Striking the balance for exploitation across different innovation horizons

Nobody said innovation was easy and I was reminded of that recently. Innovation can certainly be, without doubt, fairly complicated in larger organizations. What must not be forgotten is that we must manage the innovation activities across all the three horizons of innovation and that adds even more complexity.

What is ensured from this complexity is that you can expect innovation does get very entangled in balancing out the resources that are available and needed, to handle all the conflicting, competing demands placed within the innovation system. For the innovation teams involved in the multiple tasks, getting this balance right and also trying to justify further support to keep all the activities progressing on time, is tough. We need to exploit and we need to explore and those often require different mind-sets or structures.

Each of the innovation horizons can demand different management’s attention for allocation, response and focus.  Horizon one represents the company’s core businesses today, horizon two includes the rising stars of the company that will, over time, become new core businesses, whereas horizon three consists of nascent business ideas and opportunities that could be future growth engines. This link takes you to a series of discussions on the three horizons for a deeper explanation.

Dual needs are often conflicting

How often do you face the real difficulties of striking the right balance between those dual needs of meeting what is important to service in today’s business for short-term performance and targets, with the other critical aspect of pushing the performance into the next horizons of innovation? Those future horizons that offer the space for the new concepts and ideas that eventually lay down the expected foundations for your continued growth.

Managing across the different horizons really places a complexity for constantly juggling and balancing out different sets of high-yielding performances, often from the same team. To help we need to have a much clearer understanding on the aspects that make up innovation management.

Grouping the necessary activities

Here I’ve attempted to group into what I feel are the four critical focal attributes and their activities that are needed to be managed, planned out and pursue across the innovation horizon mix to deliver on the innovation expected . These need a fairly advanced organization structure to be managed effectively.

I feel there are four critical activities to balance out across the three innovation time horizons.

  1. Strategic planning, portfolio management to manage the growth management pressures
  2. Project productivity, execution and disciplines to drive the system
  3. Managing relationships, increasing more external through open innovation and emerging new platform management techniques and collaborations to accelerate activities
  4. Securing, anchoring and developing the talent to deliver the innovation needed.

These are not so easy to work on simultaneously, it needs some deeper thinking through and management skills to balance the many conflicting pressures found within the innovation system. Here I just discuss the concepts and activities within each. These need to be thought through individually by each organization to balance out which is not an easy task, often not as well-considered by external observers or advisors as they should be.

  • Strategic planning, portfolio management

The balances here are focused more on evaluating emerging opportunities; ensuring portfolio consistency and demonstrating where the portfolio returns lie. Then strategically and tactically working to exploit and combine any cross-over projects, updating on a constant on-going prioritization the impact of the different growth platforms, and finally monitoring the activities that are working themselves through the innovation system for communicating their changing value.

  • Project productivity and execution

Here the focus is far more on the disciplines within the system. The optimization and appropriate allocation of the necessary resources for embedding project management disciplines, demonstrating constantly the validity of what you are doing, reducing rework, demonstrating the value of the activity to meet the required end result going through the innovation pipeline.

There is a growing need is to build up clear prototyping and scaling techniques, plan to ‘inject’ dedicated specialists into projects to drive and offer appropriate advise where needed and be constantly ready to show viability from the work progressing through the pipeline . Finally, there is the need to find the right balance between customization and standardization techniques to provide the optimum yield from these activities.

  • Management across external and internal relationships is complex.

More and more open innovation seen as accelerating the innovation activities is placing a real increase on the demands for exploiting and promoting different collaborations platforms. As there is an increasing need to attract different partners for working across often very diverse platforms this is placing increasing demand in the management of a complex set of dynamics across new and ever-changing relationships with outside parties.

There is a need to explore different techniques here that involve discovery syndicates, venture networks, deploy absorption teams and seeking out a range of idea and technology sourcing networks to feed into the internal organizations process and systems. Each plays its part in providing focus and exploring new yields to accelerate the innovation activities.

  • Managing the talent needed for innovation

Firstly securing, then anchoring and developing the diverse range of skills required to manage in a complex innovation system is increasing hard to complete. Not only do you have to map out workforce supply and demand, analysis and account for many different career preferences to meet personal circumstances, you have to leverage the skills across different needs and these three horizons. The growing importance of sharing knowledge, both tacit and explicit, that can be fully absorbed and exploited requires an absorptive capacity structure needs consistent attention and re-fuelling.

Four aspects that offer increasing value are, developing up a system for assessing the impact analysis of where resources can offer the best return, exploring where you can work to improving faster cycle times, building technology and knowledge libraries, and finally exploring different portfolio scenarios, all need to be simultaneously developed and exploited.

Lastly, the structuring of effective teams always needs that consistent attention. The ability to constantly build up the competencies and capacity for more ‘responsive’ and depth in skills. These are increasingly required to meet the changing innovation activities that are expected over the complete innovation development life cycle, where fresh discoveries are always occurring and you can reposition resources to capitalize on these ‘breaking’ opportunities.

How are you managing across these four?

Each of these four critical attributes is certainly placing increased demand on those that are managing within the innovation system. It requires for some advanced planning and attention within the management of innovation. Of course this grows in complexity by the size of organizations innovation activities and need.

Recognizing each of these four and being able to balance the often conflicting demands across different innovation horizons and competing for scarce resources within organizations is far from easy. It needs dedicated focus within innovation management.

How are you tackling this complex need for different high-yielding management within innovation? This is not an easy task and sometimes we external commentators forget when we keep layering on more ’timely’ advice and poking around with our innovation sticks. It is always very different when you are in the ‘eye of the storm’ than being the observer.

Certainly a ‘tip of the hat’ to those that manage within this complexity, it is not easy to balance out all the competing, often relentless demands placed on innovation’s exploitation needed across the three different horizons.

Thanks to the Research & Technology Executive Council for their past benchmarking in these areas.

5 thoughts on “Striking the balance for exploitation across different innovation horizons

  1. Pingback: Mapping innovation across the three horizons | Paul4innovating's Blog

  2. Pingback: Seeing Your Innovating Future Across Different Horizons | Paul4innovating's Blog

  3. Pingback: Fusion, Flow and Fluidity are needed in our Management Practices | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

  4. Pingback: Fusion, Flow and Fluidity are needed in our Management Practices – Innovation Excellence

  5. Pingback: The future of managing will be through ecosystems and platforms | Ecosystems 4 innovators

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