focus far more on understanding the value of this. I loved one suggested description on the absorptive capacity model.  Absorptive capacity is like the alternating current, whereas development capacity is the direct current. Combining this into a AC/DC innovation model then Innovation becomes the ‘power provider’ to growth requiring both currents, with one, a direct current flowing one constant way, whereas alternative current flows one way, then the other, continually reversing direction for knowledge generation that acquires, assimilates, transforms through exploitative learning. HRM needs to leverage ‘exploitation learning’ as a real need for building the power into innovation capability.

HRM needs to be on the cutting edge of innovation

HRM does need to step up and define a new mandate for innovation. If innovation is ever going to achieve a core place within organizations it has to be deliberately designed in for skill definitions, leadership development and knowledge and experiences gained. HRM needs to cultivate, mobilize and capitalize innovation.

To do this it needs to redesign its existing practices and approaches so at least four critical aspects become established as the starting point and way forward while a deeper understanding of innovation is gained:

  1. Recruiting always people for the potential to innovate and knowing what this means in inputs, outputs and expected organizational outcomes.
  2. Nurturing individuals and teams constantly in innovation capabilities and skills and setting about designing a comprehensive programme for this to take hold and stick.
  3. Recognizing and discussing in formal ‘learning ways’ the critical factors needed for success and equally acknowledging and recognizing the learning value of the failures. Valuing both in experiences and organization outcomes.
  4. Build on going diversity into teams, resourced across the organization, augmented with external resources as and when needed, so the teams are varied, distinctive and constantly changing and exchanging experience and are delivering innovation that makes a real difference to the future of the organization.

If this means employing external mentors, coaches and innovation expertise to bring HRM up to speed, then it is well worth it. Having a dedicated external resource to work with you in HRM has the same ‘outsourced value’  as many other activities deemed to be handled by specialists, receiving the support and inputs to your needs that makes sound economical and knowledge intensive sense.

Care of course, is in finding those that have the depth and breadth of required experience to work alongside you, to build up and transfer the appropriate understanding of those innovation needs, until it has been ‘embedded’ within HRM so it becomes fully absorbed and part of the daily fabric of the organization as a new core, well supported and constructed to deliver sustaining innovation.

HRM has a stark choice

HRM needs to take on a more pivotal role for innovation. They can become central for a lasting place to plan and significantly contribute to building innovation capability and capacity or stay more passive and operate always in the outer periphery of today’s and the future corporate relevance that innovation needs to play.

I believe HRM needs a new raison d’être, one that comes from grabbing hold of innovation and making this core to the organizations future design. Building capabilities and capacities for innovation are essential to our organizations future well-being and HRM needs to step up and become far more engaged.