Commitment to innovation

Are you committed to innovation? (Part 2)

In the last column, we discussed the importance of innovation, and the five dimensions of organizational innovation: leadership at all levels; commitment; collaboration and communication; culture; and structure, systems and processes. Of these, commitment is the best indicator of a company’s innovative capacity.

When my company, which helps other organizations innovate and achieve an innovation transformation, audits a company’s commitment to innovation with our CooL innovation audit, we look at eight factors. The last column discussed the first three: show visible leadership commitment, commit time to innovation, and commit to active, extensive human capital development. In this column we’ll discuss the remaining five factors that demonstrate commitment to innovation.

4. Commit to innovation training and workshops

Creative companies invest in creativity and innovation training and creative leadership development, and make these available to a wide range of employees. They ensure that this training is provided by professionals who have practical experience in innovation, and who teach proven innovation methods. Companies committed to innovation also follow such training with real-life application of their employees’ new skills in innovation projects. These companies use external innovation experts to facilitate ideation and innovation workshops, and provide other innovation consultancy services.

Questions: Does your company invest in creativity and innovation training? Is this training limited to a small elite, or is it available to most, or all, employees? Do you follow training by applying the learnings to real innovation projects? Does your company use external professional innovation experts?

5. Commit to systematic innovation

How was Thomas Edison able to earn more than one thousand patents, several of which created or revolutionized entire industries? A major factor of his success was the systematic process that he and his workers followed. Today, many of the most innovative companies also follow systematic processes (such as X-IDEA) in their innovation projects. They engage in different styles of thinking at different steps in these processes, and apply appropriate thinking tools and techniques to stimulate innovation and ensure good outputs.

These processes and tools enable people to think better and produce more and better ideas and outputs. However, it requires discipline to consistently use formal methods in projects, and a company also needs to commit to adequate budgets for the training of employees, the creation of internal process champions, and perhaps also the licensing of an innovation method.

Questions: Do your people follow systematic processes while working on innovation projects? Do you know when to apply which thinking tools to produce desired outputs? How does management ensure that employees have the discipline to follow your methods when working on innovation projects?

6. Commit resources to idea development and rapid prototyping

In many companies individuals, or small teams, in addition to their regular responsibilities, engage in formal or informal innovation initiatives or “skunkworks”. Innovative organizations ensure that whenever those solo or team innovators produce a promising idea concept for a new or improved product, service, solution or process, they get a chance to develop, rapidly prototype, and test the potential of their idea. These innovative firms provide access to special innovation budgets and make other resources, like extra time, rapid prototyping materials, and specialists, available to these innovators.

Questions: Does your company support, financially and with other needed resources, the prototyping and testing of promising idea concepts?

7. Commit to an innovation management system

Innovative organizations also demonstrate their commitment to innovation by implementing formal innovation management systems. Usually, they create innovation management teams to support innovation initiatives in the firm. Some companies even implement software innovation management systems to enable virtual idea submission and effective innovation pipeline management.

Questions: Does your company use a formal system to manage innovation? Do you have a dedicated innovation management team? Do you have a software innovation management system?

8. Commit to measure and track innovation

“What’s measured improves”, said management guru Peter Drucker. Innovative companies systematically measure the performance of their innovation activities. They develop metrics that capture their innovation inputs, throughputs and outputs, and track their performance both on individual projects as well as the company as a whole.

Questions: Do you have metrics for your innovation activities? Are those metrics captured and used?

Conclusion: Looking at the eight facets of commitment to innovation, it’s clear that considerable financial investment is needed to become an innovation leader. Apple invested 5–8% of its net revenues in R&D and innovation in the decade after Steve Jobs returned to the firm in 1997. As their subsequent success illustrates, investment in innovation is worth it, as additional innovation expenditures produce outsize returns when a firm delivers the innovations that its customers want or need.

How committed are you start your innovation transformation and build a creative company with an creative culture?  Contact us if you want to learn more about how to become innovative as an organization. With our organizational innovation transformation method CooL — Creativity UnLimited, we can help your organization making the CooL change.


© Dr. Detlef Reis 2014.

This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on March 27 2014.