Igniting the Innovation Flame

Leaders at top-performing companies such as The World Bank and Xerox view innovation as an essential process to their long-term business success. They have spent years developing an innovation capability that permeates their organization.

Even at established companies, competition, new technologies, rapidly evolving markets and changing customer needs can threaten their growth. To respond to these pressures organizations are establishing or re-inventing their innovation capability to provide control in an uncertain world.

In this series we will explore some of the common fears and challenges organizations experience when attempting to build an innovation function from the ground up, and how to manage these challenges.

Innovation Complaint: I want to innovate but I don’t know how or where to start.

This is a common problem within organizations. Many tend to go right to idea management as a way to kickstart innovation but this is only one facet of the innovation function. Truly transformative groups master discovery, insight development, ideation (idea gathering and collaborative builds), review and enhancement, and metrics/results, and can cycle back and forth.

At the outset, an organization should first determine what type of innovation will work best to start. While you look for big breakthroughs, are you also enabling incremental innovation to take root? And are these areas tied to business strategy? How?

There are two major ways to go about creating ideas that will form these new opportunities:

Internal Innovation: Using existing resources (employee insights) to foster ideas within the company.

Open Innovation: Tap into existing but uncovered knowledge using resources and people who are outside of the company.

The idea of pulsing between audiences is important so you can get different perspectives, so it's crucial to match the audience to the right area of innovation. A company just starting out with a formalized innovation approach will probably be more comfortable reaching out to an internal audience. Most organizations find that innovating around "smaller" things that produce quick wins will help gain momentum for the overall effort. This will build fast support for your program and will aid you as you go after big breakthroughs.

In our next installment we’ll look at how to tap into the latent knowledge that already exists in your organization.

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