Building the Core Competencies for Innovation

Building capabilities 4For my final post of the year, I went back to some of my thinking through, those around the building blocks needed in developing the core competencies for innovation that we need to have in place for realizing its true potential.

For me, the bedrock of innovation is built upon competencies, capabilities, and capacities and all these involve people as well as technology. They go hand in hand in our connected world.

Building these is the core of my own innovation offering in consulting, in advising, mentoring and coaching. My work constantly “maps” back to this essential three “C” of competencies, capabilities, and capacities.

Let me offer some thoughts that build around a framework I work through.

I often break my explanations down on this building core competency into eight parts.

We have two levels to it. The first (or higher level) is the need for a 1) Unifying framework, 2) to gain alignment and this needs two essential aspects to be well-clarified. We need to establish 3) a working blueprint and a clear understanding of 4) the business focus orientation for innovation to reside in.

The outcomes of this top-tier framing then we can begin to construct the underlying level of 5) well-designed competencies that need to be pursued, we need to move the organization or the innovation activities into ones that are seeking out this constant alignment and this needs building 6) critical behaviours, a seeking out of 7) motivators and finally, 8) the dependencies we must have to map back and advance our core and build our innovation competencies upon.

Let me explain these a little more, they tie together.
  • The Unifying framework needed. Competencies that are going to be built need to fit the core design and aspirations of the organization. These are strategically defined and combine organizational goals and individuals development. Knowing the vision, direction and intent of the organization will enable innovation to be designed top work with these. I believe there are different innovation types as pathways to pursue. A dedicated site has been put together to understand the potentially different innovation types (in collaboration with  Jeffrey Phillips over at Ovo Innovation).It can be found at and explores the necessary business architecture, provides a detailed innovation reference framework and examines the different innovation types through a unique lens. Each innovation lens builds upon different capabilities and competencies needed. We also do need a common language of success and innovation’s contribution to this and again in a collaboration with Ovo, we designed the Innovation Executive Work Mat (initial whitepaper) as the overarching need to have in place. The whole point of both of these thinking through positions was to raise the bar of understanding around ‘different’ innovation, create this better fit and strive towards this alignment strategically and operationally. The net effect is it does prompt a greater desire, clarity of purpose, identification, and fit, required at the senior management level and in general for innovation management construction.
  • Gaining Alignment. Alignment is one of the hardest tasks, especially in large organizations. There is the need to address the corporate alignment, the granularity that always occurs in specific goals and tasks. Having a clear, well- articulated strategic innovation document, one of the outcomes of working through the Executive Work Mat frame you can address the multiple points of identification. You can determine the competencies required of everyone for innovation to be more within the core of the organization as well as you can address those that are specific. The approaches taken to alignment must continue to map back to 1) the business strategy, 2) vision and missions, 3) the innovation needs and 4) the pathway development that is taken to achieve this alignment.
  • The Working Blueprint. My approach to blueprints might be different to others. It needs to have established the key dependency decisions, the honest assessment of the key aspects in the likelihood of success by determining the milestones to identify and move towards, the critical spotting of the gaps in critical competencies that are present today. I have built and continue to develop my thinking here through a dedicated website for what I call the innovation fitness dynamics, taking a structured approach to the development. This is a journey towards innovation fitness; it is dynamic and has nine stages to work through. This is a long journey of exploration and experimenting. This approach lays out a process to manage the development of the capabilities and competencies needed. The blueprint is staged and planned, dependent on the overarching strategic approach to innovation
  • The Business Focus Orientation. I look at four aspects here a) is it competitive b) Is it well-structured and designed c) Is it highly entrepreneurial in its design and execution and finally, d) Is it built on a collaborative basis
    • Competitive needs to think through the action orientation, the business acumen that is needed, the customer engagement intent and the result focus outcomes expected.
    • The well-structured part is the decision-making process, the level of (dedicated) project management, how much is self-managed in learning, what level of supervisory skills and the design of a talent management approach.
    • The entrepreneurial skill set is how much agility, flexibility, change, risk taking, new knowledge, and expertise is gained and then applied to solutions pursued, that builds confidence.
    • Then in the collaborative part it is the levels of collaborations achieved, in the manner of communication and relationship building, the ability to manage conflict management, the development leadership applied and the interpersonal effectiveness by leading and influencing others in the pursuit of innovation solutions.

