Innovation is a key factor to achieve long term and in some terms sustainable success. Innovation therefore has to be part of an over-all strategy and Innovation need to be defined as an action that imbues all strategic aspects. However, many organizations lack the right leadership and therefore suffer from a toothless strategy. We need to focus on three pillar stones of Innovation. This is a brief introduction to these.
It is not a question of forming a strategic incentive to be adaptive and agile. It is about courage to form a strategy of becoming a leader. With this comes tactical issues for agility and adaptability, but let the strategy define how to lead change in your area of activity. Dare to disrupt. Dare to take space.
Three pillar stones of Innovation
There are many ways to define Innovation, and I believe that basically every situation and organization have to interpret Innovation as such, in their own manner. Every management team I work with goes through the process of defining what and why, however, the definition is not as valuable as the process to formulate it.
I like to base my discussions around Innovation on three pillar stones: The known, The Unknown and Resources. These three, encompass so many dimensions which are vital to drive innovation; strategy, culture, leadership, structure, processes, finance, eco system etc. These are all embraced by Googols Innovation Capability Configuration model.
Now, back to the definition, Innovation is all about the process of developing solutions to needs and problems and repetitively supplying these, with a define value proposition. So, Innovation cannot be defines as merely ideas, or technologies, nor just products or services. We have to embrace a thinking of business models, processes and leadership also. To me, Innovation is also much about thinking in other boxes, not only outside the box, that is.
Thinking in other boxes, embrace the job of studying and finding models of working that have been approached by other organizations and adjusting these for our own situation. Doing this, again we return to the pillar stones of Innovation:
Pillar stone 1. The known
The known, represents the expertise and traditions of the company. Here we find the current assets built over time, the brand, the built-in knowledge and experiences. The more of this we identify and bring to the table, the better our ability to innovate. And yes, I mean it. Since Innovation is defined as a process of creating value based on ideas on how to solve problems and needs, in a for each case novel way; “the known”, is an asset to minimize risk, shorten time to market and minimizing the need of external resources. However, leadership is vital, so that the right problems are approached, and disruptive solutions are sought after. With this pillar stone, comes courage. Else, there has been a misunderstanding.
Pillar stone 2. The unknown
Curiosity drives Innovation. It didn’t kill the cat. We need to incorporate a constant questioning of how things are done and why. In which ways could the job be done in another way? What jobs to be done by our clients, can we help solve in a better way? How are things done better in other industries? Which needs can I offer solutions to? What is really going on in my, and other market spaces? We must navigate out into places where we don’t yet know how to identify the solutions. Venture into areas where we don’t know what the effects will be from our journey. We do this through insight work and business intelligence and through our networks giving us tips on what is cooking. This, “the unknown”, is the pure spring bed of new ideas to be brought forward. Again, leadership has to be visionary and guiding. Leadership has to be daring, long-term and able to connect dots that might not even be visible. This is when mega trends meet evidence and creative questioning in one arena. This space is filled with question marks and a few exclamations.
Pillar stone 3. Resources
Through management of resources we drive behavior. Unlimited resources are likely contra productive to continuous Innovation. It is the scarcity of resources that force us to be smarter. But let us not kid ourselves; we need have access to the right recourses at the right time.
Return on Nothing
What resources are we talking about? I once coined the expression, Return on Nothing, putting the finger on the fact that Innovation can be achieved with already existing structures and opportunities. The needs for heavy investments are not necessarily what we first have to focus on. Business Model Innovation can for instance be far easier to try than developing new disruptive products.
Two of the most important resources lies within access to management and top performing team members. With access to management comes trust and drive. A third resource is access to the eco-system of the organization. With this comes cost efficient and customer based development. It goes without saying that funding is of importance. However, fund wisely, so that entrepreneurship is fostered. This will have future value when it comes to continued commercialization.
Again, here management needs to put focus on often relatively small initiatives, with high growth, different culture and its own branding ambitions. This can be contradictory to managing an ingoing, cash-flow generating, however slowly deteriorating business. Thus, foster leadership, engage intrapreneurs, be curious and courageous. Dare to be disruptive!