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

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The Essential Connection Between Strategy and Innovation

Most organizations are seeking solutions to the necessary connections between Strategy and Innovation. The connection between the two are often broken.

Often it is within the strategies that should be outlined, lies the potential new spaces to play for innovation’s design. Yet how often do we fail to connect the innovation’s we design and execute specifically aligned to the strategic need?

We somehow seem to stay locked in the ‘here and now’ constantly repeating and refining the known and established within our domain of responsibility. Is this because innovation is not at the core of the business as it should be? Often we are inherently resisting to exploring change as it becomes risky and far more demanding. A good strategy, well outlined should encourage innovation and gain engagement but it can equally determine how we break down our imposed boundaries by its strategic intent, to encourage exploring and extending on what we know into the what we need to know. Strategic intent informs innovation.

If you have a clear strategic understanding of the needs of the business you are getting more of the understanding of where-to-play and how-to-win in your innovation activities and market investment. It is making these strategic connections that is giving innovators a better chance to deliver back concepts that offer alignment to this strategic need. Investing in this understanding and alignment should never be understated. The time invested, allows for the innovation investments to do their part in supporting the business and feeding it with the growth options required, or highlighting where the possible gaps might be, for additional investment or M&A activity, to accelerate this and bring-in fresh innovating momentum.

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We are in need of a common language for innovation

German Late Medieval (c. the 1370s) depiction of the construction of the tower.

Any innovation common language needs working upon. It firstly needs recognition it is in our best interests to find a common point. It needs to be relevant to each of us, it must be current, appropriate, accurate and highly visible throughout the entire organization. It also needs to be allowed to grow and flourish, to evolve and become the lingua franca of all our innovation work. It needs building and constructing in conscious ways and design.

Let’s step back just for one minute, these ‘sentiments’ are fine, yet we actually do, seriously lack a common language for innovation and we should find the ways and the means to change this. It holds innovation back significantly. It can’t continue in a world of greater networking and collaboration.

Languages unites us or keeps dividing us

Language can have the power to unite us or potentially divide us. Developing a language to unite us in our innovation efforts goes some way to reduce disagreements and egos, to qualify individual interpretation or bias, often a key inhibitor that can block a team’s success. It lays in a common foundation. It builds confidence and understanding.

Once we have a common language, we can set about building and creating a more robust innovation management system. One that builds on this framework so it can relate to the relevant context, conditions, and environment for innovation, to offer within this building block, the common identity.

These identifiers can build into better understanding how to structure governance, process, and functional structures, to build a culture that is responsive as ‘they’ can identify a need for a common cause of understanding. It is in this central innovation language that becomes our clear unifying context, the enabler, and sense of personal identity with the purpose of what we are wishing to achieve.

In any common language, we need to master the understanding, the nuances and how it all fits together. We need to exploit it and extract what it can offer to enhance all the work we do in innovation. We need to appreciate always its terms, its definitions (and limitations) and the related performance values that can help to improve our performance and in our achievements of working increasingly with others.  A common understanding of our meaning to ‘innovate’ becomes an imperative. 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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Making a compelling business case for an integrated innovation framework

How do we manage future discussionsAs innovation becomes a more consistent requirement rather than an occasional exercise, it must align to strategic goals and become part of the planning and execution cycle in more aligned ways.  

An increased focus on innovation as a consistent discipline requires significant reflection on what needs changing, what impact this change will have and how do we proceed to implement it. This requires senior management attention because of the significant organisational impact.

The leadership within an organisation provide the linkage into the strategy, provide the framework and set this in the context of the vision and goals needed to be achieved. You, as the innovator, seek out the synergies between strategy and innovation, between innovation and capabilities, between culture, the environment, the process, structure and routines and how it all should be governed.

The compelling value is in having an integrated innovation framework

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I keep arguing we all need to seek out innovation alignment

Innovation needsAll too often strategy is not influencing the behaviours and outcomes around innovation, it is simply allowing them to be left to chance.

Innovation is being ‘pushed down’ the organisation for others to interpret and offer their answers. They execute to their own understanding and often the innovations end up as not strategically aligned.

That is plainly wrong, not knowing the strategic objectives it is one of the principle causes of innovation failure and requires fixing.

This poor strategic understanding creates a lack of alignment and directing innovation. If an organisation lacks top leadership engagement it becomes, for many, the reason why they seem to just simply ‘limp’ along in their innovation activity, delivering ‘simply’ incremental outcomes. The more radical innovations can never emerge if these do not have the close alignment to the Corporate vision or objectives and leadership engagement..

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Constructing Innovation as Value Management

Innovation and ValueInnovation needs to create value, both short-term and progressively over time. It fuels the growth and fires the imagination.

Yet our innovation activities are constantly coming up short for the leaders within our organizations, who continue to remain disappointed in its final outcome to stimulate and drive the growth they want to see.

It is actually the classic “chicken and egg”. Aristotle (384–322 BC) was puzzled by the idea that there could be a first bird or egg and concluded that both the bird and egg must have always existed. Leaders need to lead and are they the chicken, they are the resource for how can the people charged with innovation can lay the ‘golden eggs’ needed, if they are incapable of laying? Or should the innovation egg come first for our leaders to become more confident and build further, believing in innovation far more?

There should be no dilemma we can’t treat innovation lightly anymore, it needs to develop its uniqueness for each of our organizations to evolve. We need both the egg and the chicken to be ‘producing’.

What I’m driving towards here is that innovation is evolving is my 1st point

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