Beyond the previous boundaries of innovation

Innovation is increasingly moving beyond the previous boundaries of just being left to each organizations scientists or marketing departments, those days are seemingly long gone. Today and in the future, innovation is about open, inclusive, full of exploration and harmonization to extract the best results.

We seem to have really grasped and recognized the combination-effect that comes from the myriad of different linkages that is propelling innovation activity and bringing increasing confidence within the boardroom.

According to a recent PwC report, optimism has dramatically been raised around innovation, so much so the vast majority within the survey of 1,757 c-suite or executives respondents believe their aggressive growth plans will be driven by organic growth (93%) and not by previous means of M&A activity. They are talking more radical and breakthrough innovation. BCG in its 2013 report on most innovative companies is equally far more bullish on innovation.

My only wish is this all this optimism is grounded in reality and recognition of what significant changes are required in structures, processes and supporting mechanisms that this increased innovation focus will really require.  They will have to address the existing organizations constraints as well as rework the emphasis away from the efficient and effectiveness focus that has become engrained. This will require a very dedicated focus on understanding innovation management and what it really means, to translate this organic ‘wish’ into reality over the next five years.

The good news is, we have seen innovation maturing

We are certainly seeing innovation has moved well beyond just products. It is exploring the value of combining or even separating services, changing value propositions on a more consistent basis and exploring new business models far more openly. All these approaches to innovation are challenging and demanding far more constant reorganization around changing the innovation activities to meet the ‘breaking’ opportunities.

One innovation struggle is around ‘rigidity’ within the organizations.

Innovation requires a more fluid, adaptive and agile environment. This will require some significant changes within the approaches within managing within these structures and this takes a significant and dedicated approach to achieve. The end result is changing the way people are managed and valued. There is a need to draw in, to engage, more open to diversity in opinion and thinking and increased emphasis on fluid teams tackling issues and challenges in unique ways, not through standard processes and approaches.

Research led or technology – based standing alone is not enough in pursuing greater functionality or breakthroughs, we need to cooperate with all the relevant people and partners that can bring the innovation idea or concept to fruition. The opening up to greater networks, exploring relationships and allowing them to deepen becomes vital. Allowing time for these to work and build the essential trust needed equally will take time.

The shifts in innovation activity, seeking simplification

We are also seeing increasingly the disruptive era of simplification, which captures far more of the imagination and where the increased movement of future wealth generating opportunities lie by meeting targeted customer need. These are not ‘layering’ on features that have been the approach of the past, this is stripping away and rapidly breaking these back down into targeted applications that do the job, we the consumer or client wants, often willing to pay a premium upon.

Complexity is also changing, taking out the pain

Complexity should not be about customers having to work out how to understand something; it is using the smart complexity that sits behind the solution to allow us to focus on what we need to achieve, to then help us significantly deliver on our required needs. Smarter searches, algorithms, designing your own options all are giving us the complexity we need. Simpler, interactive interfaces to do the job we wish to do, not forced to spend time learning and doing.

Exploring the effects of reverse innovation and lean approaches.

Reverse innovation, jugaad or frugal innovation is where there is  a huge potential – still largely untapped in developed countries offering new avenues to real targeted growth. What about the strong underlying movement in start-ups that is far more ‘needs related’ or serving ‘unmet needs’ through lean approaches and customer development techniques. These are so much better understood than the approaches in the past, of simply cruising along for opportunity with a vague business concept.

Sharpening the minds, changing the mindsets.

Everything has become so much sharper in why we have to focus our minds down, it is far more on what and where innovation can give us the next growth opportunity and that comes from all the diversity we can muster. Managing in the global innovation space is no different; we can get far more quickly at answers on a global basis than at any time in the past. We are learning to tap into this global knowledge in different ways, it needs a dedicated focus and understanding, to find the unique mix that suits your needs and knowledge accessing and translating and then we are closer to the solutions that have the global unlocking key.

We are using the ability to engage, to explore and exchange through a variety of social mediums, we can collect and interpret larger amounts of data than ever before.

As growth comes increasingly back on the agenda for most organizations, it will come far more from exploiting through this organic growth approach. Yet to achieve the ambitious growth targets that many organizations are seemingly talking about, there needs to be a radical overhaul of internal innovation understanding and structures.

Revisiting past practices

All of what has gone on previously needs to be revisited and in many cases reworked through new practices, new systems and new measures. Organizations are coming rapidly to the point of needing to be innovation re-engineered to make the sizeable changes they must achieve to ‘allow’ organic growth to deliver.

