You hear constantly the need for greater speed, increased agility, and effective delivery from ideas to implementations for innovation. Yet we still keep these organizational needs locked into those old structures, systems and processes that have been layered one on top of the other as we learnt about innovation over the years. We often simply kept adapting these (often badly) into the existing way we were managing innovation. Isn’t it time we addressed this growing issue of adapting, stopped the compromising and started redesigning our innovation systems from afresh with present-day leading innovation practice thinking?
Managing innovation as a system is no different from managing IT for example. You get to a given point where the costs of running innovations through your existing systems continue to rise. You begin to diminish your innovation performance. Speed to market seems never to improve the way you want it too, and more importantly delivery against the identified market opportunity seemingly gets more and more compromised. The risks of cutting corners seemingly grows every day, and you under-deliver on the opportunity first seen. No wonder eventually leaders begin to question and lose confidence in their innovation abilities. The results increasingly become suboptimal.
Is there an alternative?
I believe we need to re-engineer innovation differently and more radically. Without doubt we have all learnt enormously from the evolution of innovation and its management but there is a time to rethink the whole rationale behind innovation, its systems, structure and process. Increasingly organizations are appreciating their unique but surprisingly precious few distinctive innovation capabilities that (can) set them apart. Understanding these does start giving the strategic perspective of what is core and to be protected and developed, that meet the strategic priorities, against what needs to be increasingly outsourced or relegated in management attention and support.
We need to challenge what we have in place and understand what needs renewing and what needs ‘letting go’. I have already written about a twelve step process for innovation renewal in an earlier blog (December 2010- http://bit.ly/gvomnr) that offers a renewal step-by-step process.
Companies have hundreds of layered capabilities built-up within innovation.
What any review should account for is the capabilities that really matter, the ones that are or should be distinctive, that can set you apart in innovation. Not just those than simply keeping the innovation business engine running but the ones that extract the maximum toque out of innovation, from idea to implementation and delivery into the market.
We do need to totally redesign the innovation engine.
The best thing possible to do though is sitting down and totally redesigning a new innovation engine that few others can emulate, based on the capabilities identified as needed and core, mapped to strategic priorities. Out of this you will begin to identify your legacy systems, the layers of obsolesce within the system to innovate that should be challenged and replaced irrespective, and updated whatever way you eventually decide to approach your innovation renewal.
A tip here is those distinctive capabilities that do or can set you apart also need to be coherent across your whole organization. Everyone needs to contribute into changing those older habits and systems as a top priority for all functions, as the identified distinctive capabilities are providing the ways to distinguish you from others. These might be based on speed and insight- to respond rapidly to changing consumer needs, translation of customer insight by meeting these specific need and ensuring delivery from idea to market is better than anyone else’s. Any redesign needs corporate backing and organisation identification.
Innovation is really the only game in town for value potential
Can we afford to keep our existing innovation ‘systems’ in place? How much longer can we keep denying to ourselves and admit that we do not have the best innovation systems in place? Isn’t it time to retire older practices built up around innovation as they emerged in different ad hoc ways over the last few years and really redesign the innovation system, process and structures from top to bottom based on leading or emerging innovation practice?
Of course there will be most certainly regular course directions based on changing innovation understanding and there seen value (eg, value of networks, collaborative enterprises etc) but if they are based on rigorous value understanding, risk and market assessment of what is valued in innovation activity then consistent renewal is built into this work from the beginning, so ‘legacy drag’ is minimised. it would be ideal if this was driven by a core group within an innovation unit. See my blog partly on this http://bit.ly/fQW6Jq
The need is for a high level of judgement and understanding of innovation.
Of course any innovation redesign will need a high level of judgement. There is a time where management not only should be demanding more speed, agility and effective delivery of innovation but must equally be prepared to provide the guidance and direction, so as to enable those distinct innovation capabilities to be well designed and optimal for the future delivery of the organizations innovation needs. Leadership needs to raise its own innovation bar, be prepared to junk the legacy that is built up around much of the existing practices around innovation today within the innovation systems and support and enable the organization to be able to deliver on speed, agility, effectively and on time on its core capabilities identified and agreed as critical.
There is certainly a right time to deal with the legacies within our innovation system. Approaching this through more of an optimal fresher designing approach that builds around those distinct core innovation capabilities should becomes a necessary strategic requirement, earlier than later, so organizations can match strategic desire with the ability to deliver on it through latest practices not old ones built on past habits and out of date understanding.