Friday, February 26, 2016

Organizational Innovation Ecosystem: A re-look after five years

It has been over five years since I first wrote about various elements of an organizational innovation ecosystem (see the picture above). In this half a decade I got opportunities to meet people from several dozen organizations – from various types such as for-profit, not-for-profit, Government, NGO etc. What did I find? Which elements seem to be in place? Which elements are hard to find? Which elements would I replace today? And which new ones might I add? Let’s explore in this article.

Let’s start with those elements which organizations serious about innovation seem to be putting in place:
  • Idea management process: Many organizations are making serious efforts in improving their idea management process. Some are also trying to bring various disjoint processes under one broad umbrella – e.g. kaizen, Quality circle, Idea portal, R&D, Internal VC process etc.
  • Rewards & Innovation day: HR department has been playing a role in putting rewards & recognition process in place. I got an opportunity to visit the stalls put up on the innovation day in organizations like Titan.
  • Training programs: L&D department has been playing a key role in rolling out training programs that raise awareness on innovation.
  • Laboratory & corporate venture fund: In terms of structures, I see investments in labs and even in putting a corporate venture fund together.

Now, let’s turn to areas where there are challenges:
  • Challenge process: Taking ownership of top business challenges and keeping them alive in a challenge book is something that I don’t see much. Managers who take up this role of owning one or more key business challenges are called champions in our book “8 steps to innovation”. A live and prioritized challenge book can bring focus to innovation efforts. It might also contribute to the strategy.
  • Success stories: Like Master Shifu follows a bright spot to train Kung Fu Panda, there is an opportunity in digging deeper the success stories and finding scalable approaches. Unfortunately, managers are so busy with problems, that they don’t have time for studying the bright spots – be it the people who give ideas regularly, prototyping etc.
  • Partnership network: This is perhaps the toughest asset to build and manage. It takes years and very few people have the patience to look that far. However, it is an extremely potent asset for building innovation capacity.

Any new element I would add today? Perhaps an element titled “innovation sandbox” – structures where experimentation capacity is massively increased in a specific area. Also I would replace the element “Immersive Research” with a more commonly used term “Design Thinking”. And replace “Success stories” with “Bright spot focus”. (See the updated picture below).

Overall, I still feel that the ecosystem view can provide a useful perspective while building innovation capacity systematically.

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