Sunday, January 22, 2017

CIOs as “Chief Idea & Innovation Officer”: Five Principles for Idea Evaluation and Management

Building a set of principles and having the depth and breadth of understanding about the digital ecosystem would help connect nonlinear dots for improving innovation success.

Innovation is the only way businesses can build differentiated advantages in face of fierce competitions in the digital era. From the business perspective, innovation is the mechanism through which you grow and evolve something to something great - higher value-add or ever breakthrough, or something new or better based on a combination or modification of previous attributes/approaches. Innovations can range from small to game changers. Also, it is important to note that within the organizations, innovation is rarely an individual action; rather it is a team effort, often across multiple organizational silos. More often than not, IT is the disruptive force of digital innovation, CIOs as “Chief Idea & Innovation Officer” - How should you set principles for evaluating and managing ideas effectively?


Simplicity: Logically, simplifying the complicated thing is an optimal and smart choice. The simplicity of use (friendly tool, accessibility from any devices...) makes the products and services more intuitive to use as well as more innovative than the earlier version. Innovation is about transforming the novel ideas and achieving the business values. That means it needs to be implementable. When communicating and evaluating innovative ideas, always ask questions to clarify (1) Is it easily understandable? (2) Have you omitted anything by oversight? (3) Have you taken anything for granted? Etc, Creativity is the high level of thinking, surely any intelligence including innovation has the certain level of complexity, but keep thing simple, not simpler. Diving deep and getting a simple answer is true simplicity. Remove the layers of complexity to reach what is simple at the core. Though sometimes the problem with simple solutions is that they do not appear exciting, the matter of fact is that simplicity is the premium state of complexity, often the business goals of doing innovation is to either delight customers via intuitive products/services or improve management effectiveness via clarified processes or step-wise scenarios, not about complicating, perplexing or confusing.


Flexibility: It is important to set the principles and build a practical framework for managing innovations from keeping ideas flow to implementing ideas systematically. However, overly rigid rules or processes will stifle creativity and decrease innovation effectiveness. At the individual level, a flexible mind is risk tolerant, open mind upon the feedback and ideas; be creative to thinking outside of the box, etc. People with a flexible mind can work as a team more seamlessly, but also professionally; at the team level, a flexible work environment encourages collaborative thinking, build adaptability to create mutual interest communities, to encourage brainstorming and enable ideas to flow; from innovation management perspective, the imperative is to build a culture of innovation which has flexibility, agility, and resilience as key characteristics. It is crucial to building flexible processes focusing on outcomes without micromanagement and creates a sense of urgency as well. In practice, it’s easy to say you are flexible or playful and have a lot of innovative desire, but culturally within the walls of an organization, the overly rigid processes still stifle innovation.


Collaboration: Thanks for the powerful digital collaboration tools and social platforms, it allows knowledge or information to flow more seamlessly cross functional silos; The real impact of improving innovation management effectiveness is about making the invisible visible, and then measurable. Innovative organizations are leveraging the effective digital collaboration tools to source new ideas and refine current products or services, to fuel ideas and contribution, provide inputs on customer preference, predict the future trend, and capture collective wisdom. Due to the complexity of modern businesses, collaboration is important for either idea brainstorming and innovation implementation. Hence, digital businesses need to leverage social tools to open communication channels both top-down and bottom-up; both inside-out and outside-in, and across the enterprise, in order to harness communication and enforce collaboration, with the goal to build a highly innovative business.


Transparency: The digital businesses with the nature of hyperconnectivity and always-on also make things (activities, ideas, processes, events) much more transparent than before; it is great for innovation via following-up a system of innovation processes from the idea up to implementation ! Give feedbacks and management and peer recognition are so important to increase speed in the innovation process, decrease risk in the innovation process, effectively leverage diversity to create meaningfully unique ideas, effectively use the power of stimulus to create meaningful ideas, also enable building the culture of risks for encouraging creativity. Digital makes the world more transparent than ever, it means the better opportunity to enforce leadership maturity, build trust relationship, as well as improving innovation effectiveness. Most of the business leaders show enthusiasm and confidence about the potential digital can bring up in the future, to manifest the better version of “who you are,” at both individual and organizational level.


Recognition: People are the center of innovation, neither processes or tools. It is important to recognize your innovators or change agents. Leveraging digital talent management tools and mechanisms helps pinpoint to who knows what within or even beyond your organization, based on social influence and action rather than assertion, allow organizations to identify the strength of these relationships and how information flows between the groups, and across the digital ecosystem. To keep the fountain of creativity alive, it is an accepted thumb rule of rewarding people which motivates them to join and engage, create and share ideas. Also, it has been observed that recognition too helps people to participate cross-functional collaboration, improving work effectiveness, voice opinions and share wisdom. From the management perspective, it is about building a more inter-connected communication platform to improve reputation and performance management.


The art of innovation is that it involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel. Identification of the novel is only the beginning, the heavy lifting starts as a firm aligns resources and executes, it is the science of innovation management. Building a set of principles and having the depth and breadth of understanding about the digital ecosystem would help connect nonlinear dots for building a culture of innovation and improving innovation success rate continuously.


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