Innovation has a hard job to align

We need to recognize that innovation is one of the hardest things to align to strategy. It’s inherently messy, fairly unpredictable and its team-orientated approach sometimes cuts across borders, challenges different established positions and seemingly conflicting priorities.

It often challenges the status quo and can on certain occasions, potentially challenge the stated strategic goals as those ‘disruptive forces’ have not been addressed radically enough. Innovation often “asks” difficult questions of ourselves.

We keep asking a lot of innovators but consistently restrain them or starve them of essential resources, at the critical times they need them. We seem to get in the way of blocking innovation so it can’t be seen to align with the goals or vision of the organization. Continue reading

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.

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Surfacing ten great intractable’s for innovation’s resolution

Intractable's needing resolution for innovation to flourish in organizations

Intractable’s needing resolution for innovation to flourish in organizations

So what does block innovation? Arguably there are plenty of things up and down organizations: a lack of resources, an overcrowded portfolio of ideas, a lack of dedicated people, treating innovation as one off, keeping it isolated and apart from mainstream activities. The list could go on and on, no question.

Let’s take a different perspective.

If you could ask those that lead innovation, your senior organizational leadership, a series of question that might help unlock innovation blockages would that be valuable? This would need a good external facilitator as my recommendation who has deep innovation knowledge and expertise, able to manage the ‘dynamics’ within the room.

What would happen if you could get the leadership in a room together to discuss innovation which would allow innovation dialogues to emerge? Perhaps allowing those conversations that begin to build a common understanding, a common language for innovation? Different views can surface for the challenges but they all need addressing. Gaining a working consensus to share across the organization so these blockages can be openly discussed and in time resolved.

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A Cascade of Better Choices for Greater Innovation Outcomes

It is not an easy job to achieve the level of consistent innovation expected within any organization. Often those breakthroughs never seem to be repeated, we struggle to understand the reasons why we can’t achieve that regular rhythm or dependable outcomes from the innovation portfolio, that we would have expected or the board demands.

If you ever look at high performance in sport it is in the consistent, hour-upon-hour, day-upon-day of dedicated practice, hard work and consistent honing that gets you to that performance point. You seek to reduce deviance; you look to achieve a certain consistency.

Business Organizations will like that approach, it ‘plays’ to the efficiency and effectiveness message, it offers up a predictability and reliability that allows for dedicated planning and ‘predicting’ solid performance and certainly. This is the ideal for those investors looking for a consistency in results and dividends and the Executive Board yearns for.

Today’s uncertainly  asks for a different performance

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The Overarching Proposition for the Executive Innovation Work Mat

When you begin to think through something that might change the present dynamics within innovation and its management it becomes exciting. When you develop an emerging answer , by recognizing one really critical gap that needs filling, it becomes hugely exciting actually. Not just in researching it, in debating it but in eventually constructing a sound framework, that is visual, easy to connect too and for hopefully many to become involved and engaged with, brings this work together into a realization that is really rewarding.

For Jeffrey Phillips and me, we believe we are offering something that makes sense through our framework, which we call the Executive Innovation Work Mat, with a link to the short introductory series, published in September 2012.

In our initial White Paper there is the outlines of our thinking behind this Executive Innovation Work Mat.  The important message is that we want to deliver the message into the boardrooms of as many business organizations as we can, with this message of intent which can be simply summed up as “we believe we have a framework that will help the leadership of organizations to identify with, understand their role in this and in this strategic participation and framing innovation intent, so advance the contribution of innovation within their organizations and beyond.”

Let me lay out the overarching proposition for this.

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Two sides of an equation for shaping innovation.

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.

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A No Better Moment

When you have some sun on your back after a long period of those winter months, you just always begin to feel life is so much better going forward. Life seems to reawaken within. I often wish we could capture the ‘sense’ of spring and what it promises to bring from this change of season. Those of us who witness the change of seasons are so lucky.

I’ve also been reminded recentlyabout the phrase offered by a number of leaders to explain a positive encouraging shift after a tough time, it goes like this: “we do see some green shoots that are offering some early signs of growth and recovery.”

Spring captures that growth moment. It is often talking to us of renewal. Innovation needs that capturing opportunity as well.

Freezing the moment to listen Continue reading