In the conclusion to her look into the 5-Myths of Innovation, Carol Rozwell of Gartner, concludes that creating the right culture and getting everyone involved will result in better outcome for the company.
Myth No4: The More Ideas We Generate, the Better
Frequently, firms try to create a frenzy of excitement around innovation, based on the premise that the more ideas you can generate, the better. But, the facts do not support this premise.
One example comes from a publishing company that established an innovation program led by an innovation council. It ran unfocused campaigns to collect “good ideas.” After an innovation council culled through the entries, it ended up discarding all but two of the more than 680 ideas submitted — a hit rate of only 0.3%.
Another example comes from a case study of a pharmaceutical manufacturer. It conducted a rigorous idea management program but decided that only 2.5% of the ideas submitted were worth developing further.
This means that the proper focusing of ideation and handling of ideas is one of the most critical aspects of successful innovation programs. Organizations with well-established innovation programs find that running “ideation campaigns” or events is an effective way to garner possible solutions to pressing problems.
Recognizing and defining a problem or objective is an essential first step in the ideation process. As legendary inventor Charles Kettering put it, “A problem well-stated is half solved.” Once ideas have been submitted during an ideation campaign, it requires persistence, collaboration, open minds and determination to convert even a good, well-defined idea into a working innovation.
Idea management tools can help organizations focus the innovation process by stimulating idea generation, improvement and evaluation. Tools, of course, only support the innovation process. They do not make a company inherently more creative or instill a corporate culture able to deal effectively with innovation. However, once the organization has developed its innovation capability by establishing the foundation for innovation (that is, clarifying the business need, assigning resources, creating an innovation process flow map and identifying key areas for innovation), technology can support the ideation process.
The experience of enterprises that have used idea management tools to run ideation campaigns led to the following findings about successful innovation management:
Leadership and organizational structure are essential. There needs to be a facilitator to guide the innovation effort and a champion who has an urgent need to solve a pressing problem.
The events to garner ideas must be very focused on a specific business or technology issue that excites people’s passion, rather than a vague concept such as “decrease expenses.”
Rewards and recognition have to be built into the program for both the people that submit the ideas and the people that enhance and improve them.
The idea management campaigns must be well publicized so champions receive participation from a range of people who feel passionate about the issue.
The review team must include subject matter experts who can properly evaluate ideas on their merit without regard to personal gain or loss.
Those ideas selected for implementation must be rapidly moved into the pilot stage.
All contributors need to receive acknowledgement of their submissions in a timely manner, as well as an explanation of how the ideas were evaluated.
Information is available to everyone recognizing the initial contributors and describing how ideas are actually implemented. This recognition is a reward for the contributor and an incentive for future contributors.
Performance metrics need to be established so that employees are encouraged to submit ideas and take risks — even if they result in “failure.”
Action item: Create a foundation for innovation by intentionally designing idea generation and evaluation processes to elicit highly relevant ideas and to effectively evaluate and select winning ideas.
Myth No. 5: We Have Lots of Smart People, so Innovating Will Be No Problem
Getting the participation of smart people during an ideation campaign or event does not automatically lead to innovation. There are countless people and “style” issues that must be reconciled during the innovation process. A variety of skills are integral to the innovation process, though some skills will be more important at different stages of the innovation process than others.
It is important that organizations deal with the requirement to assemble a diverse team in a coherent, consistent and companywide fashion. There are a variety of different style classification schemes that companies can use to select people and styles required to make up a strong, diverse team. Some of these include Kirton Adaption Innovation Index (KAI), Myers-Briggs, Herrmann Brain Dominance Indicator and Six Hats. The key is to pick one and use it to build a balanced team where people play the role that most suits their skills. A balanced team will include people with the ability to:
- Create: ideate (invent) new concepts.
- Adapt: improve upon existing ideas.
- Connect: network with others to seek out new ideas and trends.
- Realize: find the flaws in ideas before they are implemented.
- Act: make the ideas work operationally.
- Drive: initiate and lead programs.
The most challenging skill to find is the ability to tap into the network. It requires interaction skills as well as a comfortable grasp of social software and social networking technology.
Going forward, expect to see some companies introducing a new role in the organization — the chief innovation officer. It will be their task to manage the innovation process by blending the right people with the right skills in order to fuel innovation that is in line with the company’s goals and strategies. Chief innovation officers will need to be well connected in their organizations and familiar with some of the style classification schemes mentioned above. This person will be an innovation catalyst — they do not own all the decisions about what to innovate nor which ideas to select, but they do own the process of catalyzing and bringing together lots of people in the organization to innovate together.
By connecting the support of “top down” leadership with “bottom up” direction, the chief innovation officer can build powerful networks of intellectual capital with clear accountability and performance measures. The net result will be to compress the normal time scales for innovation development. Companies that can sustain a continued pace of implementing innovations (not simply spending on R&D) will garner increased shareholder investment and attract the best employees and suppliers.
Action item: If your organization has created an innovation catalyst team or council, ensure the team collectively has a balanced set of skills including the ability to create, adapt, connect, realize, act and drive innovation.
The bottom line of innovation
When enterprises think innovation, they must think enterprise-wide. The need to innovate applies to processes, technologies and organizational structure, as well as management and leadership styles.
Organizations that want to develop innovation as a core competency must create a culture in which innovation can thrive, and then extend the process to the entire employee base. They also need to set clear objectives and allocate both budget and personnel resources to establish enterprise innovation as the de facto approach for achieving business growth and operational excellence.
Carol Rozwell is an analyst with Gartner Inc.
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