Then we set about a detailed structuring of what constitutes the core competencies

  1. The Well-designed competencies that emerge due to the working through the above. These can then be described by knowing the knowledge and skills required. By building these to reflect novel and complex situations and innovation is often most certainly both you can begin to build a “sticky” competence set that will remain relevant even if content knowledge changes as it continues to align to the above. The importance of clarity in performance levels, expectations and the understanding of a constant improving metric build this competency framing up. The whole ethos is to seek out deeper learning experiences and having exposure on knowing where to apply these in meeting different challenges and opportunities. The ongoing dialogue builds from this dynamic learning approach to understanding how performance can become better by practice and learning objective. I very much like to use the absorptive capacity framework for this knowledge learning journey.
  1. Critical behaviors. It is seeking and identifying those positive behaviors that advance innovation. These need to be at individual, team and organization levels. Again it is a learning journey, of experimenting, clarifying and then embedding ones that work. These need to be recognized as constantly fluid, adaptive and agile. Constantly asking what enhances perform at each of the three levels, what gives impact and movement and can be measured, adopted, seen and valued by others.
  1. Seeking out the motivators. Innovation is tough as much of it remains unclear, in plain sight and needs to be realized. The whole motivation effect works on being observable, measurable and clear. The constant revisiting ‘intent and purpose’ gives identification, we need to shift to ultimate outcomes. Basic motivations rise as identification with an achievement orientation, exploring the prevailing attitudes, values and self-concepts become the well-seen framework to be judged against, where achievement orientation prevails and is recognized.
  1. Finally building all the dependencies. Taking an open stance to innovation, its discovery, investigation, its progression in its different stages from concepts to prototypes, to final outcomes and commercialization requires a real ‘network effect’ of collaborators. Today we recognize that we need to have an externally focused outlook to learning, (relating to the actual world, outside-in) seeking expertise, open up to diversity and specialization as well as knowing where the leveraging points are within the internally focused needs (of our world, inside-out) of who does what, who can influence, support, decide and become more engaged and involved. Dependencies are highly dynamic and fluid. It is tapping into creativity, seeking out opinion and expertise and feeling a growing level of freedom. We need to work on the four parts here a) critical thinking b) complex problem solving, c) judgment and decision-making and d) active engagement and learning. We need to fill all the gaps

In summary.

Innovation needs to be dynamic; it cannot survive in a static environment, it needs to search out opportunities and quickly capitalize on these. The routines we build to support these dynamic environments equally need to be infused with this dynamic tendency. Asking constantly about our routines what has the potential to be far more evolutionary in nature, differentiating, critically enabling and supporting.

Innovation does need to be linked to a clear sense of purpose. The need to build the innovation capital comes from pulling together our intangible assets and most of these are learning capitals that our people, their relationships and the leveraging of the structural capitals give us the foundation for value identification, creation, and realization. Knowing how to set about the building of core competencies, building capacity and capabilities is critical to design in any innovation endeavor, or simply to thrive and grow. Setting about their design becomes critical. This provides a “snapshot” in my thinking and structuring core competencies needed in innovation designs.

So these are just my closing innovation thoughts of 2016. I wish you a highly successful innovating 2017 ahead of us all.










4 thoughts on “Building the Core Competencies for Innovation

  1. Pingback: Building the Core Competencies for Innovation |...

  2. Pingback: Building the Core Competencies for Innovation |...

  3. Pingback: Building Differentiating Capabilities for Innovation | Paul4innovating's Innovation Views

  4. Pingback: Building Differentiating Capabilities for Innovation – Innovation Excellence

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