Getting the innovation model right

Innovation model

What's your model?

Whether accidental or intentional, all enterprises drive innovation with an organization model that has significant consequences for participation, results, breakthrough improvements or even initiative failure. What should you do to get The Model right for your enterprise?

Indeed, the substance of innovation consists of value-add contributions - be they product driven, service driven, market driven or business-model driven.

But to achieve the substance of innovation an enterprise must design the proper form of organization that is most likely to achieve desired outcomes. There is no best practice ideal organization: Culture, communications, power distribution and human resource considerations are just some of the variables which will dictate what is right and what is wrong.

Ask yourself the following 10 questions regarding how your business is innovating:

  1. Breadth: Is innovation intended to be global, regional, or only within a functional silo (e.g., R&D; marketing)?
  2. Depth: Based on your institution's definition of innovation, what is the percent relative importance of incremental vs. disruptive innovation? What of product, service or model innovation (seek to specify the percent allocation of efforts and investment)?
  3. Maturity: Where are you at this time on the Maturity Life Cycle flow from introduction and growth, to maturity, then decline? Are some divisions/units at different points?  Your Form will vary by maturity stage.
  4. Management ethos: In the most extreme manner, your enterprise may be Top-down Control/authority driven, or, Bottoms-up Highly Empowered. Naturally, most organizations are somewhere in between. Where is your organization, or its target divisions or units seeking to innovate?
  5. Skill levels: Very often, we are asked to take up the challenge to serve as innovators and we may lack skills, know-how or experience to deliver outcomes.  On a scale of 1-5 (5 being highest proficiency), how innovation-capable is the team leading the innovation charge? How about management and leaders - how proficient are they to embrace and understand recommendations?
  6. Legacy: How successful were the last attempts at innovation? Which ones succeeded? Which ones failed, and why? Study the failures the most - therein lie many secrets to how you may wish to organize for success this time.
  7. Time management: How much time - and what - has been allocated to specific innovation jobs? What permission do innovation workers have to "waste" time or invest time on chosen pursuits? Lack of time to innovate is the #1 innovation killer.
  8. Sponsorship: Trite, yet true - innovation is only as successful as the quality and commitment of its sponsors. Roughly 60% of the clients I work with have yet to get the sponsorship dimension right, yet they know it is essential. Career risks, politics, and lack of strategy alignment are but three of the key reasons.
  9. Collaboration: A mere suggestion box will usually fall very short of innovation goals. That's because innovation springs from collaboration. Most organizations have designed work settings, personal MBOs and jobs to be "solo" endeavors where collaboration is optional. Great innovators know better: behaviors, rewards and information systems reinforce collaboration at every step. My friend Rowan Gibson has more to say on this subject.
  10. Time horizon: Lately, innovation is in, so many organizations are abuzz with efforts and initiatives. But the pendulum swings. I encounter many organizations that commit to innovation for 1-2 years, declare victory or failure, and move on to the next Change Initiative of the Month. So ask the basic question: Is innovation here to stay? Is it in test mode? How many years do we have to prove our innovation agenda?

Look at your answers. Do they validate your enterprise innovation model, contradict it, or thrust you into grey areas? Reach out to me personally if you wish to discuss your enterprise's challenge; I really dig working on this stuff. In my Innovation Intensives workshops we spend 1-2 days, not hours, discussing these questions with five to 15 senior executives who will design, own and manage the innovation agenda.

The ultimate form of innovation - how innovation is pursued and organized - is rarely the same at the end of the workshop as it was thought to be when we all walked into the room.

You have the answers. Ask the questions, then take action.

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