There are so many aspects to get right in innovation. These can be ensuring the culture, climate and environment for innovation are working well, it could mean setting up processes, well-designed procedures and structures, it can be providing innovation governance. Each part has a vital part to play in being combined for innovation, so it can function but these are not the core. Our identification with innovation is that core.
The core lies in the scope and definitions, the context that innovation is set and the identification with these. How often do organizations fail because they rushed into innovation, along those classic lines of: “let’s experiment and learn as we go” as their mentality. We fail because we don’t take the necessary time to examine the significant differences in innovation terminology, in the different ways or types of innovation, in gaining from ‘evidence based’ research and experimentation. What we expect to see from our day-to-day work seems not to apply to our innovation selection criteria. We experiment indiscriminately, poking a stick around the opportunity haystack looking for that elusive ‘golden’ needle. Continue reading →
We still do not seem to understand all the linkages that make up innovation. We just continue to struggle because we don’t connect all the essential parts together. We need too. I think there are different components that when combined can form the innovation ‘glue.’
Let me suggest some that can be combined well within a broader framework I think is emerging from work I’m currently working upon and being conducted in a collaborative effort showing increasing promise.
People are the last great innovation frontier and great connectors
People are essential across all of innovation and its useful production; innovation does not work unless you have full engagement, commitment and desire from the people involved. Everything else we provide in tools, techniques and methods only enables and supports that one vital cog in the need to turn the innovation wheel, our people, and their commitment to ‘generate to innovate’.
Innovation is the last people-centric process. While many other business processes or functions have changed consistently over the decades, innovation has been placing more demands on its people than any other business process or function and as yet, we cannot automate this. We rely on engagement, on relying on people wanting to be involved, sometimes we simply just seem to hope with the lack of support or encouragement they often seem to get!
To manage innovation you have to move across a broad spectrum of activities. You need to think through Structure, Strategy, Processes, Culture, Metrics and a host of other aspects to support a robust innovation management system.
When it comes to fostering innovation we do get more into the fuzzy part that for many is made up of more the intangibles that covers culture, climate and conditions to innovate. These increasingly make up the environment for innovation. There is another side of the equation, less fuzzy if you determine its parts well, and that is its governance.
For me, the environment and governance make up the formal and informal part of fostering innovation. I’d like to touch on both here in this blog.
“Culture is something we can’t touch but we can feel”
All around us we have culture. Where we live, how we see ourselves against others, who we identify with and how we react when ‘our’ culture gets threatened. We become comfortable, sometimes complacent and treat ‘our’ culture as something that is just there, just around us, wrapping us up in a warm blanket.
Every now and again we get confronted. It can be within the community we live, it can be within our organizations. Innovation is one of those confronting points that challenge our accepted culture.
Organizational culture forms an integral part of our general functioning. A strong culture tends to indicate a set of shared values that move the ‘whole’ along we then get that feeling we are on the same track. The more we integrate, the more we coordinate, the more we socialize we eventually create the accepted boundaries, that feeling of growing identity among ourselves that seems to signal a similar commitment to the organization.
The sudden demand for innovation needs managing thoughtfully
I keep coming back to the leadership of innovation; we need to move it from the peripheral to a more central one. This is not so much in a leader’s desire and need for innovation, which always seems well stated, but in their ability to lead it, to have it not just in their mind but in their real follow-through, in action and attitude, in their deepening engagement and involvement to it.
“Leadership for innovation can’t simply be delegated”, so tell me how many times have you heard that one? Yet it always seems to be pushed down the organization when you look a little closer. Running a day-to-day business, reacting to the events, achieving the performance to maintain the momentum, planning the future is demanding but innovation is absolutely central to sustaining and securing the future but does it really get enough of the CEO’s time? I think it should figure more in their time but how can this be achieved?
I certainly don’t envy global leaders in trying to balance all that is crowding in on them, that is making up their daily, weekly and monthly agenda’s. Something always has to give and innovation is one of those malleable parts whereas other more pressing ‘demands’ are more real, tangible and definitive and innovation gets constantly squeezed out at the top. Regretfully for many it does seem innovation ends up as important but not urgent for them to focus upon.
“The art of innovation needs to be broken out of the science that needs to be applied, and then knowing its entire component parts then recombined in sustaining, thoughtful ways. We do need to harness the energy of innovation and we are not yet fully achieving that”.
Innovation is a long hard and tough journey. Regretfully we do ourselves no favours in not having a common language, a repository of proven techniques and methodologies. We often continue to layer on to the existing often failing to consolidate and validate. I get frustrated as you look around there are most of the answers but not the ‘attention span’ or the real incentive to go and properly learn it, to master it. We lack discipline in innovation although that might sound counter to the way innovation is often presented. The art of innovation needs to be broken out of the science that needs to be applied………
This was how I started in a reply to an email sent by Ralph-Christian Ohr (@ralph_ohr). He was commenting on my recent series on the Three Horizon framework, I had collated and sent this to him and Tim Kastelle (@timkastelle) to comment upon. This had been updated recently and published in the site of www.innovationexcellence.com over five days recently. Ralph clearly caught me in a reflective mood when I replied.
Sometimes you would be amazed at the underlying tensions that occur when you get into those discussions around the board table on what and where innovation contributes to strategic direction.
Even managing the present portfolio of innovation initiatives gets caught up in these underlying tensions as it becomes another opportunity to open up the old wounds of bruising past battles and get back into those discussions again.
Suddenly the CFO becomes animated over the uncertainties; the research director grows defensive, and the marketing director more strident in why it is constructed that way. The HR director raises their concerns on stretching the resources too thinly and suddenly a fast and furious open debates erupts. Then the Supply Chain director throws in the concerns that the system will not cope with the sudden influx of new introductions in the remaining part of the year.
Each has a valued perspective but much of these are based on past positions, attitudes built up from other pitch battles and scores to be settled. The CEO listens and silently thinks to himself: “what happened to the series of bonding exercises that we had all had invested in, suddenly just gone”. Continue reading →