I am currently preparing templates (using Harrison Assessments) to select the most suitable people to attend a high level program on Innovation. We are calling them Innovation Success Formulas. Now, there is nothing like a focused activity such as this to set me thinking in spare time about the topic. Innovation, I believe, is a critical component of the long-term viability of any business/ organisation.
Innovation is not only the conception of new products and services. It can be the creation of new processes that streamline your business, a radically different structure that will ensure goals are more readily met and strategies are successful. It can be about the mix of people that you employ, where and how they are seated, the hours that are worked, management and leadership techniques, and so forth. It can be within your branding and marketing. It is not only about product and services, it is about how, why and where you do business, and with whom, in order to achieve greater business results and financial benefit.
Ideas are the raw material for the process of innovation. Innovation in any area, starts with an idea and proceeds through the stages of making that idea concrete, practical and profitable. It results in a successful outcome, a solution, or a successful state of affairs. Another way to think of it is that creativity is a mental activity, while innovation is the broader process of make that mental activity bear fruit. Innovation includes the process of creativity and much more. It includes all the stages of progress required to bring about a new reality. — Karl Albrecht, The Creative Corporation, 1987
One of the difficulties organisations face in realising an innovative culture is the tendency to tell people to innovate and be creative, and expect it to happen – perhaps by magic. How often Innovation appears on Strategic Plans, amongst Strategic Goals and in 12 month Plans-on-a-page, and yet those worthy goals and plans do not materialise?
Companies that are serious about innovation and creating an organisation that values creativity will allocate significant resources to it – time, money, people, policies, processes and systems. Measurement will play a large part – of current products, customers, their experiences and behaviour, organisational processes, financial impacts of changes. And it will be actively supported at the top levels. They hire creative or entrepreneurial people and provide them with outlets for their creativity.
All companies strive to be innovative, but only those that employ robust strategies to drive the creative process will flourish. — Leon Gettler
Gettler says a couple of things will be evident in Innovation-Ready workplaces.
An open culture: A flat structure, open door policies, and high levels of support for employees where failure is not punished but rather understood as part of a learning and refining process. (Failure is different to Poor Performance and handled very differently.)
Close client relationships: These organisations are customer-centric with deep understanding of their customers, the businesses of their customers, trends in their sectors, issues and challenges faced by them, opportunities and directions. The more the innovative company understands their customers and clients the greater the business results from innovation and entrepreneurial ideas.
Flops and false starts are part of the creative process. — CE Zelko Lendich
Innovation Ready? Or Not Innovation Ready?
- Is there evidence of active support for innovation from the Leaders of the organisation?
- Is there strategic clarity around the organisational and business models that will be used for innovation?
- Is there a level of fear around deviating from normal practices, or are staff willing to try new approaches?
- Is creativity and entrepreneurial potential assessed in the hiring process?
- Are you bringing the right people together to form innovation teams?
- Is there support for the development of Innovative skills along with business acumen? Is there IP and commercialisation wisdom available? All are needed for successful cultures of innovation.
- Is there an active focus on deriving income from innovation? What are the goals – are they rigorous and meaningful?
- Do the members of your Management Team have a key communication message around innovation? Is it inspiring? Do they role model innovative behaviour? Do they put their innovation message into practice?
- Is your structure hierarchical with a Management Group that finds it difficult to work as a High Performing Team?
- Is it normal for staff who voice dissent to be marginalised and otherwise treated differently?
- Are staff reluctant to take initiative?
- In your last culture survey, what was your workplace’s opinion of the Management Team?
- Who are you putting into your innovation team – are you selecting at random or choosing high performers? How are you measuring innovation potential?
- Do you have the skills for true innovation/ are you willing to provide training and experience to your selected Innovation Team?
- Do your staff perceived themselves as being responsible for initiating new, innovative activities?
- Do your staff have considerable control over decision-making in their innovation program?
- Does your Innovation Team feel appreciated and secure and comfortable in their professional position and role?
- Does your Management Team interfere with the work of your innovators, or allow them to pursue creative initiatives?
- Does your innovation processes allow innovators to work as part of small teams, or are they so heavy with requirements that it stifles creativity and innovation?
It is impossible to find a CEO who does not speak the words of innovation. I often hear: “Innovation is the lifeblood of our business” or “We need to innovate to grow.” The simple truth is that far too many leaders don’t act on those words—and that is where the rubber misses the road. — Thomas D. Kuczmarsk
Is Continuous Improvement Dead?
Pre Global Financial Crisis, the emphasis seemed to be more on continuous improvement and cost cutting to keep companies viable and profitable. This is still important, as is the management of the performance of the organisation and its people. Along with these aspects there is a growing awareness of the need to stay ahead of trends and employ innovation across the board to stay ahead of the cyclic pressures of doing business.