Twenty critical questions to be resolved for succeeding in innovation

Some time back I compiled a list of those critical areas that I felt need addressing for innovation to have a chance of success. Going through them again today and in light of different insights picked up on the way, I added more of a descriptor to each. I certainly think these reflect the struggles within innovation that need working upon constantly, so it has a better chance to succeed.

This revised thinking I feel has upgraded my own focal points as areas I will be exploring even further in my work in the period ahead.

What do you think? Do you think the list is missing something?

My upgraded thinking on the 20 top innovation aspects to master and resolve.

1. There seems so much ongoing difficulty to identify the real opportunities for innovation as there is often no structured approach to this, or even worse a poor recognition of any well formulated strategy, so allowing so many opportunities to fall through the gaps.

2.   Not generating and managing ideas that deliver real growth, mostly due to a lack of any effective decision-making process, organised governance and structure to manage this.

3.   A on-going failure in not effectively seeking out external insights in clear ways and lacking a capturing structure to achieve this, so simply restricting the real awareness of the external environment to the necessary person internally within the organization.

4.   The inability to draw down from a diverse set of networks, partners, systems and people and then connecting them in a ecosystem to acquire, transform or exploit this new knowledge for new innovation.

5.   Not setting the appropriate focus on innovation activities for value creation and making those critical points explicit enough within and across the organization, so leaving it too open to personal interpretation and fuzzyness, resulting in often disappointing end results.

6.   Not having a clear alignment to the Corporate Strategy for innovation, often missing the connections between formal and informal mechanisms needed for managing innovation.

7.   Having poor implementation that fails expectations as the ‘need’ of the end result was left far too vague or compromised somewhere between discovery and delivery.(see 5 also)

8.   Failing to recognize and build innovation capabilities across the organisation that deliver the appropriate mix of skills and experience by often not appreciating the significant differences between the types of innovation necessary and their unique characteristics to execute through these.

9.   Building the competencies to further strengthen change is based far to much on existing organizational cultures that focus on effectiveness and efficiency, failing to recognize this is often in conflict with innovation, that is requiring a far more open ended, adaptive approach.

10. Having different expectations and behaviours across the organisation, divergent opinions and significant disconnects of self-interest and petty politics that override innovation intent.

11. Continually having changing priorities and conflicting responsibilities by not successfully managing the conflict between short and long term needs that are required to be managed in a more structured, thoughtful way.

12. A lack of concerted effort to encourage collaboration across and outside the organization I would suggest is limiting organization design in flows and effectiveness for innovation success.

13. Diverse systems that restrict the flow of knowledge sharing and don’t capture and share those aspects that would, if overcome, would trigger fresh insight and growing awareness of valuable alternatives.

14. Inadequate understanding of consumer and customer needs as the front line engagement process is not alert enough or trained to discover these, or often don’t have a system in place to report these back in the knowledge and incentive that these are seen as important by the customer.

15. Localised innovation that does not engage the whole organisation and continues on a silo basis, pushed by local managers as their pet projects, starving more critical ones and not being well picked up due to a lack of a comprehensive innovation portfolio management system.

16. Largely being reactive to competition and not being proactive, due to this constant struggle to fully understand the external environment and failing to anticipate those future trends and where they fit in their implications for the organization and its innovation focus.

17. Lacking a leadership perspective of the “ideal” culture and climate to inspire innovation and really appreciating what real differences do motivate people at the different levels for them to participate and actively engage in innovation activity or simply not.

18. Not having enough time, resource and resolve to grow innovation activity, as innovation and its appropriate management has not been fully designated as a clear function, with designated accountability, well resourced and integrated within and across the organization.

19. Failure to exploit the know-how and IP within the organisation and explore its potential with partners, so its potential can be fully exploited and commercialised instead of often just left ‘gathering dust’ as simply a protected patent not being exploited.

20. No clear and distinct measures and metrics to drive the innovation process effectively across the organisation and for the individual to relate to, that aligns the efforts with promoting and exploiting innovation as part of everyone’s responsibility.

The implication of this list or even simply parts of it

The effective tasking of innovation activities today cannot be left to chance; it has to be designed into the organization from top to bottom. By not having designated people fully involved and accountable for innovation is likely to inhibit growth. Having a well designed innovation structure and governance is essential but still not well understood

Having an honest conversation at board level is a good starting point.

Reflecting on this twenty points alone and being open enough in addressing them can make a dramatic difference between success and ongoing disappointment. Leaders or those tasked with innovation need to have this honest conversation, if they come up short then they need to ‘reach out’ and seek fresh external advice on how to resolve these gaps so as they can quickly understand their gaps.

Gaining a deeper understanding does make a real difference

I would argue executives should not be afraid to ask. Having a deeper understanding can often come from a dedicated focus often not possible within the confines of one organization. The external advice offered can help move them towards a more successful innovation management structure to succeed in those innovation efforts and go closer to match their desires and growth goals from innovation. Sometimes it is well worth reaching out for fresh perspectives and even, a dose of reality.

The seperation effect required for innovation

I have recently been in some different discussions about the merits and balances required to manage incremental and radical innovation. Partly this is in preparation for a workshop later this month but partly from a conversation I am having with a sizable, well respected organization, with its head office based here in Europe.

