Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to foster innovation and manage disruption?

Do not take the "ivory tower" style to manage innovation, and do not treat your innovation champion as the troublemaker as well.

Innovation is to transform novel ideas and achieve its business values. So innovation is a management discipline and can be planned. However, what are the important considerations for organizations’ leaders or managers to focus on? How can they leverage innovation? What are some of the ideas that were applied to innovative initiatives that you have underway or experienced (either as the driver or participant) that helped facilitate (or impeded) their success?

A good way to foster innovation is to first define what is meant by innovation: There are countless discussions on this, are you pursuing incremental innovation or radical innovation? Is the company looking to add new features or capabilities to an existing product? Is it looking to build on skills and products where it is already successful? Or is it looking to build or create something entirely new, a new product category? People have different skills sets and the group that may be right for one of these tasks is not necessarily right for another one. So first determine what is desired then assign the right people to do it. From innovation purpose to innovation capability, just dig it through.

Different kinds of innovation might need different approaches: Playtime is an important element, but employees should present what they are playing with their peers for feedback. This not only makes the play more goal-directed, but the presentations may stimulate the creativity of others. Everything which makes us human from civilization to culture to technology originated in the Magic Circle of innovation pursuit. But different kind of innovation may need to take different approaches. The top-down approach is fitter for well-planned business improvement; and the disruptive innovations more often happen from the bottom up, cultivate the culture to spark creative ideas and reward your innovators.

Innovation is driven by important Customer and Market Needs: Focus on meeting important customer needs, instead of just doing simply interesting research topics, helps assure that the results of innovative approach will have a positive impact on the clients, partners, end users, and the marketplace. From observation, association, questioning, and experimenting, innovation needs to be practical and customer-driven; the ivory tower style can fail innovation because it could be too theoretical, not practical enough to reach the real customers’ need. Hence, from the varieties of industry surveys, the company’s innovation success rate is not proportional to the innovation research budget they invest in. The highly innovative businesses just do things differently, and the innovation can be managed more systematically: define the most compelling and unique approach to addressing the needs; analyze the benefits per costs of that approach, and quantify why the chosen approach is better than the competition and alternatives.

Innovation Champions & Teams: Creativity is an innate ability of talented people and each innovation project is driven by a passionate advocate to advance the value creation process. Thus having a champion for each initiative is critical to success. Champions help to build productive teams. The multidisciplinary, team-based approach taps into the collective genius of innovators who can think and do things differently. However, most or organizations still think their innovators as a troublemaker and misfit, get penalized, not rewarding, those companies are obviously the innovation laggard.

Although there’s no one size fitting out innovation practice, that makes innovation still be serendipity for many organizations. Businesses just have to learn from experimenting, amplify the best practices, cultivate their innovation champions, ride above the learning curve, and continue to spin the magic circle of innovation.


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