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Is Innovation for us?

Is Innovation for us?

Most companies we work with do know that Innovation is crucial for their progress and, in fact, survival. And most, if not all, know that Innovation need not be big-bang (or disruptive in Clay's words).

However, very often companies are faced with following problems:

  1. Innovation ideas are not encouraged and channelized for implementation.
  2. Not all innovation possibilities are captured and implemented.
  3. Organizations are mired by trivial innovation ideas.
  4. Managers kill good ideas before they see the light of the day.
  5. Innovation ideas are also put through ROI calculations (there has been a lot of debate on this in HBR and other places).

We have found that the problem does not exist in their capability to innovate. The problem lies in the structure, process and enablers set up to harness innovation.

We believe that an Innovation-centric organization should look at Innovation from following key parameters:

Leadership focus: Innovation is something that has to come top-down. The organization should see leadership to be completely focused and behind the idea of Innovation. For e.g. very often Innovation is the mantra only in town halls and never followed through with concrete steps or leadership cuts the "Innovation Budget" (we believe that this itself is a hindrance), on the first sight of downturn.

Idea Factory: There has to be a well-oiled process defined for idea identification, filtration, PoC and implementation with adequate resources of time and people. There are many ways to do it and different process designs fit different organizations. This is where we have seen many organizations faltering. We have seen organizations getting on to Innovation bandwagon with much fanfare and also branding these initiatives with fancy logos and names. But then they fritter away the initiative within 6 months.

Culture: Organizations have to develop and embrace "Innovation Culture". So, what really is Innovation Culture? An Innovation culture is where there is a free hand to experiment, where there is no fear of failure, where brightest of minds apply themselves, where successes are celebrated, where effective feedback to improve is given and essence of collaboration is ingrained. Easy definition and easily said huh! It is key to build such a culture carefully and constructively. Of course, there are a number of ways of doing so in a sustained manner for sustained results.

Champions: Do we need Innovation champions? It depends really on a number of factors such as the culture (again!), past successes/failures, staff readiness and cynicism, size of the organization, business spread etc.. We believe that Innovation champions are a must when an Innovation initiative is started or resumed. However, we have carefully choose the champions based on key parameters.

Support Systems and Tools: There will be a need to have a set of support systems and tools to enable knowledge sharing, storage, experimentation, quick PoCs, labs, etc.

Measurement: Finally, the measurement. When we speak about measurement, we immediately jump solely to financial measurement. While Financial Measurement is important, that should be the only one. Organizations are well advised to use a comprehensive Innovations Value Evaluation Mechanism to measure true success of Innovation over a sustained period of time.

Only a holistic, structured and concerted approach to Innovation will provide the desired results.