How to Benchmark your Innovation Maturity Level

A major step in setting a direction for innovation is assessing the Current Level of innovation maturity. Imaginatik’s methodology determines the Current Level from several inputs using proprietary tools: a broad employee survey, in-depth interviews with a core senior executive team, occasionally some discussions with Board members, and informal observations by our experienced innovation consultants.

A preliminary Current Level profile is the basis for a second 4-8 hours senior executive cocreation session. At this point, executives evaluate survey and interview data, including anecdotes, to uncover themes or patterns that add context to the Current Level view. Usually these insights help to calibrate the Current Level assessment with respect to the five innovation areas of capability development: strategy, process, organization, resources and culture. Lively discussion often reveals the key hurdles to overcome in order for innovation to take hold or accelerate.

Level 1 – Ignored is relatively rare, and includes those cases where innovation is actively considered not to be a corporate priority. Failure and risk-taking are punished, while individual heroes are rewarded without an eye to replicating the success. Almost everyone keeps their head down and follows the rules at all costs.

Level 2 – Initiated is what most organizations look like when innovation is being pursued by one department or function without a global game plan. In most cases, incremental Horizon 1 innovations are the focus. In fact, “under the cover” innovations often occur in Level 2. We will often hear someone say “I do these projects without formal permission because I probably would never get the funding or go ahead if I asked”. Level 2 is parochial, local, fragmented but innovation progress is being made. A few important innovations often establish the business case for a more formal synchronized approach. Measurements are scarce.

Level 3 – Systematized is characterized by an organizational commitment to “make innovation real.” Not only are processes and KPIs established (which require an end-state vision in terms of results and outcomes), but also idea management begins to flourish, rewards and recognition are introduced, and leadership provides people and money resources to formalize the capability. Importantly, steps are taken to encourage prudent risk-taking. Innovation has legitimacy as a new organizational competency.

Level 4 – Embedded is attained when innovation is fully integrated into corporate strategy by the senior leadership team. Portfolio management, an advanced concept that explicitly seeks to allocate resources across the three innovation Horizons, is practiced. Training is widespread amongst middle managers and also frontline employees or distributed teams who are tasked with innovation responsibility. Frequently, another attribute is looking outside the organization by means of Open Innovation. The organization now possesses the confidence to look elsewhere for technologies, product or service ideas, partnerships and alliances to achieve innovation results and growth.

Level 5 – Continuous describes those few organizations in any industry that have practiced innovation for enough years to have created a fully developed capability, one with distinct or predictable funding sources, dedicated idea time (recall the discussion about “time famine”), and creative ways to capture, curate and share innovations. A center of excellence is just one way; on-line tools, periodic summits or educational events also work quite well. Senior leadership totally believes in innovation, and asks the same of all direct reports and the entire organization. Innovation is more than part of the business strategy; it is the business strategy.

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