In the conversation within the organization we were discussing the breakdown in their treatment of incremental and radical and they suggested this was being managed within an “ambidextrous structure” yet I was not convinced. I have to point out this was only a part of a broader story on the difficulties of managing conflicting innovation demands that they were having. One key constraint in their thinking I feel was not having distinct units as they were trying to manage incremental and radical through the same process and that, for me, is a basic mistake.

I feel to truly claim an ambidextrous organization you have to be working towards the conceptual model offered by Reilly and Tushman on the “Ambidextrous Organization”

Reilly and Tushman’s argument was to truly flourish, not only do you need to maintain a variety of innovation efforts but  it does need more of a recognition of the full organization to manage these differently, not in isolation or selected parts of your organization. You need to consciously address the differences and build those into the twin process of managing incremental and radical. Let me offer my take on this.

Simultaneous the need is to manage the differences in Exploration & Exploitation.

I love how two words have such potential in their meaning and approach. It is the same as ‘divergence or convergence’. They clarify distinct differences, you don’t merge them, and you treat them as one leading into the other (divergence into convergence) or running in parallel (exploration & exploitation) for good reason.

The exploring and exploiting does needs separation. In organizations that practice ambidextrous design they separate the new, exploratory units from their more traditional, exploitative ones, allowing for different processes, structures, and cultures to emerge but it is at the senior management level they maintain tight links. This way you can pioneer more breakthrough or even disruptive innovation while allowing the incremental gains to be focused, and optimized without this consistent set of  distractions of trying to balance the two within the same resource pool or trying to squeeze it through the same assessment and time line process.

It is very different when you have to go on exploratory expeditions which are harder to determine and the last thing is having the constant pressure of balancing for time and between types of innovation. Exploration & Exploitation approaches need really different measuring metrics also.

It is at the senior leadership level any conflicts are managed not within the unit or organization department or even by a head of the unit if the organization does not manage in this ‘ambidextrous’ way. If you attempt to manage these together I think you don’t extract the full benefits you can gain from a more dedicated focuses working on distinctly different innovation needs.

What does radical mean to you?

The other issue I have is the use of ‘radical’ within the discussion. This can create such different meaning for each of us and can certainly be preconceived, so it already becomes hard to let go or change. Also ‘radical’ is often felt in larger organizations as something that simply does not fit as they are not a radical organization but a careful, often too cautious one. So ‘breakthrough’ seems to be a more natural fit and sits opposite of ‘incremental’ far more in my mind and it seems most others, worried over the ‘radical’ label. For incremental you exploit  through upgrading, adding more choice or building on what you presently offer, whereas you explore far more for breakthrough projects.

You can rightly point out there are numerous different type approaches and I recently wrote on what is the appropriate design within our organization ( ) using radical I know. Your type is partly determined by your structure and its degree of optimization of its potential flexibility and what you need to achieve.

So what are differences to be recognized for Exploring and Exploiting?

The understanding has to come back to alignment, the alignment to strategic intent (of the innovation need) and the recognition of distinct differences in critical tasks. It is defining the differences is the role of the leader, who is either managing incremental or breakthrough innovation,as they should focus on different competences, controls, rewards and the environment you are expected to work within, to deliver these as effectively as possible. It is difficult to ‘flip’ between the two as they call for distinct mindsets.

Again it is the power of the difference in thinking about these. Using the comparison of exploitative versus exploratory in this two word comparison that I love, does give you the real differences in the focus that needs to be recognized and undertaken.

Exploitative focus Exploratory focus
Incremental Breakthrough
Cost Growth
Operational Entrepreneurial
Formal Fluid
Rigid Adaptive
Linear Self-organizing
Attainment Grasp
Efficiency Experimenting
Development Research
Continuous Discontinuous
Inside-the-box Outside-the-box
Analytical Investigative
Examine Explore
Verify Detect
Extract Probe
Protect Challenge
Productive Milestones
Lower-risk Risk-taking
Directive, top-down Visionary, involved

I’m sure you can extend this list even more but the point is that the difference in mindset is significantly opposite. Can you apply these within the same business group or unit? I seriously doubt it.

Eating from the same innovation stew pot everyday might not be the best solution.

As we think of innovation we have to be careful not to limit ourselves, not just in approach or types but in the way we set about and manage this. Trying to bring all aspects of innovation activity into one ‘pot’ means you end up with a often underwhelming stew. It simply fails to really deliver, as you failed to do the necessary separating and distinctive preparations that all the parts needed to be achieved as your end result, to meet the different market needs that are around.

You need to seperate. Innovation that sets about protecting the core, building and strengthening it and that that pushes and extends the business beyond this really do need really different mindsets in approaching and managing across the organization.  Not just in  isolated pockets struggling to balance the different demands being placed on them.

Within these ‘collective’ silo’s they can’t differentiate distinctly enough and until this is fully understood it constrains and adds unnecessary pressures. Unless you address this  it is never fully appreciated across the organization on what is needed to be going on and how you should support and measure it’s results. Bundled up it all becomes a compromise.

