The environment for innovation does really matter

Seven domains in work matThe Executive Innovation Work Mat methodology requires investigation and engagement across the seven domains or components that make up the work mat.  The aim of any work mat discussions undertaken with executives focuses upon bringing out the parts necessary for innovation to happen and that needs an integrated approach and lasting engagement from senior management.

In a series of articles I will be looking at each of the seven components within the work mat to raise questions to probe and prompt the necessary thinking that needs to be made in organizations determined to build a lasting innovation competence and structure.

I’ve already offered some opening thoughts on Governance and Innovation, for me one of the basic building blocks for innovation lies in creating the right conditions for an Environment to innovate.

So what are those environmental conditions required for innovation?

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Mind the Gaps in Innovation.

Mind the gap 1Most of us that have travelled on the undergrounds around the world and are well used to the announcement as a train pulls into the station of “mind the gap” between stepping off the train and the platform. The reminder is to make us aware there is a gap and we need to be ready for this. We need to be consciously aware.

Innovation nearly always suffers some form of “mind the gap” and yet we tend to ignore the obvious and stumble into these gaps or fail to recognize them completely. These ‘gaps’ comes in so many different ways and guises.

We are in a need to constantly “mind the innovation gaps”, these are everywhere.

Firstly innovation is meant to bridge the growth gap found in organizations, it needs to have clear plans to manage the core, seek out new adjacencies and investigate the white space opportunities for making up the growth plans, so as to meet the strategic goals and aspirations of the organization. Often the resources are not allocated to all three of these, it is often left to the same team to bridge the gaps and more often than not, they fail. We also fail to think across different innovation horizons and not allocated dedicated resources and the time to each of these.

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Millennials see innovation differently from today’s leaders.

Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (DTTL) have provided a set of interesting results from a survey of the world’s future leaders and what they think about innovation released for the World Economic Forum, January 2003

The top line was only 26% of those surveyed believed their current organizations leaders encourage the practices that foster innovation. This indicates a major shift really is needed in the organizational mindset to give innovation the chance to thrive.

The implications are nicely summarized by this statement from Deliotte’s Global CEO. “Innovation at the institutional level is needed to sufficiently shift an organization’s mindset to allow new ideas to truly emerge and thrive,” said Deloitte Global CEO Barry Salzberg. “While our current business leaders can debate how and where to innovate, it’s clear how much importance our future leaders place on innovation—not just as a driver of business growth but also as a catalyst for solving society’s most pressing problems.”

DTTL surveyed close to 5,000 Millennials from 18 countries. When gauging the perception among future leaders about innovation and its impact on society, 84 percent say business innovations have a positive impact on society, and 65 percent feel their own company’s activities benefit society in some way.

For more information and to view the survey results, visit: www.deloitte.com/millennialsurvey

The critical message – can we wait or shift leaders aside who don’t get it?

“A generational shift is taking place in business as baby boomers, many of whom may have been wedded to the ‘old way’ of doing business, begin to step down from their leadership roles to retire,” said Salzberg. “Real opportunity exists for organizations to step up and create the conditions and commitment needed to encourage and foster innovation in their work environments. And there’s a tremendous upside if we get this right: we can better retain talent, remain more competitive into the future, and more positively impact society.”

The report provides a nice infographic here: http://tinyurl.com/autexyn

So what really catches my eye?

The one chart that stands out for me is the one that outlines the required provisions of innovation conditions and the present delivery “gap” in creating these to foster innovation.

Taking this as the make-up of many of the essential conditions it is worth listing them here

  1. Encourage & reward idea generation and creativity
  2. Provide employees with “free” time that can be dedicated to learning
  3. That leadership encourages idea sharing regardless of seniority
  4. To promote openness and the freedom to challenge
  5. Provide a commitment to successfully advance innovation ideas
  6. Provide strong and inspirational (innovation) leadership
  7. Have a clear vision of the future
  8. Have a (better) understanding of the Millennial generation
  9. Improve or expand use of internal social and informal learning (methods)
  10. Encourage both formal and informal learning
  11. Have a (real) commitment to a sustainable business
  12. Provide (the conditions) and commitment to continued development
  13. Provide (consistent) improvement to internal processes
  14. Commitment to (consistent) and continual product and service improvements
  15. The (vexing issue) of a lack of hierarchy

The ones highlighted in bold gained the highest responding as needed but this is a fairly valuable list to work from in fostering the ‘right’ innovation conditions.

The Millennials felt the purpose of business was to improve society, generate profit and to drive innovation. They overwhelmingly believe innovation is essential for business growth. They feel it is acceptable for business to profit from social innovation and those organisations that are (clearly) seen to be innovative will attract the talent

According to DTTL the findings endorse the importance of leadership and innovation and the impact business can have on society. This creates opportunities for business leaders – both individually and collectively – and for the long-term success of their businesses.

My initial thoughts triggered from this survey

Today’s leaders need to think very differently about their role and the expectations of business, if we are to capitalize on the opportunities that innovation can provide, simply by allowing these opportunities to be shaped more by the Millennial generation, sitting inside or collaborating outside their organizations.

For me, this survey simply  strengthens my view that today’s leaders just don’t get innovation in the multiple ways they should: to enhance their business and to regain growth. The generations coming up into leadership positions are not just aware of innovation’s importance but are being exposed and trained in all the different facets but frustrated those above “simply don’t get it”.

The issue is “can we really wait?” I don’t believe so.