For many years, innovation was seen as the exclusive domain of creative types who played foosball and ruminated whilst sitting on bean bags chilling out to inspirational music. Fortunately, those times are long gone, and innovation is now recognised as a complex, science-based discipline that can be managed in the same way that any other process can be managed and optimised within an organisation.
Once organisations embrace the concept that innovation is a process, it opens up a clear pathway for building innovation capability. As with any other process, once the process has been defined, the pathway to performance becomes apparent:
The good news is that not only has innovation evolved into a robust, structured process, it is also true that a best practice process has been developed – it is no accident that the world’s most innovative organisations continue to repeatedly and successfully innovate despite the increasing uncertainty of our rapidly changing world. This best practice process has been built on a number of truisms that have been proved over the last two decades:
With a best practice process defined, the question for many organisations is who should be doing the managing – who’s responsibility is it to have oversight of the process and ensure that the organisation is getting value for money from its innovation efforts? The answer is a senior team of innovation leaders who understand innovation best practice and who can lead from a position of knowledge and expertise.
Bizarrely this is the bit that many organisations struggle with most. What typically happens is that future stars in the organisation are identified and trained in best practice innovation methods – they become the core of an emerging centre of excellence in innovation. But then a few senior leaders are put in place to oversee and guide these new resources but few (if any) of these senior leaders undertake any training – they rely entirely on their historic experience most of which is not grounded in modern innovation theory. This can be a huge blocker to innovation progress with the big decisions on prioritising innovation effort and managing compliance with the best practice process being made by people with minimal understanding of the very process they’re overseeing.
So, if you’re considering how to manage innovation throughout your organisation, our advice would to take three important first steps:
If you would like some more information on this topic, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.