Will we ever learn to manage innovation?

I was asking myself when are we ever going to really learn about how to manage innovation? Reading through the latest global survey results from McKinsey entitled ‘Innovation & Commercialization, 2010’ at http://fwd4.me/cRK and you must wonder with all the activity (and hype) surrounding innovation why we do not make the type of positive progress you should expect in innovation management.

There are very positive signs innovation is emerging stronger than ever from the recent bout of economic ‘flu’ we all have been going through. The report starts on the high note “84% of all executives say innovation is extremely or very important to their companies’ growth strategy”- yippee! The darker side is the ‘but’- “little has changed in the way they generate ideas and turn them into products and services plus many other challenges remain remarkably consistent”- oh dear!

Do we ever learn?

The core barriers to successful innovation have not changed according to this survey. What will make the connection if innovation is so important yet not changing in the way we manage it? The answer does lie in the reports tentative suggestion “formalize processes” but that does need a more detailed grasp of what makes up innovation management and much of corporate management does not seemingly have the willingness or commitment to learn this.

How can we change this lack of progress in learning?

I’ve been working on this in different ways that include some detailed researching, collaborating with like minded people and exploring the different aspects that do connect the multiple strands that make up innovation.

McKinsey’s report does confirm (thankfully) that the biggest challenge is organization and suggests “improvement in understanding in this area would make the most profound difference in innovation performance.” So I and my collaborating partners are on to something here.

I have been amazed at the different attributes needed to make the multiple types of innovation work, be this open innovation, business model innovation, design-led, needs driven, operational, service excellence innovation, technology focused or research & development innovation. Add in simply ‘management innovation’ and you really begin to see the complexity to grasp for improving the chances of a sustaining success in innovation as more likely. No wonder it becomes difficult for CEO’s, HR Managers to structure and organise their innovation efforts in better ways but you can.

More on this emerging work will be outlined later in future blogs. For this blog let me suggest simply:

Steps to help  improve the innovation process include:

  • Recognizing, allocating and aligning the talent to the required task and training them in the required attributes needed to be in place for the ‘type’ of innovation needed
  • Ensure leadership is clear in its needs to achieve and which options within the innovation types available can best be applied to realise this.
  • Have a process that is well thought through and tightly managed so as to reduce the ad hoc parts right down so the necessary ‘resource energy’ is channelled appropriately to meet the strategic needs.
  • Keep constantly attentive to the relationships that go within and beyond the company walls and focus on the techniques that reduce ‘destructive tension’ and replace this with ‘constructive tension’
  • Simply recognizing innovation does require a formalized process and the appropriate attention and efforts are constantly at ‘top of mind’ and clearly understood within the organization to align strategic- innovation priorities and this ‘need’ is paramount to succeed.

If innovation is a real priority then management within organizations does need to invest and learn about it more. They do need to have this necessary fuller understanding of the process from beginning to the end and what makes it tick repeatedly, and work effectively and efficiently, otherwise the next survey will be telling us the same repeating story, that little has changed in innovation understanding in a world of arguably constant change.

It is strange if this lack of learning continues on the required understanding of what does need organizing and recognizing in structuring the required innovation management. I, for one, would like to change this.

 

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