In one of my posts, I talked about how to build an impactful innovation program. To deliver the right business outcomes at the right time, everyone in the organization must understand what its seeking to accomplish through innovation. Creating organizational alignment and a nurturing environment is critical for your innovation program to deliver a continuous pipeline of advantages.
Research and client experience validates that the lack of an explicit innovation strategy in line with the overall corporate strategy, as well as an inconsistent culture, thwarts the kind and degree of innovation-driven performance or adaptation needed. This lack of focus starts with the different mindsets of the enterprises leaders and ends with the orientation of the companys innovation ecosystem that is, employees and beyond, such as supply chain partners.
One approach I employ to facilitate creating an innovation strategy around which all executives rally is inspired by the writings of Dr. Ankush Chopra. This approach involves conducting a half- to one-day workshop with each business unit. Invite enough participants to ensure diversity of thought and representation of all key stakeholders. Using a systems-thinking and time-compressed workshop design framework, facilitate the group through exercises to outline the business units needs relative to ensuring growth and profitability. Then have the group develop a hypothetical innovation portfolio to meet those growth and profitability goals using a simple 3X3 matrix the X axis is the time horizon (short, medium, and long term) and the Y axis is the focus of innovation (Optimization, Step-up, and Game Changing). If you populate another 3X3 matrix with all the actual innovation projects underway and compare it to the hypothetical portfolio, you can see where you may need to rebalance. Identify a high-level roadmap to adjust the innovation portfolio and identify next steps. After completing all workshops youll be able to see if any patterns or common needs emerge to set an enterprise-wide strategy.
For enterprise-wide coordination of efforts, I recommend creating an Enterprise Innovation Dashboard that is available to all your employees and others in the innovation ecosystem. It will help them understand how the organization is doing on the measures that matter relative to fulfilling the innovation strategy. Ensure that the within each unit tie back to the Dashboard and align leadership performance incentives.
Dont Forget the Back End and the Importance of Pivoting
A rapid, iterative experimentation process (or RIEP) enables the validation of new and novel ideas through speedy cycles of prototyping and hypothesis testing. The importance of RIEP cannot be ignored as it helps create better, bigger, bolder, faster, cheaper innovations, as TCS ally, IXL Center says. Whether you build your own RIEP capability or leverage third parties, a Lean Startup-style approach to converting promising concepts to meaningful business outcomes is essential to moving the innovation-driven performance needle.
Innovation program managers must be willing to pivot, just as entrepreneurs do with their hoped-to-be high-growth companies. Take a hard look at what youve been doing that has and has not worked. Continue to use proven ideation and conversion techniques and tools, but be willing to try to new things. For example, if you have been focused on an inside out approach to innovation, consider building an Open Innovation Network to inspire and accelerate the ideation and conversion processes. Or if youve been relying on internal idea crowdsourcing, think about running a hackathon involving innovation ecosystem members or a four- to eight-week initiative (e.g., a startup lab) structured to cover disruptive insight generation, ideation, experimentation, and readying for monetization, involving along the way your best intrapreneurs with a diverse mix of skills.
Staying the Course of Change
A high-performing innovation engine requires both consistency and continuous evolution. The needs of the business for competitive sustainability are dynamic, mimicking the marketplace. Therefore, your innovation program must be agile enough to align itself to market demands.