Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Three Levels of Innovation Management Maturity

Innovation is not serendipity but an orchestrated effort and core activity of human evolution.

There is no doubt innovation is becoming more important whereas technology turns to be so advanced and the pace of change is increasing significantly. In practice, innovation focus and capabilities an organization demands depend on the circumstances the business is in. Different organizations have different strengths and competency to innovate. Here are three levels of innovation maturity.

Innovation as serendipity: For many less innovative organizations, innovation is just a buzzword or serendipity, everyone talks about it, but very few people, especially leaders are creative and courageously enough to live on it and insightful enough to work on it. Not so many people like it because innovation stands for risks. They prefer to keep “we always do things like that” mentality. Most companies fail at innovation execution because the top leadership doesn’t understand how to manage innovation or treat innovation management and investment decision as other operational types of business management and capital decisions. They have neither clear processes nor understand the linkage required to work horizontally across departments for connecting the necessary dots to spark innovation. Although serendipity perhaps plays some part in innovation effort as there are plenty of stories about great ideas evolving sudden flashes of insight or out of chance meeting, etc. But overall speaking, the success of innovation management is never an accident, it’s a holistic management process with an iterative thought-out planning and execution continuum. Especially in large and well-established organizations, you simply can’t wait for innovation happening, it’s critical to proactively seek fresh ideas, develop innovation as a company-wide competency and take systematic business innovation management discipline.

Innovation as a process: From a management perspective, modern organizations can bring scientific disciplines and emerging digital technologies to demystify innovation. But innovation is neither an isolated process nor just about the latest technology. At the core of innovation management is a customized business simulation which lets participants experience comprehensive business problems and opportunities associated with creating ideas and implementing innovations. It actually needs to break down outdated rules or inflexible process and takes a systematic approach with robust processes to management innovation. Because the main barriers to innovation are silo, rigidity, inflexibility or bureaucracy, etc. At the level of innovation maturity, different types of innovation should be managed via tailored management processes, help the organization adapt, improve, grow, and ingrate. Make innovation process as visible and company-wide as possible. The best point of view is to see innovation as a system, capable of delivering organization-wide capabilities. The most powerful processes involve tapping the organization’s ecosystem for collective perspectives. Nowadays, thanks for the emergent lightweight digital technologies, innovation systems and tools have become more effective to help us think deeper and communicate efficiently, assess problems and come up with novel business solutions smoothly. Managing innovation as a process and riding above innovation curves also means achieving a high return on investment business result by building a balanced innovation portfolio and managing cost, time, and risks skillfully


Innovation as a strategy: At highly innovative companies, innovation is a crucial component of the strategy. A well-crafted innovation strategy will always be aware of business strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and risks, set guidelines, build a framework, and take step-wise and risk-intelligent actions. It takes a holistic approach to develop business-wide innovation capabilities which have many important business elements such as people, system, process, culture, tools, etc. Missing any of them will severely decrease innovation effectiveness and decelerate the change speed. With a good innovation strategy, innovation management can be iterative, evolutionary, revolutionary, or disruptive, but it must be marketable and implementable. Developing an effective framework and taking a structural approach with all key elements will improve systematic thinking and the consistency of the innovation management practices and results. Keep in mind, people are innovators, framework, process or tools are enablers. Innovation is done by people and for the people. Innovation is a manifestation of a unique trait in some people who consciously or unconsciously strive to do better through changes. Thus, creative people are in demand to catalyze a culture of innovation in the workplace and play “innovation magic” effortlessly.  In those high-innovative companies, innovation is a strategy.

At the high level of innovation maturity, organizations usually have a powerful innovation navigation system which helps to detect the opportunities for innovating or avoid pitfalls; tap the business ecosystem for collective insight and integrate critical business elements into innovation competency. It’s critical to craft a good innovation strategy, groom innovative leaders and practitioners, shape a culture of creativity, build a unique set of innovation capabilities, and take a structural approach. Innovation is not serendipity but an orchestrated effort and core activity of human evolution.

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