There needs to be this realization that incremental and breakthrough are so different in activities, processes, structure, cultures and metrics to achieve the optimized effect. Having a clear seperation in managing incremental and breakthrough innovations is more effective and efficient but please don’t tip them in in the same pot, but distinct and seperate innovation ‘cooking’ mediums, to achieve a more outstanding and differentiated set of results where compromise was not down to being mixed into the same general approach.

My arguments for a common framework needed for innovation management

Following the release on Monday, April 25, where we published a Collaborative Innovation Reference Model by Jeffrey Phillips of OVO Innovation and myself, Paul Hobcraft of Agility Innovation, I would like to put forward some further opening arguments for proposing the broad adoption of a common framework for the innovation management process.

You can read more about its background here and you are welcome to participate.

Why innovation does needs a common reference point?

When you don’t have a common approach to something, in this case the management of innovation, you can have considerable pockets of inefficiency and a high level of ineffectiveness to deal with. Your organizational energies become fragmented as you constantly deal with differences, gap issues & misunderstandings that result in much hidden costs and ‘spent, unproductive’ capital. Resources are not focusing on advancing innovation; they are often spent on fixing what you have. By not having a clear common approach that everyone understands you fail to establish a common language. By not adopting a common set of innovation reference points you can remain often unproductive, consistently readapting, re-working and plugging gaps that could be better invested in managing the many aspects of complexity you always find in a better thought-through innovation management structure, one that focuses on advancing your activity.

Simply Jeffrey and I believe that the innovation space needs a common starting point – a collaborative reference model.  Certainly many other large and successful industries have common standards – the IBM PC, for instance, or common accounting protocols in financial services or a host of others that have significantly advanced that industry or service.  With these shared and transparent frameworks, clients can gain knowledge, have a growing confidence and understanding by recognizing the value of having something in common and the opportunity to leverage from this. Organizations focus should be on advancing innovation activity not constantly adjusting and adapting to different ‘standards’ or approaches.

Today innovation management advisory firms are mostly small, loosely organized, some highly specialised, that have a flourishing complexity of activity but often spend inordinate time reinventing many aspects of innovation management that are not necessary and serve little value for the client. While client’s requirements for structuring innovation are often claimed as unique and distinctive, they are in many cases, actually not. What they really want is to acquire a common, repeatable, scalable innovation structure that allows them to manage their distinct innovations on a consistent basis. The understanding of the innovation process is basically common. Until this point of difference between what a client wants, a common, scalable process and the providers wanting to offer their own versions, innovation in general will face numerous disadvantages in not advancing, as it is not formed around a basic set of common standards.

Why argue for a common approach?

The benefits of using and developing a common approach are numerous. They provide confidence, reliability and comparability in the market place. They also help to build and place the focus, cohesion and critical mass into building more efficiency and value into the process of innovation.

Common approaches can accelerate the advancement through clearer applications of technology and leading practice, and focus on the ability to reduce the transaction costs along the whole innovation value chain. Using a common language for information sharing, or developing more common thinking, can still allow individuals to gain a competitive advantage in the appropriate place, in their innovations advancement.

Developing further from a common framework can alert customers to the features of a product, service, technology or process improvement, to consider for adoption. It further optimizes and builds from this common point. Having a common approach can actually offer the choice of connecting to an increased number of partners for building connectivity/compatibility between different collaborators. It becomes a multiplier from this ‘common’ application, it lifts the standards.

Adopting a common innovation framework has numerous advantages

Clients in partnership with advisors can build from this basic common platform of understanding by the more effective use of applying people with the right skills and capabilities to focus and accelerate the job-on-hand: the need-to-deliver innovation consistently to final clients needs. If consultants, advisors and practitioners can demonstrate that their solutions are based on a common framework they they set about the creation of their differentiation, based on their unique skills and points of value-add, not hiding behind the need to fire fight and plug gaps, or sometimes add to the mystery that unclear aspects of innovation management or incomplete advice can generate. It degrades efforts in our view.

So what are the advantages? What value do common approaches bring to an industry?

This lack of a common model creates uncertainty for potential corporate innovators, who must decide which innovation method or approach seems the most appropriate or valid. In the absence of a common starting point or framework every solution considered seems equally reasonable until you arrive at a point where it is not doing the job you had wanted. A lack of a common approach creates different levels of uncertainty because there are many competing methods and tools that all seem reasonable, often with vested interests in the models proposed but it is the supporters of these different approaches who benefit from the advocacy of their approach, not the management of innovation.

We believe that creating a common innovation model or framework will have a significant number of benefits, for innovation practitioners, for companies and for innovators.  It can become the common reference point to build from. It can be used repeatedly to refresh and validate changes in thinking and can allow us all to move on from focusing on the process of innovation to the leveraging of the innovation process- a huge step in our opinion.

Specific advantages that a common approach to innovation can provide

  • Transformation of ideas to a marketable concept

The accepted of recognized concepts and emergent thinking gets ‘pulled through’ to market by their incorporation into this common approach at increasing rate. The use of appropriate measurement allows the concepts to be defined and quantified so that the suggested common approach is widely understood and accepted. It accelerates by increased adoption.

