Saturday, March 9, 2013

Five Key Ingredients in an Innovation Play Book

The strategy is the landscape of the innovation garden. 

Innovation is the light every organization is pursuing now, however, most of the businesses may still think it’s serendipitous, and now innovation practices go beyond innovative products/services, also include business model innovation, process/culture innovation, etc. So imagine you are planting the innovation garden, how shall you put effort on and what are the key ingredients, theme, the rich of color or the variety of beauty in your secret garden?

1.    Innovative Leadership

Leadership is like sunshine, nurtures your innovation garden on a daily base. It takes innovative leadership to manage cross-organizational innovation initiative holistically, the sub-ingredients in innovative leadership include:
  • Vision: A vision that reaches out to some point in the future, Innovation is an adventure, it takes vision to blueprint either future of the business or a better version of services, it takes leadership teams’ imagination and creativity.  
  • Listening:  Understand what people want and making it possible. Innovation is also positive transformation, improving and giving another purpose or reason for customers to require the product in question.
  • Openness: How to respond when presented with an innovative idea that may invalidate something central to current identity or worldview. That's where the openness and humility come in.
  • Courage: Courage to fail is critical and probably even more so is management acceptance to allow those failures and not penalize those that had a great plan develop and execute but still failed.

2.    Innovation Strategy

The strategy is the landscape of the innovation garden. Innovation is a business strategy, and it takes strategy to navigate innovation management. Without a strategy, innovation isn't supported with a clear path on how to reach that point. Unless you're a business entity with limitless resources and lack of accountability for a positive return, innovation will have natural constraints. Thus, draw the map...

  • Diagnose innovation bottleneck or potential pitfalls: Is it because of miscommunication, culture inertia or lack of effective KPIs, etc. Absolute clarity of purpose - which was radical, innovative and would challenge many and if done right would be great. Well define problem can be the first step in forming a strategy. 
  • Set up Guideline: Calibration with the company’s appetite for risk, the governance and risk management principles. 
  • Following A Set of Choice to Execute:                       
(1) Technology Driver: It is feasible, it can be done in terms of the latest technology
(2)Market Reader: It is viable; it fits the business model and can make money or create value for customers or the business processes etc.
(3) Need Seeker: It is desirable, someone must want it, either it is already a want and need that can't be fulfilled by existing products, or the innovation creates a need and want  

3.    Culture of Innovation

Culture is soil of innovation garden, and positivity is like fertilizer to enrich your plants. Since innovation is synonymous with positive change, the organization's culture is critically important. Organizations that thrive on consistency and predictability are of course excellent at maintaining market share. But this leaves them vulnerable when the market shifts. Joseph Schumpeter's theory of "Creative Destruction" rightly pointed out how companies grow from being innovative challengers to being status quo market share managers. It's their nature. Once that transformation takes place, innovation, in its many forms, becomes more difficult to foster or adopt. What are culture of innovation:

  •  An Agile Culture is a prerequisite. That culture requires a transformational leader, high organizational justice (trust), participatory management (employee engagement), and more. Individuals need to be open to new ideas, work in a risk-tolerant environment and have a perception of their own efficacy to contribute and survive changes. 
  • A Creative Culture: The key is realizing that innovation is everyone's job (not some special group) and that it is a function of both individual and organizational factors. One without the other won't work. One of the key ingredients in innovating is creating the right environment that encourages creativity
  • An Encouraging Culture: Encouragement is very important as many people have so much talent that just needs to be developed, and it is about planting that positive seed. such as creativity, diversity, curiosity, value, passion, focus, desire, open minds, out of box thinking, rewards for Ideas, to grow innovation.

4.    Innovative Team

The team is just like plant and flower seeds, it's the only hope for innovation blossom. Beside innovative culture for changes, an effective team with gifted people, with a range of expertise and disciplines AND, most critically, who are still curious, to ensure diversity in the team - Diversity and curiosity are crucial for innovation, the team should embrace visionaries, futurist-minded, problem solvers, idea creators, well mix people from different positions, backgrounds and languages (caused some difficulties at first). Overall the teams need present following characteristics:

  • Passion: they were all committed individuals and they energized each other - even doing 12- 14 hour days, to evoke startup spirit in a large enterprise.  
  • An inquiring mind and the confidence not to accept things at face value and find a better/ alternative solution are amongst the key ingredients 
  • Courage: Creativity requires a certain tolerance for and acceptance of failure (which is more than just risk tolerance). Fear of consequences stifles creativity 
  • Learning Agile: Learn from Failures, to innovate means to experiment, to test new hypotheses, and learn from mistakes. Gain inspiration from evolutionary biology.     
  • Removing "intellectual noise": Thinking about politics, sport, music... is important, even necessary but distract too much. Keeping mind free for creative thinking is something that you can learn. 
  • Persistence:  In the face of ignorance, apathy, and fear, it takes persistence to harvest innovation fruit for the long term. 

5.    Processes & Resources to Mange Innovation

Work on an innovation garden not only takes  passion but also need the process and hard work. The process is the key ingredient in managing innovation, since exploring and exploiting are interdependent in terms of innovation. Thus, you can use a lot of time creating new ideas for new products etc. But they will never see the light or, at least, newer be a success if there is not also a focus on exploiting these ideas.

Deploy Systematic Process to avoid Blind Spots: At this point, many of those in positions of leadership are smart, accomplished people who have done well with what they have before them. The issue, however, is that so many fields are morphing so quickly-- we could not have imagined a short time ago--that it is easy for any of us to get caught and comfortable in our own blind spots--and we all got 'em. The key is to acknowledge that last fact: we all have blind spots and it can be uncomfortable and humbling to have them revealed to us--but THAT systematic innovation process is critical if real progress is to occur. So deploy a process that allows the idea to adapt through the iterative process versus to be fixed. Strong innovations are almost always evolutionary. More specifically:
  • Defined the problem: When you put right question, you already did half job
  • Banned "yes but" - to ensure ideas were heard - not slapped down 
  • A wave Pattern of expanding and consolidating ideas - sub-groups all attended feedback sessions 
  • Tight time pressure: Stretch up, but not stress out, create a sense of urgency. 
  • Iterative Processes: Try making improvements in their workflow, within a system can achieve innovation based on continuous improvement. Innovation like most aspects of learning is best started with small frequent improvements within any organization.
  • KPIs to measure result: Well define the right set of KPIs to measure innovation
Therefore, exploring innovation starts with leadership, strategies, and culture, can then naturally flow through to the customers needs. Design then follows. And the focus & rewards of innovation playbook is on core disciplines and ways of logical thinking and systematic processes that are different to creative thinking which is free to form exploration outside the box where the dots are yet to be imagined. It’s the science of innovation management


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