Innovation is “hot”!
It seems every organization wants more innovation than they currently have. More and more companies aspire to have innovation at the DNA level, vertically and horizontally across the organization. Indeed, how else does one compete globally in the 21st century without a capacity to innovate and create new value in every direction?
Four Pillars to Sustain Innovative Growth
If your organization is committed to accelerate and sustain its rate of innovative growth, you are embarking on an innovation journey. Once successful, your company will have a new, dynamic architecture to create its future. However, beware, in this design of a new architecture for innovation, there are four basic pillars that must be considered or your innovative growth will be unsustainable.
First, and most important, there must be a Leadership Mandate for innovation that is “loud and clear”. A mandate is an expression of alignment by leadership that enterprise-wide innovation is a business imperative. When most clear, leadership speaks in “one voice” and one tone (“loud”). When leadership is serious about their innovation mandate, it is as much a part of the organization’s conversations as quarterly performance. What is the mandate for innovation at your company? Is it strong or weak? Does it give you more or less confidence in your organization’s future?
Second, there must be dedicated resources and an infrastructure for the company’s practice of innovation. (Important note: absent this and the Mandate is, more likely, a “flavor of the month” campaign.). The architecture of the infrastructure must be proprietary to the organization – there is no “one size fits all” for innovation. Most organizations begin their innovation journey with an Ad Hoc approach to innovation. (One company recently referred to their innovation approach as an “adhocracy”.) What is the investment your company is making in innovative growth and how sophisticated is the “machinery” that supports it?
Third, there must be a creative process that channels new marketplace insights, trends and business model innovations into opportunities for new growth. This creative process is collaborative and engages every constituency inside and outside (customers, suppliers, and partners) the company, as needed. This process explores and discovers incremental to “wild card” opportunities to be developed and, as appropriate, advanced in the company’s new business pipeline. And, the more constituencies that co-create opportunities, the better. People support what they help create. Is your organization’s creative process ad hoc or explicit and dynamic, becoming more sophisticated with experience?
Fourth, there must be a supportive culture that protects, nourishes, develops and executes the innovative growth opportunities. The invisible forces that constrain and inhibit creative thinking like Corporate Gravity and the Corporate Immune System (see earlier blogs) must be addressed. In the most innovative companies, everyone is an innovator. Some organizations, like 3M and Google, designate blocks of time for thinking creatively about ways to grow the enterprise. Is the climate of your company one that is friendly to fresh thinking and new ideas? Are employees encouraged to help invent the future of the enterprise?
Four parts make the whole
Each pillar is important and influences the other three. Companies often make the mistake of believing they can focus on one (i.e. creative process or infrastructure, as with an Office of Innovation, read Polaroid) and it will be sufficient. This is what makes enterprise innovation complex; each company must design, execute and sustain its own dynamic architecture for innovative growth.
In future blogs we will elaborate more fully on the theory and practice inherent in each pillar and how it relates to the other three. All organizations will have different needs and requirements for the scale and relationship between each pillar.