Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Innovation Barriers

 Innovations can range from small to game changers. It's the essence of evolution.

As businesses get more cut-throat in the hyper-connected digital environment, Organizations rise and fall, not on the quantum of plans and resources, but on the capabilities to lead, manage, innovate and achieve higher than expected results. Innovation has to become a part of the DNA of the organization by "making meaningful connections" and being delivered in many different ways. 

In reality though, there are various barriers and numerous pitfalls the business management needs to handle effectively in order to build a balanced innovation portfolio and spiral up the growth cycle of the company.

Inconsistent information & inherent uncertainty in untested emerging technologies; Information is one of the most intensive pieces of innovation and technology is often the disruptive force behind evolutionary changes. However, there are inherent dangers of too much information or incoherence in exponential growth of information and the body of knowledge, the provenance of data--Big Data, Small Data, customer data, operational data, hot data, archived data, some new, some outdated, that surrounds us causes miscommunication, poor judgment, or ineffective decisions, etc. There is legacy IT infrastructure and there’s untested emerging technology, which bring both significant opportunities to innovation, but remember that there is risk in every opportunity, and in managing risks, you can explore emerging opportunities continually.

Information today is the glue to weave diver management disciplines. From an idea/talent management perspective, the scarcity of information, misinformation or overspecialization make people get stuck in their comfort zone, lacking the ability to connect the cross domain dots for generating fresh ideas. There are inherent dangers of too much knowledge particularly because of the inconsistencies and incoherence in exponential growth of information and the body of knowledge that surrounds us. Thus, it’s important to have the right attitude - with the appropriate dose of risk tolerance, and the proficient skills to deal with such emerging varieties skillfully. Make an objective assessment to see if the business change with associated technology is the right investment to be doing in the first place, to ensure the expected return. Pick the right time to step in and every new technology adopted should facilitate the business but also bring down the incremental cost of growth and the time to market. Remember information is the means to an end; quality matters; a healthy information management from data storage, data integration to data security and governance is to refine information into critical business foresight and customer insight to achieve business value proposition.

Incohesive innovation management processes: Innovation is not serendipity, in a basic view, innovation is a process and every process needs to be managed. Different types of innovation (incremental or radical) should be managed via tailored management processes. Lots of ideas mean you will fail if you do not have a screening process to systematically evaluate them and a robust process to implement them. The main process barriers to innovation are silos, rigidity, inflexibility, static, or bureaucracy, etc. Innovation often happens at the intersection of people and process. The innovation management needs to ponder deep via the process lens: Are processes too rigid to adapt; too fragile to handle disruptions, or too inside-out without embracing people centricity? Do innovations fail because there are too many disconnects that occur between the birth of a concept and the process of turning it into a reality? Is there transparency in follow-up of a system of the innovation process from the idea up to the implementation? Can you predict risks, can you deal with uncertainty? Is there any fundamentally different approach to process management that would provide more flexibility, more sensitivity, and more responsiveness? Etc.

The main challenge organizations face when attempting to digitize and innovate is a cohesive management discipline with the tailored methodology in a consistent manner through which they can implement innovations and develop ideas into fruition. You can’t imagine a successful innovation process without its continuous improvement. A quality process means the right level of guidance and discipline, but overly rigid processes or too ‘pushy’ goals will create new bottlenecks and stifle innovation. Make the innovation process as visible, company-wide, as possible, so information can be integrated and people can be aligned into a dynamic innovation capacity seamlessly. Planning and optimizing are important for both innovation management and management innovation. Fine-tuned processes and step-wise innovation scenarios make innovation more science than art to improve its success rate.

Insufficient investment in innovation: Compared to many traditional investments, innovation investment is risky, especially the breakthrough innovation has huge potential along with significant risks in it. Some innovation efforts take longer time to nurture into fruition; other innovation initiatives are difficult to measure tangible results by only using traditional lagging indicators of performance management. But insufficient investment in innovation will keep your business irrelevant for the long run. Thus, it’s important to see your business as an “asset under construction,” innovation management is the imaginable catalyst and unique capability blocks of new business value creation. Be cautious of risks, but be courageous to deal with risks. The problem is often that the innovation initiative is not well defined. Without well-defined goals, you won’t have an effective plan to invest and enough time and patience to generate results. You need to take a fast, hard look at the business case that justifies the program you are engaged in, and spending assets on capability enabled innovation initiatives which make significant impact.

