Developing a new framework for risk and innovation.

Innovation & StrategyI believe we need a new way to manage risk within our innovation activities. It needs to be treated differently from the general ‘risk management’ criteria applied within our business organizations.

In a three-part series, part one outlined the implicit need to align innovation to the corporate strategy and through this we can determine ‘acceptable risk’. In part two I offered up numerous reasons why we should recognize and treat innovation risk differently, so as to allow it to perform closer to its promise of driving growth and achieving real advantage.

This post here is the third and last part, part three, where I lay out different mechanisms and framing of risk and innovation. These need to be evolved to fit your own risk appetite, not one size fits all. I hope it helps.

Risks are certainly shifting. In a recent piece of work by Deliottes called “Risk sensing:the (evolving) state of the art, the risks of most concern are changing each year. Interestingly, the pace of innovation stands among the top three risks in 2015 and tops along with regulatory risk, the list foreseen in 2018. With technology disruption, business model disruption and growing competition, social and customer engagement challenges the ability to manage innovation is growing as a concern and in risk management. We need to formulate a more robust risk innovation framework. Risk management for innovation needs to evolve to keep pace with the changing demands and pace of change we are undergoing in business challenges. Risk is becoming an evolving capability.

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Treating Innovation Risk Differently, Dealing with Uncertainty

risk innovationWe need to open up our thinking about risk and innovation management. We should aim for a really healthy construct that does help all involved or associated with innovation and managing risk, that gives a better chance of pushing beyond the incremental innovation that avoids most risk and disappoints those seeking real growth.

In this post two, within a three part series, I build the argument on why we need to treat innovation differently within any risk assessment. Part one focused on linking risk into an innovation strategy that needed to align to the corporate one.

Each organization finds its own level of risk appetite. Regretfully innovation, often by default, gets swept up in this generalization of “risk management” that is corporately driven and the serious message of “risk” dampens exploration. There is a real need to make a clear argument that innovation should be treated differently. It can still come under the broad risk umbrella but judging innovation risk is utterly different from organizational strategic risk.

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The Pressing Need to Link Risk into an Innovation Strategy- part one

Road to InnovationI want to bring together some thoughts on risk and innovation. This is the opening part and sets the scene. I feel we spend less time on the management of risk within our innovation initiatives. We so often simply measure risk on established risk / return lines of known existing business criteria, treating it as part of our existing ongoing business and that is plainly wrong.

Risk assessment within our innovation activities need a different, far more distinct framing that reflects the nature of the unknowns we are working with, in my opinion.

Our organizations need to relate to the differences far more, to allow this ‘innovation risk assessment’ to play an increasing role in ‘advancing’ innovation and its understanding, at boardroom level to relate too and take a different risk-related profile position that many take today.

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Uncharted Waters Disrupting the Corporate Boardrooms

The storm clouds of Radical InnovationWhen you read a report that has within its executive summary this: “In combination the boards stand unarmed to enter the battlefield of future business creation in a disrupted world it makes you want to read on.

In a recent report called Radical Innovation and Growth: Global Board Survey 2016 (link opens the pdf) we have results from a survey jointly conducted by Deloitte Denmark and Board Network – The Danish Professional Directors Association, that opens up much that can concern us about the current boardroom and its great difficulty with managing more radical innovation.

It seems within our boardrooms they are ill-equipped to managing in today’s world, grappling with the past, holding on, perhaps too tightly, to the present and certainly being unsure of the future. It is struggling to adjust to all that is entering their world.

In this report, they surveyed 614 global board professionals from a total of 50 countries during the period covered from November 2015 through to February 2016 and then published in February 2016.

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Risk and Innovation frustrate me

Managing risk and innovation managementI have been really struggling in the past few weeks. Partly a niggling health issue finally got resolved with a ‘delightful’ week in hospital, a couple of operations later, with a reasonably speedy recovery now thankfully under way.

The plan of course was for me to really use this confinement period as one of those opportunities to catch up on an awful lot of reading around innovation, planning out some areas to focus upon in the coming months and year ahead.

My logic was at the time, well this is similar to a long train journey or flight, you use this time and climb into a number of areas that have been quietly ‘festering’ away in the back of my mind, sitting on on my desk or tucked away in my computer.

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Figuring out a different strategic alignment with innovation being central.

Strategy as we have previously known it is officially dead. Strategy is stuck! Competitive advantages have become transient. We are facing situations where advantages are copied quickly, technology is just one constant change, and our customers seek other alternatives and things move on faster and faster.

In a new book written by Rita Gunther McGrath, a professor at Columbia Business School in New York and one of the world’s leading experts on strategy, she has been exploring the changes rapidly taking place called  “ The End of Competitive Advantage: How to Keep Your Strategy Moving as Fast as Your Business

 “Strategy (in the past) was all about finding a favourable position in a well-defined industry and then exploiting a long-term competitive advantage. Innovation was about creating new businesses and was seen as something separate from the business’s core set of activities.” “Sustainable competitive is not just ineffective, it’s actually counter productive” says Professor McGrath.

She rightly states:“Think about it: the presumption of stability creates all the wrong reflexes. It allows for inertia and power to build up along the lines of an existing business model. It allows people to fall into routines and habits of mind. It creates the conditions for turf wars and organizational rigidity. It inhibits innovation.

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What is the missing cost of not innovating?

We can often be asked “what is the ROI on this particular innovation or alternatively, on our innovation activity?” This questioning increases particularly when there grows even more uncertainties in marketplaces, when you are forced into making tougher investment decisions, in allocating resources, in adjusting a strategy to meet changing circumstances. Then you get the “well, what’s the payback period then?” Often we struggle to offer a half-decent reply as most innovation has stayed mired in incremental approaches and so becomes fairly complicated in identify the new part from the old that is already the invested part, or it remains uncertain, as it is often exploring the unknowns.

Perhaps we should reverse this question or be ready to ‘gazump’ it and beat them to the question before they ask. Two specific ways to think about this come to mind. The first was suggested in a post back in 2005 by Ruth Ann Hattori called “the cost of not innovating” and I like this one. The other came from a post by my innovating friend and collaborator, Jeffrey Phillips “what are the opportunity costs on not innovating?”  Jeffrey is still not residing on a tropical beach as he still has not got the complete answer to that one. Both are tough questions but well worth reflecting over. Continue reading