  • Networking and access to experts

Access to recognized experts through association to prescribing to a commons approach can be extremely beneficial to an organization, in the development of their own innovation approach, as they will gain a better appreciation of the state-of-the-art in other organizations, across industries and compare more with their competitors. You also gain in growing benefits from the collective expertise of the community that subscribes to this and in their combined knowledge or expertise, in that it brings a multiplicity of partners together that might not have had the same opportunity in a fragmented market. Smaller and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in particular can enhance their status, and can gain a marketing advantage in growing specialization, expertise and knowledge advancing.

  • Competitive advantage

Developing a new common approach for the innovation process in fresh thinking is a way to apply pressure on competitors, whilst gaining a competitive advantage. It enables an organization to ‘raise the stakes’ and alert consumers to the latest feature, insight or knowledge advantage. Common solutions actually ‘push’ the industry to improve its game, raise its standards and increase value to clients. Due to the potential of reducing costs associated by taking a common approach, the use of commonality also allows for growing price competitiveness in the market- not a bad thing.

Using standardized approaches reduces the amount of research needed at that early stage so investment can be made more in its advancement. It directs activity to more forward looking advancement of innovation management. It can also reduce much of the present duplication and legacy issues from past efforts that are often resident in uncertain situations. Finally in the part,  it increases the purchasing power of the interested parties to evaluate far more on this common platform accreditation, with growing confidence on common criteria, alongside the value adding points of differentiation to meet the work that needs to be done through new innovation.

  • Network effects

Today the network effects in adopting a common approach typically increases with the number of users sharing and feeding off of each other in learning, knowledge and experience. This more ‘open’ sharing effect accelerates collaborations, connections and knowledge disbursement.

Network effect markets will become increasingly attractive targets for companies who can position their own proprietary technology (technology that is protected through IPRs) as the technical standard in that market, to improve upon the common approach to help in its management and execution. Having a common approach provides an essential building block for collaborative platforms for different parties to work together in more ‘open’ innovation environments for their mutual goals that is increasingly being recognised today as less likely to be achieved by working in isolation.

  • Quality and reputation

Organizations today are demanding better quality, depth and expertise in what they adopt. Adoption is more likely if it is backed up by accepted common approaches that are recognised by the broader community. Alternatives will increasingly become harder to accept with their growing disadvantages of not being party to the potential of sharing around the commonalities recognized as standard, within this more common adopted approach to innovation management practice.

  • Growing international and global recognition

Involvement accelerates across global organizations by adopting these set of common approaches to innovation. Through subscribing to international common approaches standards and practices throughout the organization’s global innovation activity, this will give a common language, clarity and greater line of sight. Operating on a common approach agreement, gains in the longer term for collaborative ventures all working through the same common approach or platform. It aligns to better efficencies and potential leverage in different ways.

  • Variance is significantly reduced.

The number of different approaches to solutions is reduced by adopting a more common set of solutions, due to increased optimization of the process. This is known as variety reduction. Variety reduction leads to economies of scale that can lower production costs and therefore investments. Variety reduction would help along the whole innovation value chain. It can lower core adoption costs allowing organizations to concentrate on the features that are most important to their innovation needs, thereby leading to a sharper focus on what is critical for their specific innovation delivery. It promotes greater creativity by providers of solutions by focusing on the positives and building from this more focused approach to demonstrate competitive advantage.

So to summarize

When relevant common approaches do not exist then organizations remain uncertain and weary, they limit their investments resulting in inadequate application and understanding of innovations true value. Investment made without a consistent approach have high levels of inefficiency cost built in and the market remains unhealthy as there is this consistent under investing occurring due to ongoing uncertainty.

When relevant common approaches can be established organization confidence increases significantly, risk is more quantified, there is a growing understanding of the common approach by a broader audience and increased funding is more available for forward looking investment. The health of the innovation market benefits from this potential cycle of increased investment. It builds upon a stronger platform not lots of fragmented pieces.

Benefits and key takeaways:

We believe that creating a common innovation model or framework will have a number of significant benefits, for innovation practitioners, for companies and for innovators, actually for the whole innovation community that believes in innovation as the most significant enabler to growth and renewal.  It can become the common reference point to build from. It can be used repeatedly to refresh and validate changes in thinking.

Paul Hobcraft of Agility Innovation who can be contacted at or Jeffrey Phillips of OVO Innovation who can be contacted at for discussing this concept further through the suggested models provided as a starting point.

Principle Source of Reference and Guidance for structuring the specific advantages: Standards and Intellectual Property Rights: A Practical Guide for Innovative Business by Matthew Clark, published in 2004.

Paul Hobcraft, Agility Innovation Consultants, 8th May 2011.

Questions raised on a collaborative innovation framework

Yesterday, 5th May, there was an interesting exchange on #innochat relating to collaborating frameworks for innovation. We have a wiki on this if you care to take a look so you get the context and the suggested framework we are proposing.

#Innochat is a lively, informative and inspiring one-hour(ish) discussion on Thursdays at noon (Eastern US time). Usually the best way to follow along is to head over to TweetChat – sign in with your Twitter credentials and follow along and participate. Take a look at and join in.