Innovation challenges much that is presently established within organizations, there is potential higher risks, significant changes required to be enacted within the organizations, with a whole raft of different competencies and capabilities to be learnt to extract the ‘promise and value’ from the innovation needed.

We are forced to look harder for attracting growth into our business and innovation can provide the force if there is the commitment backing the rhetoric of needing organic growth to be the primary driver of over the next five years.

Innovation needs positive translation in its management

I am sensing a really positive shift in innovation practice. It does seem to have gone up a notch or two in its maturity and adoption within our organizations in recent months. Can you feel the changes or are we still at the intent stage? Are organizations fully commitment to what shifting to an innovation emphasis will mean? Or are we only at a recognition stage?

There are significant sets of issues needed to be addressed to really allow innovation to drive growth. Organizations need to consider very radical shifts in approaching innovation and its management to gain any momentum, so intent can meet these organic growth ambitions as suggested? For me, in the next twelve months it will be the level of activity to  begin to re-equip organizations will determine if this is a reality or just C-level rhetoric, worried over the alternatives of low or no growth prospects but staying risk adverse.

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Innovation Empowerment Is So Elusive

Looking across a sea of faces you feel that certain resigned feeling, that lack of empowerment, you press on, encouraged by the movement, not within the eyes but the clock. Is that the only thing ticking? You shudder.

How many times have you felt that ‘wave’ of oppression when one colleague looks nervously at his boss just sitting across from him in the same workshop or conference, hoping to gain some new, fresh glimmer of hope? None comes, just a stony, empty blank face staring straight back.

It is really sad but with all that is written about innovation, discussed, offered as leading, best or emergent practice, the majority still simply don’t get it and if they do, they often are forced to keep quiet about it. It can be depressing to witness.

Often you get that feeling the different (and latest) innovation message simply rolls over, a little like the mist rolling in off the sea on a foggy wet day, slowly clawing itself up over a wet rock to suddenly stop and hang there, waiting for something to change.

Will ‘getting it’ change for the many or does this resigned feeling wait upon the boss suddenly waking up and getting innovation, so it all suddenly changes and the innovating sunshine comes out. Empowerment needs enactment

Why is it so?

Here’s a vital question to answer:  who is the most important person when it comes to innovation?  Many people will argue it is the person with the best idea.  Others will argue that it is the person who can make the idea a reality.  We believe the CEO or another senior executive is the most important person, since they have the ability to:

  • link innovation to strategy,
  • direct funds and resources to good innovation programs, and
  • accelerate good ideas to market as new products and services.

In mid-sized and large companies, CEOs and senior executives are vital to innovation success.  What’s more, these leaders want innovation to happen.

“Hope springs eternal” perhaps?

    “Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.”

– Alexander Pope, An Essay on Man

Jeffrey Phillips and I have been working on a collaborative ‘white paper’ on this real leadership gap when it comes to innovation. We are still moving this back and forth between us but it does seem from these exchanges from our own independent experiences we have one awful yawning gap to plug before we get that ground swell of innovation empowerment. More will emerge in the weeks and months ahead to get the message of hope out.

If we cannot get this vital message out to the one person that matters for making innovation happen then we will continue to look out and see this sea of faces, who are really wanting to engage. Deep down they do know the problem but can’t seem to influence the way innovation is managed. Just simply knowing that yet they are not in the position to change it. It can’t be ‘released’ until they have been  given permission which so often seemingly falls only at the highest levels within the organization, so they wait. They wait so they can safely extract from all the environment and tools that can be easily available to make it happen, if they have this feeling of confidence and given belief and lasting support.

How can we bring “innovation into every persons life?  Jeffrey and I are trying to construct some different ways to get the message out there and make a more meaningful connection to the leaders than can ‘allow’ empowerment.

Wrapped in a belief helps me

All I know is that ‘relief’ when you come back in from that walk on the cliffs, you shudder from that damp cold and are just grateful you can feel the sunshine just beginning to clear away that mist. We need to organize the winds of innovation change at this leadership level.

We simply need to find ways to unlock and unleash that incredible latent energy waiting to come out of many organizations, locked in their yoke of innovation oppression.

Empowerment should not be so elusive, it needs to be demanded, so innovation can really change our lives and allow “great things to happen” that we can all find hidden within ourselves.

In the US, they are entering the political season again but I feel we should offer “the yes we can” one up for innovation this time as a movement of change, as it offers the pathway towards real engagement and growth, surely that is empowering for us all, leaders especially.