Friday, July 7, 2017

CIOs as Chief Innovation Officer: Take a Step wise Approach to Manage Innovation

Innovation shouldn’t be a serendipity, it is a management process and the differentiated business capability.

In essence, innovation is the use of something that is new and unique, and you are able to create its business value. Isn't that what innovation is all about: do it better, differentiate yourself from your completion, run, grow and transform the business. For forward-thinking organizations today, innovation is not just nice to have but must have core business capability to compete for the future. Innovation is not just about technology as well, it's about people, culture, partnership, processes, etc. Innovation Management is an overarching management discipline which needs to weave many key business factors into an innovation playbook and take a stepwise approach to achieve its business value.

Discover the needs: Innovation has a broader scope in the digital era, it is not limited to products/ service/business model innovation, also includes soft innovations such as leadership/communication/ culture innovation. It is important to discover the needs of innovation as the first step. Digital is the era of customers. Thus, people and consumers' experience are at the center of everything you do. 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. Business innovation is about creating a value proposition that would move your prospects to become your clients; more importantly, to improve customer retention. It takes vision, empathy, and understanding of innovation effort to manage a balanced innovation portfolio with the right mix of breakthrough innovation, evolutionary innovation, and incremental innovation

Take a structural approach: Innovation shouldn’t be a serendipity, it is a management process and the differentiated business capability. It should take a structural approach. Make the innovation process as visible, company-wide, as possible, but not too rigid. Organizations can be more effective in executing innovative ideas by relying less on silo functions, more on cross-functional collaboration and continuous improvement. Bridging the innovation execution gap requires a systematic execution scenario with clear-defined stages, decision-making parameters, performance thresholds, metrics definition, combined with the iterative learning process and organizational structure that supports wide-ranging exploration at each stage. The innovation approach should also match the type of innovation being managed. The top-down approach is fitter for well-planned business improvement, and the disruptive innovations more often happen from bottom up. Perhaps most of the times, the business needs to take a hybrid approach to strive for applying good practice - good for certain organizations and for the specific situations and challenges that are faced and that actually requires different priorities as compared to others. It is critical to 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.

Update the innovation framework, process, and technology: The “hard” issues to stifle innovation is that the systems/processes/technology a lot of organizations are using to capture innovation value are becoming inefficient in this rapidly changing world with the high degree of digital convenience. It is also important that many companies approaching the subject, have the objectivity and humility to realize that their system or processes are out of date. So, the challenge is how to leverage the emergent digital technologies to renovate and build up the strong partner relationship to update the innovation framework, process, and technology, to speed up innovation management life cycle. The latest digital technologies also make it much easier to share ideas and scale up innovation via harnessing communication and enforcing collaboration.

Analyze the innovation benefit per costs, and measure innovation effort both qualitatively and quantitatively: Like many other types of management, measurement is important to make innovation value more tangible. Any innovative idea in order to be successful during its development into innovation should satisfy the following criteria: Consume-ability, marketability, feasibility, and profitability. Some innovations take a bit longer term investment, shareholders and C-suite executives need to agree that the next round of financial statements is not just for the short-term purpose. In many companies, a pervasive obsession for purely quantitative measurement or numerical success indicators sweeps aside much of the softer and more qualitative information that is crucial in understanding the health and well-being of the firm's innovation efforts holistically. Generally speaking, from the workforce and workplace innovation management perspective, there are two types of measurement. The first type of measurement of creativity in the workplace is through the results, the outcomes of creative thoughts and actions. What value have those new things designed and implemented? The second type of assessment is through the innovation drivers, the elements that enhance an organization's innovation capacity. For measuring such, there must be an appreciation for the organization of the sources of creativity as well as the structures and cultures that will promote innovation.

Every organization is different, every innovation initiative is also unique, there’s no one size fitting all innovation practice, that makes innovation still be serendipitous for many organizations. The highly innovative businesses just do things differently, have the right people in place to manage the process, valuing experience, insight, and judgment to rigorously make the needed decisions, and manage a balanced innovation portfolio systematically.


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