Jeffrey Philips @ovoinnovation and myself @paul4innovating have been suggesting that we need to organize more around a common approach to innovation and having recently published this we decided to put this forward within this discussion hour to learn more from many established innovation thinkers. The fact that twitter decided to go ‘whaling’, stalling and generally misbehaving to create some bottleneck in exchanges, it did seem to generate a lot of ‘chat’ and a great diversity of opinion.

The first question was: “Is innovation a cottage industry? If so, is that because of a lack of a standard approach” warmed everybody up that was for sure. The definition supplied by @ovoinnovation was “small players, different approaches that are not scalable, with no shared solutions”.

There were plenty of thoughts on this, with a summary of some of the more interesting ones shown here:

  • “Too much competition to have one model”
  • “Companies should have their own frameworks as companies would be similar in their approach”
  • “Diverse activities without common threads or themes”
  • “Does innovation adhere to common frameworks?”
  • “Cottage industry sounds like lots of hand weavers”
  • “Hand weavers being replaced by factories”
  • “Cottage implies less professional”
  • “There is lots of adopting and applying (to innovation)”
  • Cottage maybe, not all take on ongoing formalized approach to innovation”
  • “Innovation contains artisans”
  • “There is lots of adopting and applying”
  • “Common starting point but (perhaps) different ending points”
  • “Main reason why Innovation is so important to services companies is because it’s easy to commoditise, and easier still to copy”
  • “Custom-tailored frameworks are needed”
  • “We still don’t have a common language”
  • “Not even a common language for strategic plans”

For me coming out of this ‘opening’ exchange was some real concerns.

My thinking that came out of this was “protect the known’s, reject the unknowns”. It struck me what an awful lot of reinventing of the wheel or in this case the innovation process, still does seemingly takes place. Is this either productive or value-adding for the clients who are looking for sound advice? It suites many providing advice to do this, as you come back to one of the very salient points made yesterday: “easy to commoditize, and easier still to copy”, so you offer a custom-tailored evaluation process and provide a variant, wrap it in some mystery to offer, in all truth a custom-designed solution.  So why not go with one from the very beginning to frame discussions, to establish a common framework and then explore options to advance on this? Instead it seems ‘we’ move on, look for the next one, repeating what is already actually established as common. I think we should move on from this and advance by providing a common, generally accepted innovation framework, as the starting point.

Yes, from what I read, nothing convinced me that we are NOT still in a cottage industry for innovation and surely that has to change?

Frameworks or Standards

Another part of the discussion was around frameworks or standards.

The conclusion was we lacked a framework and it is problematic. Adopting standards remain to be seen, as this can have many constraining factors. Lots of exchanges were around the use of the word ‘framework’ and there seemed to be a consensus of the better use of ‘guidelines’ would be helpful. Well at least it is right perhaps at the start of anything to suggest guidelines maybe. The other observation was “structures must be extremely loose, any framework very light”

Did the discussion advance the topic?

From my perspective it did. Within one hour a fast and furious exchange the issue of lacking a common innovation framework was raised as a real constraining issue, it got a number of people certainly interested to become more involved. So I’m hopeful as we push the argument about having a more organising framework or guidelines for innovation we might achieve the level of advancement we do require within innovation thinking.

One tweet “Innovation within parameters” summed it up nicely. Some advancement would help by framing innovation more on a common platform or around a set of guidelines. We certainly gathered more involvement and interest within the innovation community and will continue to argue for the establishment of some common approach.

Frameworks provide confidence, reliability and comparability, by working from something common surely? All we have to do is find a common starting point and that seems that it is not going to be easy, by all accounts of the exchanges that took place yesterday. Still we will push on, as the advantages certainly outweigh the concerns of protecting the ‘knowns’ and ‘easy to copy’ and differentation can be found and better demonstrated further down the innovation value chain.

The shaping of innovation- future directions

Rethinking innovation after a week where I have argued for a more common approach to innovation (see some of my recent posts )- as one that can be well structured and managed – I feel needs to be discussed next. I do fear if we don’t radically rethink innovation we are in danger of missing out on much that is coming towards us.

If we do not adopt and gain a clear understanding of (basic) innovation, its structure, process and differences in approaches we need, we will certainly struggle to move beyond the basics to the ‘promise’ of advancement that innovation should be offering.

I would like to offer some of the factors that I feel will be shaping innovation’s future; many are presently taking place but in pockets of expertise and experimentation, that we have to investigate more to understand the implications further.

What is holding innovation back?

Firstly we do need to provide some ‘bunker busting’ of the different silos of resistance:

  1. The internal functions that are presently closed off from each other
  2. The different management layers failing to communicate and talk to each other
  3. The inability to combine ‘multiple aspirations’ of suppliers, internal experts, clients and end customers on a common platform
  4. The continued weakness and recognition by middle managers of innovations value and worth.
  5. The need to break up those clusters of knowledge built by increased specialization, so the expertise can be more openly shared.
  6. Bridging the field, middle management and top executives understanding to narrow internal differences of interpretation.

Somehow we do need to break these pockets of resistence down to allow innovation to move on.

Spotting some of the trends that are emerging to challenge us even more.

