Thursday, April 3, 2014

How to Manage Innovation Complexity

Innovation is about reducing the unnecessary complexity. It’s the mastery to allow you to overcome any complexity or manage innovation effectively. 

 Innovation is how to transform novel ideas to achieve its business value, due to the hyper-complexity of modern business, innovation is essentially about reducing the unnecessary business complexity. But from a management perspective, how to manage innovation complexity, though?

Innovation is about change. Because when you work with new ideas and some is leading to new innovations (changes), you are challenging what already IS in the company, the balance of power, strategies, ways of working, comfort zones, processes, budgets etc., the initial success factor is to have people involved in your side and convince them on the necessity of the innovation process to be executed. Although not all changes are innovation, innovation is definitely about the change.

Managing innovation systematically: Ideas and thinking processes and many of them really are not talking about innovation per se,  they are more accurately discussing (BPR) business process re-engineering. Generally speaking, if you can not get people to write down what they observe and truly/deeply "think" about what innovation could be invoked for some betterment or much higher efficiency or simply for good reasons, then all the processes which most of them are overly complex in the world are not going to get anyone to reach their best "thinking and contributing" potential.

Barriers to innovation are easily defined: Inertia: Here are some common response: "We've always done it this way," "Our competitors are doing it so it must be right," "Stick to your own responsibility," "You don't really understand that problem," "Don't rock the boat;" etc. Indeed, attitude matters, and DARE a little to ask "Why" or "Why not." That is hardly a habit among those averse to rocking the boat or questioning establishment practices. Get your idea brought up in meetings. Find a willing collaborator. Get endorsement from anyone higher-ranked than you are, innovation changes in different aspects related to a company or organization (employees, suppliers, operations, etc.). 

It’s the mastery to allow you to overcome any complexity. Maybe the use of the word "complexity" creates a mixed view of "managing innovation" thereby setting the stage to confuse the real subject. There is a process to learn to organize oneself and then its mastery will allow you to overcome any complexity and build solid innovation capability. While a process of innovation can be learned, can it be "instilled" into the business culture? A mindset that believes any solution can be considered, especially if it is new or different, whenever a problem or snag exists, seems to be a necessity.

Innovation is about reducing the unnecessary complexity: In the end, innovation complexity has to be reduced to actionable, overriding variables, which must be managed. Innovation is about reducing the complexity to identify those critical variables, which are context, project dependent. This is why it is important to have an innovation methodology versus selected case studies to emulate. Often the case studies do not address the critical variables at hand for the current project. 

It takes system mindset and open leadership to manage innovation complexity, as such collective mindset can think deeper and dare to ask WHY, WHY NOT questions, it also takes the collective attitude which is the business culture to catalyze the changes, and it is a critical business capability to manage innovation portfolio effectively. 


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