Visibility into each investment is established to provide ongoing investment health information as well as enable understanding the overall innovation management portfolio health. Before the investment is made, the requester should be required to identify strategy, capacity, and discipline such as: show the objective of the investment and tangible elements such as value, timeline, risk to improve its success rate. The management needs to scrutinize their mentality and methodology to innovate by asking: Strategy - Do we know "Why Where When" to innovate? Discipline - Do we have the Leadership- Behavior- Metrics to finish what we start? Capacity - Do we have the Processes - People - Resources to drive ideas to commercialization? Performance - Can we define a set of measurements to manage innovation scientifically? Are innovation portfolios diversified? What is the relative health (risk, value, strategic importance) of each of the portfolios? Etc. The wise innovation investment can leverage appropriate technologies and solutions to generate invaluable insights to help their businesses open up new channels of revenue and monetization within the enterprise, their ecosystem, and the industry.

Inertia of innovation culture: Culture is the soft success factor for innovation management. Most of the organizations are not fertile ground for ideation, and also do not have a culture of change, learning, and risk-tolerance. They are trapped by current experiences or conventional wisdom. They fear taking risks and seldom learn from their mistakes. Culture inertia is caused by silo mentality, bureaucratic management style, inflexible process, or outdated performance system, etc. Due to the complexity of modern businesses, within the organizations, innovation nowadays is rarely an individual action; rather, it is a team effort, often across multiple silos.

To innovate continually, we need to encourage cross boundary communication and collaboration, streamline idea flow, and drive thinking-learning-sharing-doing continuum. In fact, for many large scale innovation efforts, culture innovation becomes a cohesive effort to sustain high performance results and unleash business potential to innovate consistently. The key issue is whether management recognizes a need for innovation/improvement and will support innovation management and management innovation. The leadership plays a crucial role in lubricating innovation friction, spotting their innovators, and inspiring creativity. The regular updates and identifications of individual team member's strengths and weaknesses, enables timely intervention where and when challenges are identified. Forward-looking corporations need processes and culture to sustain cross-boundary engagement to discover external ideas, as well as interdisciplinary knowledge and expertise to manage those ideas to achieve business values

Ineffective system: When systems control the circumstances, not people, you know it doesn’t mean the system is superior, but very possibly it’s broken. When people are not working via the system to practice creativity, but play the system to stifle innovation or create the “comfort zone” to discourage creativity or stop changes, you know that there is a problem. If talented people complain that the system doesn’t allow them to do innovation; it is the signal that implies something is wrong in a system. In innovation management practice, the highly complex and dynamic system needs to be elaborated in a well-organized effort, to make hierarchical systems adaptive so that they can respond to the challenges of a more complex, interconnected, and interdependent world.

The elements of an outdated system are built using out-of-favor or at least depreciated tools, running on out-of-favor platforms. The limitations of the systems start to show and they are no longer able to accommodate innovation needs; when systems are bad, the silo thinking is propagating, the business functional gaps are enlarged, and functional walls go up; when the performance system is “bad,” because you see mediocrity get rewards, and innovation gets punished. Dysfunction, complication, rigidity, and inefficiencies are not always easy to uncover. What underpins the innovation process and methodology is the genuine valuing of people. When people feel valued they contribute significantly, the system can be run effectively. Without this system perspective, it is difficult to identify the most critical performance indicators, and the likelihood of sub-optimizing various parts of the system is high. It takes processes, methodology, and practices to identify the causes and it takes a great deal of effort to outline the total system at work in an enterprise that accomplishes innovation.

Innovations can range from small to game changers. It's the essence of evolution. You have to overcome different innovation barriers carefully and manage innovation in the right way with the right elements, strategically and systematically to achieve consistent business results.


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