  • Innovation is not the preserve of the (selected) few but the domain of the community.
  • The growing need to move on from the reliance of symbolic projects to justify innovations existence.
  • Recognizing innovation is traversing functions, entities and boundaries faster than ever.
  • Open Innovation is moving out of the R&D Lab and moving very fast across an organization for a more Open Enterprise approach
  • Collaboration is formed at the hip with Co-creation.
  • Design comes increasingly to the fore
  • The shift to ‘open’ workbooks that offer specific step-by-step guides, latest thinking to be shared and freely contributed too.
  • Platforms and ecosystems are emerging to manage complex innovation challenges
  • The power of social innovation, bottom of the pyramid thinking is ‘hot’
  • Reverse innovation and its ability to be rescaled to adapt across different markets is equally a valuable source of growth within organizations. Scaling becomes important.
  • We need to “reconnect to dominant economic activities of the larger society”, add a ‘higher’ purpose into our innovation activity. Scoping is equally important.
  • There is a growing hope we are in the final death throes of the organization, of moving even further away from the linear process that has dominated much of the 20th century thinking.

What are the implications of not advancing in innovation understanding?

  1. Innovation used to be about product, technology and R&D but it is now about value and anything that carries value; it is about creativity and entrepreneurship and it is even more tied to a clear vision so it does become a vital part of the culture of the company.
  2. We are going to have to learn to collaborate across the entire value chain but this is complex and often time-consuming. It will challenge everyone but it can be very rewarding…in faster and more relevant innovations but only if this coordination can be leveraged effectively.
  3. Defining value at the customer point and not within an organization in the R&D lab, as has been the past practice, is a significant shift. The increased focus on the consumers unmet, unarticulated or required needs by making customers central in the web of co-creators and co-creation activities that need to be orchestrated within organizations and their partners.
  4. We have seen some really dramatic shifts in research techniques to know more of what ‘pulls’ and ‘connects’ with consumers – and where more open innovation helps in delivering on this understanding. Equally customers are looking to become more engaged and involved in their products and services. Managing the dynamics and implication of this mental shift will be hard for many.
  5. The shift in emphasis to the customer and their unmet needs makes a really compelling case for increased trend spotting, scouting, aligning and recognizing behavioural changes so as to make insights a real core of your business. Understanding the true source of those ideas is a very different skill set than developing ideas simply  that are emerging from within an organization.
  6. The value of different Business Models to apply within any assessments of innovation is showing increased willingness to develop more ‘spin outs, to encourage the concepts to flourish.  Even in large organisations they are showing more commitment to separating out promising concepts to allow these newly identified opportunities to bear fruit and be more focused, so as to deliver the ‘identified’ result.
  7. The growing willingness to explore Business Model Generation as a deliberate policy  is altering the competitive landscape even more in the chase for growth. Establishing the right approach and business proposition design is becoming a must have skill in evaluation and execution.
  8. The constant ‘quest for growth’ will need an even deeper connection between Marketing and Innovation as they will continue to be two ‘twins’ as the strongest drivers of margin and revenue growth.
  9. The recognition that adopting someones elses best practice is not the ideal way to go, it has been the ‘lazy man’s’ solution needs even more challenging. Defining your specific emergent or good practices that fit your culture and context are clearly better. Your context, your culture, your resources are uniquely different and other peoples ‘best practice’ is not the right starting point.
  10. The art of spending wisely between experimentation, trial and error internally, and receiving knowledge from external expertise for understanding innovation needs to be brought into a better balance . Presently it is not, as external expertise has failed to provide decent thought leadership and internal innovation expertise has not been dedicated as it should have been on implementing the levers of innovation and achieving alignment within the organization. Greater depth of expertise needs to be injected into the equation to gain a deeper understanding of innovation management.
  11. Building a more robust ‘innovation activity system’ into managing innovation that goes beyond just simply pipelines and portfolio’s, needs thinking through. It requires a more open logic model to be articulated and built around.  Many people are contributing more insight today to allow for more early ‘open’ thinking. The pipeline needs a higher level of flexibility and diversity of end result options, and this needs to move beyond just product moving through the innovation system.
  12. There is an increased need to reposition your firm as a “fast discoverer” using rapid intelligence to built into this innovation activity system.
  13. External parties are seeking more involvement in a ‘joint’ innovation processes and development, they are increasingly reliant on each other to become a critical contributor or component provider to resolve more complex problems. There is a growing understanding these mutual dependencies are important to be managed better than at present.
  14. There is an increasing need to manage a diverse group of collaborators across a common process which might not want, or need the same end-result but do need each other, to ‘combine’ for a given concept to be realized. This new complexity of managing for different end results will be a significant challenge to identify and manage these differences across a common platform approach.

