A Fresh Approach to Future Innovation
Achieving a sense of renewal to your innovation activities
by Paul Hobcraft
We need to constantly renew within ourselves. There is a time when your innovation efforts may need a serious renewal and for many this might be now. Knowing when to invest in an innovation renewal and organizing for it is like any other organizational activity.
Those that are honest enough to admit that what they have achieved to-date in innovation activity is just not going to ‘cut it’ for the future will be making a very ‘tough’ call but it might be one of the best ones you are about to make. I think we all need to think of a renewal of innovation as essential in our thinking as over time many things have changed and moved on. We need not just to adjust in our objectives but more importantly to adapt and acknowledge that our innovation understanding has greatly improved, so we need to reflect this in our innovation structures, processes and systems.
Challenge the ‘legacy’ within
Considerable investment has gone into previous innovation activity but much of this is actually ‘legacy’ and perhaps our current innovation practices are ‘frozen’ in past times and organized around out-of-date structures and processes. We all (should) have been learning about new concepts and approaches to innovation and what these can bring in growth, sustainability and value to our organizations. Often we don’t allow ourselves to call for a thorough review of our innovation infrastructure. We also sometimes need to expand out our thinking and push it a little more with future foresights, fresh visions and bolder challenges. We need to truly capitalize on the emerging practices of innovation, not just based only on yesterday’s experiments and successes or achieved through outdated past behaviors and thinking.
A need for a critical and fresh evaluation of your innovation process
There comes a time where any structure, process, culture or organization needs a radical rethink and innovation is no different -don’t simply bolt on the next bit, I would argue we need to reflect on this and think differently, reequip ourselves to meet the present and future challenges. To achieve this perhaps, radical departure, you do need to look at a more structured approach to your renewal of innovation, designing into this processes and structures that are more sustaining and can become embedded within the organization once and for all.
Making the first critical steps
Firstly you have to start out with why you feel a freshening up should be required, should this be radical, distinctive or incremental. What do you actually want to achieve that takes you closer to your aspirations, not just immediate goals? Can the way you conduct innovation today meet that strategic challenge? It could be for a host of pressing needs for meeting competition in today’s market or positioning for the ‘forces’ swirling around global competition as changes in fortune do not come just by luck or chance; we have to create the right environment to enable it to happen. We should question many of the ‘established’ approaches and challenge them with fresher, more up-to-date thinking based on current innovation thinking.
Let me offer some thoughts of taking a more systematic and structured approach to renewal. These can help you to think through those needs that have to be addressed for a different innovation approach in the future.
I would recommend that you can work through a step-by-step approach, enabling clarity and understanding as you go, so everyone involved can see the problems, challenges and contribute to the solutions. What this does call for is a very structured, comprehensive investigative approach across the organization to build the momentum for firstly sensing renewal as important for the future, and then seeing clarity for this future that is built upon a sustaining innovation culture all can become involved in.
12 critical steps through this diagnostic structured framework for equipping yourself for improving innovation.
- Assessments that firstly evaluate your present position. Build this not only on internal observation but on external evaluations. Separate opinions and facts, highlight potential weaknesses, and investigate the culture through a range of evaluation tools that are available to complete this part.
- Next, benchmark quickly your competitors and search across other industry insights to begin to build the momentum for ‘why’ change.
- Seek out those pockets of resistance that are constantly just below the surface or even deep seated, address the critical issues through a change resistance grid and resolve the obstacles through a variety of methods and techniques with a real sense of urgency. Address this clearly and squarely.
- Making a battery of tests to assess the readiness for change, the resilience and capability to make change and evaluate where innovation has contributed to your performance. Talk about this broadly.
- Approach solutions with a greater understanding of the different people style options, the diversity of traits, leadership and situational methods that if accounted for from the early stages will bring fresh and different dimensions to your thinking and break down possible blockages by recognizing and adopting different techniques for different people. One size does not fit all and respecting diversity across the organization and accommodating this diverse opinion will add such a ‘zest’ of freshness.
- Learning the techniques of facilitation to mobilize latent energy, provide encouragement, revitalize and respond to the multiple layers within your organization and spending the appropriate amount of time in building this into the actions you are needing to take for changing the environment and climate for innovation to thrive.
- Focus upon the critical aspects of the business that assesses, realigns, restructures and redeploys around the three critical aspects of knowing and leveraging your core business through your innovation offerings:
1) making the customer the center of your thinking
2) addressing your products and service quality and offerings at the new innovation speed
3) to build increasing agility, flexibility and anticipation that is required to meet the new market needs.
Make these central to your new thinking.
- Managing innovation change needs a clear, dedicated focus in clarifying plans, thinking through new systems and practices, committing to training and constant support, providing feedback, managing the inherent stress this can cause and building the building blocks of commitment and shared identification. Recognizing that this requires a sustaining innovation engine that needs well resourcing.
- Knowing where the levers are to revitalize innovation requires a range of techniques and dedicated innovation champions to clarify objectives and to provide guidance and authentic authority. It is through these dedicated champions of innovation change that you communicate any decisions, communicate new policy to integrate these across the business. Seize upon any early wins, celebrate successes widely and provide the mechanism for this recognition through strong well thought out HR support. Identify and tackle those current difficulties head on and make every effort to reduce road blocks to give this increasing sense of renewal for all to see and relate too.
- Innovation regeneration needs setting new visions, new directions and goals, providing essential resource and support to promote new culture and capabilities needed. You need to construct the appropriate action plans, track results, update and re-adjust from fresh knowledge and learning so these begin to restore a growing sense of identity and corporate value and building the communication plans to cascade these throughout the organization. Let everyone feel, hear and see the changes.
- Provide clear solutions that define the goals, structure, systems and processes. Don’t duck them. Invest in the design considerations with care and forethought. Plan any cultural or structural shifts so as to provide the learning platforms for investing in new competencies and skills that place a premium on acquiring this new knowledge needed to adopt, using open consistent communications and growing networks that inform, promote and identify the emerging vision of why we need to do innovation differently.
- Place innovation at the heart of generating new growth and establishing the ongoing momentum for sustaining renewal over the long term, with a structured process and corporate sense of engagement. This means an absolute alignment of innovation to the strategy. This alignment is a C-board imperative, otherwise nothing really changes, all you have achieved is a simple ‘lick’ of innovation paint to brush over existing weakness.
There is a real imperative for a clear sense of renewal in innovation, it often needs it to take away redundancy and replace it with a more purpose built innovation engine for growth and value.
By taking this more structured approach it certainly calls for a dedicated commitment that seeks out, investigates and builds the momentum for generating innovation renewal. The need for making the case for renewal and charting the path towards the solutions is no different than any other corporate initiative. Making the commitment and getting others to sign on often is hard but essential. It takes that ‘sense of innovation renewal’ that does come from an organizational commitment that all begin to recognize as necessary to address and meet the future. It is crafting the story in a clear, logical way that will gain that greater identification and commitment. Explaining that our future is not waiting for others, but ‘seizing the initiative’ and translating what we ‘know’ with what we ‘need to know’ is important. Placing our innovation destiny in our hands and on our terms by renewing ourselves is critical today.
We need to lead, so others follow and try where they can, in reacting, copying and adjusting does give a significant first mover advantage in today’s innovative world.
A structured approach to renewal is not an easy journey; it takes dedicated time and incredible strength of determination. The rewards come through an organization that emerges from today’s ‘uncertainly’ equipped to be more resistant, flexible and agile, so as to seize emerging opportunities quicker, at tomorrows new innovation speed .
An innovation guide in this ‘sense of renewal’ can often help.
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.
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