Much has been written about how to knock together a culture of innovation in a company’s DNA. Innovations savants like Apple, Google, P&G and PepsiComake it seems as though a culture of innovation is a panacea for all company struggles.
But, little is known that even when an environment of innovation is created, it’s still in limbo what leaders should do to foster innovation success. To combat this, senior leaders slave away to boost their organization’s ability to innovate. They have a seemingly unending list of options to consider: Shake things up. Invest in ideas generation. Include everyone. Incentivize innovation. Hire innovators. Harness the power of action learning. Oh, and the likes.
Often, there lies a fundamental question.
So, what is the point of all of these? To create an army of business leaders that can launch a disruptive business? To embed innovation into standard activities of your company so your employees solve problems in neoteric ways. To develop a structured approach for driving innovation to put to sea new and flourishing ventures. To see, all of the above making magic happen.
Often, companies define a managerial approach to innovation by developing a set of questions to better understand the problem that needs to be solved. Now, this is a challenging task, because developing innovation that can have a lasting impact demands a whole new set of subjects to be addressed. Embedding innovation in an organization is more of a system-level issue, which requires a clear-cut and in-line set of organizational interventions.
But, to determine what set of organizational interventions makes most sense, you first need to answer a basic question: What problem needs to be solved using innovation?
The answer to this fundamental question matters a lot because it helps determine which part of the organization needs intervening, what resources need to be put up, and how long it will take before things begin to change.
In most cases, three basic types:
Innovation to create new growth
A leader who needs to address this problem, understands that the company needs to push beyond traditional boundaries of its business to attain its financial goals. There could be many reasons demanding innovation: increasing competitive intensity, disruptive innovation by a competitor has emerged, or the company’s core business has abated.
Reaching both, growth and profit goals, require more than just boosting an organization’s ability to create new businesses in the same ecosystem, and that, let’s be honest doesn’t just appear magically from day-to-day operations.
Leaders brooding over why their innovation engine isn’t humming the way it is supposed to, should isolate this single problem from the core business in order to curtail distraction. MVIS – a minimum viable innovation system, where great ideas are encouraged, reviewed, shared, prioritized, developed, incentivized and celebrated, can help kick-start innovative growth. It is, basically, a connected set of interventions that can set the engine running.
Competing effectively in existing market
Sometimes, the uninterrupted creativity and inventiveness necessary to boost growth in an organization is often punctuated by bursts of cessation. In such cases, the resources, leading to innovation need to harness in a systematic manner. An organization should be able to tap into its optimal innovation potential.
Here, rather than sequestering innovation efforts, innovation mind-sets and behaviors, both need to be embedded into the day-to-day activities of the people involved in the business. It could be the frontline customer service representatives and salespeople to the C-suite.
This calls for investing in programs dedicated to employee training, or creating enough room for innovation activities, such as designing and executing experiments. One of Google’s top rules of imbuing innovation involves providing each and every employee 20% of their time one day a week on side projects. This has given birth or disruptive products such as Gmail, Google News and AdSense.
Today, companies are waking up after realizing that giving its broader population more control of their time, and allowing them a chance to chase novel ideas can drive more than just performance and commitment.
Handling both the problems at once
Reaching new growth levels stemming from existing operations while also pursuing business beyond its existing boundaries requires a different kind of intervention. Leaders in such cases should recognize the needs to balance existing as well as future needs.
It can be addressed by regulating innovation by giving maximum efforts to fundamental systems that control resource allocation and decision making. This kind of organizational intervention demands senior leadership commitment because of the magnitude of its efforts.
In simple terms, innovation isn’t a panacea proposition in a struggling organization. Senior leaders need to focus on fixing the fundamental problem first, especially when it’s an ailing core business in the middle of a crisis, or a business struggling with basic operational issues. Again, innovation is, and can never be a quick fix for a struggling company. Senior leaders should recognize the needs to make strategic choices, where it means instilling everyday into the standard routines or institutionalizing it, or isolating new growth efforts from existing ones.