Some of the possible obstacles we need to resolve

  • The constant urge to keep trying to force change and disruption on the client with new products and services they find difficult to adopt in their “steady state” life or recognize as really necessary.
  • There is a movement that disrupting is the ‘only’ appropriate innovation solution to change existing market or segments. If this momentum is allowed to flourish and take hold the outcome for many firms will be fraught with many dangers. Managing disruptive innovation really does need deep reflection and clarification of the risks before anyone embarks on this approach.
  • The consistent difficulty of failing to create a listening culture around intellectual mobility and social platforms still lies within organizations to discover, transmit and transform ideas into competitive advantage. Managing this new source of intelligence is proving difficult for many to understand.
  • The balance and current distinctions between older techniques of more structured repositories, file orientated management, document based with the newer ones of browser-based, Web 2.0 approach that is more online often free-flowing, simultaneous wiki-like collaborations that many will have to become accustomed too is a tough area to balance.
  • The issues of achieving a strong strategic alignment by the innovation folks needs to be better understood and managed within organizations.
  • The right timeframe for innovation is what:  next quarter, next year, in three years, in what period? When is a corporation going to learn innovation does not conform to the annual financial calendar, it needs to account for this differently to allow innovations to move with its natural discovery to delivery cycle, not being shoehorned into a unnatural calendar that limits the original concept and compromises the potential result that could have been delivered for perhaps more game changing innovation if it was to be allowed the ‘right’ time .
  • The question still remains on when innovation will be totally embedded in the psyche of the corner office and that the C-level focus innovation really requires to move from emerging to established as a dedicated function.
  • The transformation of new concepts into concrete results that can be well measured is still a challenge to achieive. Innovation needs to show it can clearly make the growth contribution so often talked about but often difficult to  quantify. We do need to show the real value innovation brings in new wealth creation and growth for countries, organizations and society to advance innovations standing.

Innovation can be remarkable if we can embrace it fully

What is remarkable about innovation? It is highly dynamic.  It’s a task that anyone could do, given the time, education, clarity of purpose and the understanding of their contribution. Today, only a few people actually are allowed to work on innovation activities, yet the outcomes are ones that everyone wants and we do need to find ways to allow innovation to be part of each persons daily jobs . Having a sense of purpose to improve or change something through innovation is a powerful enabler.

Getting from where we are today, seemingly bogged down in many of the legacies of past innovation understanding, the reluctance not to adopt a basic common approach to innovation as a minimum is going to continue to limit all the ‘promise’ that is surrounding innovation. Recognising some of the above trends and the implications that are coming rapidly towards is like an express train that will speed pass as we are not yet fit to travel. We do need to rethink innovation fast or it will never achieve its real potential and we will be left simply standing on the station as the train rushes past.

Critical aspects of the Collaborative Innovation Framework

This week a collaborative innovation framework venture has been launched by Jeffrey Phillips at and myself, Paul Hobcraft at

They have opened up a wiki for anyone to join with the intention of building on these frameworks. This is at

This effort is seeking contributions, we want your engagement. It is deliberately open to be used, to be improved upon and to form a platform for a standard thinking through for innovation providing it works under the creative commons license it has.

For far too long innovation has been left to chance. We are interested in explaining the many facets that make up a successful innovation endeavor but it can be extremely tough to capture and explain the complexity of innovation. Innovation is dynamic and throwing open this set of models allows for it to be constantly improved for all to benefit.

Four Critical Slides
Here are just four of the critical slides from the different decks you can view at slideshare as well as on the two leading innovation sites of, with the opening article on this discussion at:

We have also suggested these presentation outlines can be best viewed in this ‘given’ order:

Innovation Business Architecture

Innovation Reference Framework

Examination of Innovation Types

The four critical slides to provide you an overview are:

The multiple layers to build

These are the multiple layers and should be followed in a systematic way. You work from outside in for building on each to get a more connected result from working through these.

The four orientation points to keep mapping back too

Good innovation needs to map back to the Strategy. The corporate strategy and what will enable innovation within the organization need to be considered. Also what this slide shows you is the real value of having what we call as anchoring points, the orientation of what you are needed to map back too with your innovation efforts.

The Five Critical Focal Points within Innovation

This slide shows the five critical areas that support and sustain innovation. There are ‘musts’ to have and each of these five aspects need carefully thinking through.

The recognition of the different types of innovation

Lastly, often totally under-appreciated is each type of innovation is different, in lots of ways. You need to consider an approach that aligns to the strategy and you need to appreciate the attributes, skills and understanding of the different innovation types to know what you need to have in place or bridge to deliver against the specific innovation strategy. So often this recognition is never fully appreciated and where innovation really does break down because the alignment is not fully made of matching resources, capabilities with the approach needed to be taken. Knowing the differences and why is vital.

Explore these different decks, some of it will seem blindingly obvious, some perhaps not. Come join in the open collaborative discussion on the wiki at and make a contribution or seek an answer.

The thinking behind creating an open collaborative innovation framework

I often get very frustrated at the huge loss of energy by many organizations on piecing together a more robust innovation structure.Somehow they lose it. They forget to think it fully through, rush to build some of the component parts and then spend a lot of their time, back filling or bridging the gaps they created in the first place.

I really would like to reduce this diffusion of spent energies, so these efforts are directed at the critical points of understanding within the innovation process, to drive through new initiatives in a sustaining way. If we can gain this depth of understanding by all, then there is this greater identification to the whole. Also we gain a better appreciate of the parts we are playing within the system to make a more positive contribution to growing your innovation activities in a clearer environment. It would improve innovation identification and outcome results.

