Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Systematic Innovation

The Spark of Innovation needs a Framework to Shine Through and Focus upon. 

There are many forms of innovation - technological, application, product, design, business model, process, communication and customer experience -- just to name a few. Each has its own unique pathways. Also, as innovation can and should occur at different and ALL levels of the corporate structure: from C-level to the shop floor, to make any entity slimmer and stronger. So, can forward-looking organizations manage their innovations more systematically and how?

"Systematic Innovation" is a structured process and set of practical tools used to create or improve products/services/processes that deliver new value to customers or satisfy employees. A systematic approach is to depict innovation as a system (rather than a traditional process) whose performance depends on the alignment of its various components (people, actions, controls, resources, etc.). Organizations should ideally have a sustainable approach to innovation. The companies who get the most from innovation effort have the right ambition, good leadership, and culture.

Innovation can be viewed as consisting of many different stages. Some of which are more structured than others. For instance, creativity is generally accepted to be less structured than development. The latter is likely to be far more 'process driven' than the former. However, regardless of how structured stages of innovation are, stakeholders possess mental models (faulty as they may be) of 'how' innovation works in their ways. The key point is that the ideas being generated need a spark of creativity. But even here many innovations can arise from combining old ideas.While organizations can innovate without clear systems of innovation, the ability to achieve sustained innovation results probably does require at least some degree of a 'hard-wired' innovation system.

The tailor-designed innovation Strategy is the key. Organizations find it difficult to depict or visualize innovation simply because it is difficult to visualize when innovation discussed in the abstract. Management can't just pick an optimum innovation strategy off a shelf and run with it. Neither can it just copy one from the firm next door? Instead, it must design a strategy that fits its own situation. But design requires an ability to articulate and reflect - which both are greatly assisted by visualizations. Visualization is crucial yet largely overlooked in innovation strategizing.

Innovation in organizations is multi-dimensional: Adhere to a broad definition of innovation (designing and implementing new and useful things, business model, process, etc.), then quite clearly there are many avenues to get there. It is, therefore, unsurprising that people in organizations will consider only the parts of the process they understand and consider relevant to them. To depict Innovation could be pretty difficult since it is mainly related to human being. In fact, as living people adapt themselves progressively to the various present and future situations when systemized processes are enabled to update themselves without the human touch

The systematic innovation is based on the in-depth understanding business issues. Innovation process could be very loose on purpose...what is very rigorous and systematic is the analysis of the original business problem, product issue, opportunity, marketing dilemma etc.. The ability to innovate is ultimately dictated by the depth of understanding of the problem/issue to be resolved. It’s the important step to identify, understand and evaluate the opportunities where important problems need to be solved or important jobs need to be done (satisfying important customer needs), and then, the practice for systematic innovation can focus on translating from the innovation system to the business process.

To develop a systematic innovation - you need to have the organizational culture correct underneath - many companies can put in place a good systematic approach in process terms, but if the underlying culture doesn’t support risk taking, collaboration, learning (often most via "failure") and self-empowerment, then it’s very difficult to get the best out of the process. Get the two together, and it’s the way you go. Innovation is a learning process that is vital for the organization as well as the individual. Innovation generates value - economic and social value.  It opens up new possibilities of combining existing competencies in new ways which can form new competencies as a stepping stone for doing more of the unexpected creative stuff. 

Accessing Innovation Capability of any organization requires a systematic approach. Innovation often has a lot to do with external circumstances (and people tend to focus on internal circumstances). But just because innovation is greatly influenced by external circumstances doesn't mean the innovation system of the organization is (or should be) unstructured. The robust process and tools that enable any entity generate winning concepts on the CONSISTENT basis, which is the prerequisite for sustaining advantage and growth.

Five Key Elements in Systematic Innovation: "People" are the most important element in the mix. "Innovation" is a result of at least 5 main elements,  1) Strategy 2) Culture, 3) People 4) Process and 5) Tools. These are important elements and missing only one of them will severely influence the sustainability of any intentional innovation effort. A structured approach with all key elements will improve the inventive thinking and the consistency of the innovation results by an order of magnitude

Innovation is a journey and is therefore not possible to pre-describe how it will work out, it involves luck, trial, and error, groping, curiosity, experimentation, research, using structured methods, tools, reviews, systematic analysis, debugging. it also requires a lot of listening and an enormous amount of convincing power. Still, a systematic approach can increase the chance to lead innovation success on the consistent basis.


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