Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Three “Do Not” in Digital Innovation

Do Not think that innovation = no rules; also Do Not manage innovation with the overly rigid process.

Innovation involves new ways of bringing together ideas and resources to create something novel and then transform those novel ideas to achieve the business value. It's obvious that innovation is being pursued now more than ever, and in fact, we see much more innovation in more and more areas of the business landscapes. Digital innovation has an expanded scope and innovation is benefiting the widest audience of the digital ecosystem. Still, there is a high percentage of failure rate for innovation management, and the innovation success rate is not always proportional to how much money you pour in. Innovation is more science than art in the digital era though. Here are three “Do Not” in digital innovation.

“Do Not” confuse innovation with technology only: Though technology is one of the major drivers of innovation, innovation is not just about technology, it's about people, culture, partnership, processes, etc. Innovation comes in many flavors and there are many opportunities in an enterprise to do so. And innovation is in the eye of the beholder -customers. Digital innovation is more often based on collective effort and customer-centricity. So either doing innovation or any kind of changes, it’s important to keep the end in mind, to achieve the business value - do things in the better way, differentiate yourself from your competition, run, grow and transform the business. Innovation is not for its own sake, but for problem-solving. The only test for whether it is or is not an innovation is whether it makes any difference to a dimension that is valued by whoever has a stake in your offering. Looking uphill and into the future can help to identify the real problems that matter, and on a scale that can make a significant difference for the longer term. Innovation is not just about the latest technology, innovation is about discovering an alternative way to solve either old or emergent problem. Innovation is a core business capability which is built via weaving all necessary business elements such as people, process, technology, resources, etc., into the core competency, and innovation is to transform novel ideas to achieve its business value with consistent deliveries.

Do not think that innovation = no rules; also Do Not manage innovation with the overly rigid process: Although as the old adage implies, you can’t make the omelet without breaking some eggs, breaking the outdated rules is an important part of innovation. Still, innovation is a process, to ensure innovation success, the right level of the guideline is important, being "unruly" incurs risk, you need to set the updated digital principles for managing the innovation and mitigating the risks. From talent/culture management perspective, ‘business creativity’ such as leveraging creative thinking for brainstorming solutions to achieve business goals, does require certain ‘rules,’ to help frame, stay focus, and make innovation a fair game to invite all great talent in. An organization that has a lightweight innovation management process which allows ideas flowing, gets protected, channeled, and nurtured will succeed more often than an organization that does not have such a process. The science of innovation is how to well set up the process, most companies fail at innovation execution because they have no clear process, nor understand the linkage required to work horizontally across departments, or a holistic approach to managing innovation. But the overly rigid processes or too ‘pushy’ goals will stifle innovation. Keep hierarchy as low as possible, cut the politics or any unnecessary complexity. A defined structure is essential to managing innovation in a corporation, but there's no single structure that will work in every organization, how to strike the right balance of setting processes and creating an open space to keep ideas flow and innovation grow is the piece of art.

Do Not just measure innovation with lag indicators such as financial metrics only: Normally organizations look for KPIs measuring business results generated by innovation efforts, or the measurement is to create new revenue and drive early success to create a positive spiral. But do not measure innovation only based on short-term financial metrics only. Because it takes quite some time for a new innovation drive to produce those measures. Also, innovation is not just about the new products/services delivery only, there are “soft innovations” such as management innovations which have business learning and growth perspectives, and they should be measured via leading indicators only. These are longer-term investments which take multiple periods to have an effect on the financial KPIs. While in any time period, when evaluating the KPIs, the financial results are seen as the result of activities in prior periods, that’s why they are called “lag indicators.” One of the solutions is to define process KPIs of innovation, which demonstrates the growing capability of the organization to deliver more innovation with business impact in the future. You choose those leading KPIs by deciding which are seen as critical to making business progress in order to deliver more innovations. The goal of innovation measurement is to track the innovation management effectiveness, not just about the quantitative results which sometimes can mislead the management with a short-term perspective only.

Innovation comes in many flavors and there are many opportunities in an enterprise to do so. But there are numerous pitfalls on the way. There is no one size fits all formula to manage innovation as well. The path for innovation blossom can be iterative, evolutionary, revolutionary, or disruptive. Thus, it's important to manage your own set of “Dos and Don’t” list via lessons learned and develop your set of best/next practices for optimizing digital innovation management.


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