So with this thinking behind us, Jeffrey Phillips at and my organization through, we began to talk through and exchange ideas and concepts for building a collaborative innovation framework. We wanted any end result to be open and freely shared with anyone. We wanted others to build on these early attempts to move, if we can, to a better standard. We recognized whatever we produced needed adapting to meet different circumstances but was generic enough to be recognized.

The aim of attempting a collaborative innovation framework came from this opening exchange between us.We are keen to have a growing contribution so we can establish the validity of the approach and demonstrate that the model is a starting point for any kind of innovation effort.

To this end we have set up a wiki for this and encourage anyone wanting to contribute or simply be involved to register and join in any discussions to advance this collaborative effort. This is at

We submitted these concepts for unveiling our approach at, with the opening article on this discussion at: and also at that is found here We want to engage also our own network of practitioners and draw in the broader innovation community wherever we can. We want the ‘wisdom of the innovation crowd’ with your help.

Outlining our approach

We decided that it has to remain as simple as it can. The results published initially are a series of PowerPoint presentations not dressed up as ‘sexy, all bells and whistles’ but basic in delivering the appropriate message. We broke down the thinking into three slide decks as we felt you can become overwhelmed and lose the many separate messages that make up the total collaborative innovation framework. Let me explain the three decks briefly:

The first, Innovation Business Architecture, starts by “peeling” the innovation onion.  We recommend starting at the strategic level, and working down through several other “layers”, including people and processes.

The goal of this first model is to deconstruct the important drivers and influencers which will direct innovation activities. What is important is to recognize your anchor points for ‘doing’ innovation. The strategic need and what we call the orientation points or anchors. The purpose of the IBA deck is a deconstruction that will suggest an innovation framework.

The second presentation, Core Innovation Reference Framework, builds on the first presentation by using the deconstructed model to identify five “areas” of focus for innovation success: Strategic Context; Trajectories, Discovery and Insight; Systematic innovation Process;  Go to Market; and Enabling and Scalable Infrastructure.

These five “areas” of focus for innovation detail how the firm sets strategy (Strategic Context) for innovation, how it gathers insights and trends (Trajectories), how it prepares products for the market (Go to Market), how it enables and scales innovation activities internally and externally and how it conducts systemic innovation activities consistently. Any innovation process must map back to these suggested five focus areas and fully considered.

The third presentation, Examination of Innovation Types, examines a range of innovation “types” within the context of the innovation framework defined in the Core Innovation Reference Framework deck. Using the framework we can establish which focus areas are critical for innovation success in the different innovation types.  For example, we can see that Needs-based innovation relies on Trajectories, Discovery and Insight for success because of the importance placed on customer needs.

Investigating the innovation “types” within the framework provides more detailed and careful examination of the actual work involved when innovating using that “type” or approach. There are really numerous key differences between the different ‘types’ of innovation, distinct attributes to successful deployment.

These can be also viewed at slideshare as well as on the two leading innovation sites of and and we suggested best viewed in this ‘given’ order:

The importance is in the potential takeaways

We believe that creating a common innovation model or framework will have a number of benefits, for innovation practitioners, for companies and for innovators.  It can become the common reference point to build from. It can be used repeatedly to refresh and validate changes in thinking and can allow us all to move on from focusing on the process of innovation to the leveraging of the innovation process- a huge step in our opinion.

Who gets value from this?

For a corporate innovator or practitioner, a common innovation model provides a clear starting point for innovation, developed and validated by a number of innovation experts.  This common model accelerates acceptance internally and reduces the work necessary to clarify and implement an innovation approach.  The model also demonstrates what factors must be considered when innovating, which helps define the investments and constituents involved.

For a company or organization considering an innovation initiative or program, a common innovation model removes uncertainty around innovation, provides more clarity, and helps establish the parameters of the effort. It highlights the areas of the business impacted by an innovation effort, and dives specifically into the needs and requirements by innovation “type”.  A common model also eliminates the confusion caused by competing consultants, theories and philosophies.

For innovation consultants or advisors, a common innovation model creates more business since clients can articulate their needs more easily through a common innovation model.  Reducing confusion and uncertainty more firms will conduct more innovation work more frequently, leading to more business and more innovation.  Work moves from process to outcomes, giving better returns.

What we are asking of you- the next steps

We ask that you review and think through the innovation approach we’ve documented.  As you consider these models, please recommend updates, edits or additions to the model, with special focus on the Core Innovation Reference Framework and the Examination of Innovation Types.

You are encouraged to send your feedback, updates or enhancements to any part of the model to:

Paul Hobcraft of Agility Innovation                                 


Jeffrey Phillips of OVO Innovation                                  

We will publish updates to the model and we encourage active discussion and commentary on the Collaborative Innovation Reference Framework at the dedicated Wiki:

We encourage you to visit, join and comment so we can build on this further. Innovation needs to move on, we do need to rethink how we can leverage innovation more, not spend the present enormous amounts of resources, energy and debate on achieving a basic understanding.

We must leverage innovation for our collective futures and not stay bogged down in deciding the innovation process on a piecemeal basis.