One of the toughest aspects within Innovation is making the Business Case. Much of the information is imperfect, the returns are often fuzzy and unclear in the early stages and the doubters line up ready to block and deter new ideas from entering the commercialization process. Justifying new innovation can be often really hard to make to others.
How can you reduce down many of these uncertainties?
Often what is missing is ensuring the innovation business case takes a clear methodical approach and builds the arguments up in a sound structured way. Far too many cases are based on emotion and gut feel. Some of these clearly work but an awful lot get lost along the way, especially in the more structured organisation.
So often good ideas are ‘killed’ because the Business Case was not as well thought through as possible. It simply became the necessary chore at the end of a set of events that were in themselves a mountain to climb. It is putting together the best possible business case is the last nine yards, sometimes the hardest to achieve but the accumulation of all your efforts rest on this document in many cases.
So often our innovation health seems to change abruptly or equally just simply slip away. It could be caused by many things: a call for reorganization or restructuring or a key part of the team decides to leave. It might be the organization has a second quarterly drop in sales and profits or those layoff simply keep cutting away until you are into the bone. Suddenly the ‘beating heart’ of innovation seems to slow and sometimes even stops completely. Innovation abruptly goes into intensive care.
We so often miss the ‘vital signs’ of healthy innovation as we get caught up in the issues of the day, in defending our corner or simply playing safe, hoping the ‘ill winds’ that constantly blow over us go away. In the meantime we often we fail to recognize what has ebbed away in creative energy or innovation initiatives until we are heading for the emergency ward, fighting for our competitive lives as others who we had been competitively jogging along with have stayed fit and healthy and simply ‘kept on innovating’ and pulled away. Where did our fitness actually go?
So how do we check our innovation vital signs?
Let me be clear, this is not my blog entry I really wish it was. It is the relevant part of a blog written by Sarah Stein Greenberg (http://ideas.economist.com/blog/design-mind) that just seemed to hit one of those ‘buttons’ that sum something up so well, and in this case, I think the best compliment is to just share it. I’ve put in what I feel are appropriate headings for ease of reading only.
It is about the power of design and interaction to make something new happen fast.
Tackling messy problems
“A pressing question for more established economies… is how to foster more entrepreneurship and innovation despite greater stability and predictability. One method that companies and individuals are adopting is design thinking—the approach of scaling or “group-sizing” the way that solo designers have always worked to enable to cross-functional teams tackle messy problems that don’t fit neatly into any one person’s job description or academic discipline.
Design thinking is one way to simulate some of the extremely dynamic conditions of an emerging economy and foster entrepreneurship in the US.
Forcing direct contact with users
How are we going to really unlock the true potential of frontline managers, middle managers and the whole workforce for ‘seeing’ and engaging for their contribution to innovation?
Far too many organizations still don’t provide the opportunity for everyone to contribute to innovation. I think as open innovation moves from the labs and research centres then OI will be one of the ways for a shift in thinking to take place, not just with the outside world but within the inside organization for a number of reasons.
Critical needs of open innovation are the trust, the behaviors and the relationships that need to be at the forefront of thinking when you engage in more opening up to fresh avenues of innovation thinking. I think this changing mindset of how to manage within will permeate throughout the organization more and more as these (often dormant but available) skills get put into practice more.
We struggle to get rid of the ‘command and control’ approach to encourage more distributed sharing and exchanges to reflect the need today of being more agile and fluid in how we meet rapidly changing market conditions and counter threats or seize breaking opportunities.
How can we influence leadership in everyday contexts?
As someone who runs a small, independent consulting and research business that is 100% focused on innovation, I am always grateful for the continued involvement of the bigger consulting companies in producing sound, relevant and topical research issues on innovation. They ‘stoke the innovation fire within’, they confirm what you felt you knew but needed it to be validated. These great sources include McKinsey, Bain & Co, Booz & Co, Monitor, BCG, ADL and to a lesser degree Accenture for innovation research. There are others but the ability to have access to C-Level thinking is this groups real strength and so they come more immediate to mind.
The emphasis is on distinct capabilities for innovation success.
Taking a little more time out to delve into the excellent articles provided by Europe’s top innovation on-line magazine, http://www.innovationmanagement.se one article caught my eye. It compelled me to comment upon as it relates to Singapore that is dear to my heart. This was about the Singapore Management University (http://www.smu.edu.sg) and the new Presidents vision of its future place.
Inter-disciplinary research for equipping students for comprehensive solutions
Professor Arnoud De Meyer, the new president, recently made his inaugural address laying out the future of SMU. He stated “Inter-disciplinary research and teaching will be key to producing graduates who can give comprehensive solutions for a changing society”.