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News: 2020-05-19

Shh… don't say it [Innovation] too aloud!  

For many organizations, it gets difficult to talk about Innovation even when everybody is talking about it. That scary word that requires so much thinking and resourcing, and that brings so much uncertainty!

(Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels)

Often, organizations can find themselves in front of the dilemma on whether or not they should take the opportunity to innovate. Sometimes, even if their decision makers say they value innovation, there’s always a strong organizational desire for reliability. No surprise there, when companies remain strong because their success is built on effective, consistent systems that have evidently worked well.

The problem is that if they remain in the same status, it could leave them stranded in the present by limiting the flow of innovative ideas and products. This is tactlessly in a fast-moving world, where innovation is clearly a key driver for growth and competitiveness. Sooner or later, someone else will come up with a new proposal that can response better to their customers' expectations, leaving their organizations in a critical situation.

But what can be done to deal with the fear to innovate or even to talk about it? Innovation requires that the company's culture promotes innovative ideas and that the management is behind the development. Here are some of my recommendations which can help your organization feel more confident about innovation and the uncertainties surrounding it:

  • So, start by making innovation an “all-the-time and everywhere” target for the whole organization, through a governance structure and a clear strategy across divisions. In that way, you will: 1) drive and support innovation from the top down and 2) enable and embrace it from the bottom up.

    By creating an environment where everyone participates in innovation, thus making it part of their way of thinking, working, and interacting every day, they’ll ultimately get used to the word innovation.
  • Get along with the anxiety by working within the three horizons of innovation to maintain a balanced portfolio. By following this, you’ll be able to split your innovation investments between improvements to the core business (short term), expansion into adjacent opportunities (medium term), and the pursuit of genuinely transformational ideas (long term). This means that you’ll get the time to start, explore, fail, and continue finding out the “real new”, while the other horizons manage the present and near future.

Figure 1 A variant of McKinsey's Three Horizons of growth

I’ve seen numerous businesses focusing on short-term results, but those engaging with innovation tap into the wisdom of their organization and release their resources to re-invent the future. For companies like Google, the Transformational Horizon is mandatory and represents a 10% of the company’s resource allocation. Meanwhile, 70% and 20% of their resources go to the respective Core and Adjacent Horizons to complete what they call the 70-20-10 rule with respect to the percentages. What would be your distribution?

  • As part of your corporate strategy, establish metrics linked to your innovation efforts and actions. While I understand it can be tricky to find the right metrics because of the uncertain nature of innovation, it is your safety card to ensure you’re going in the right direction.

    By doing this, it would become “a must” for everyone in the organization, thus helping them to adapt their behavior as well as taking action to reach those goals. Additionally, you’ll get the possibility to prioritize and manage the level of uncertainty during the innovation process.
  • Everything has an order to things. Start to structure your innovation process to give you more freedom for imagining alternatives and help bring them into being in a systematic, less scary, and faster way. Remember, it’s not about ideas, it’s about insights! Insights represent the primary inputs in the process and are your way to understand the real problems to solve. With the right input, the right output will come.

    Make space for new crazy ideas, and don’t be afraid of them. Sometimes, something crazy can turn into something new! By having a process, you’ll be able to systematically explore, evaluate, make decisions, and see the potential of the ideas to becoming innovative.

    Save the good but less feasible ideas for later. The fact that you can’t bring a valuable idea into life today, doesn’t mean that it can’t be done in the further long-term. Part of your process should administrate and weigh all potential ideas creating a backlog that can be used for future road-mapping.
  • Finally, promote a culture for open communication, participation, and overall tolerance to failure. Failure is a precondition to invention and no business can create a breakthrough product if it’s not willing to encourage risk taking and learn from subsequent mistakes. Don’t worry if it doesn’t work the first time! As I have shown you, this can be manageable by trusting your innovation process and your strategy.

It’s worth to talk about innovation! In the end, it’s all about finding the right balance and good bases to feel more confident about it. I can assure you that investing in innovation will give your company an obvious place in the increasingly challenging market of the future. What do you have to lose?

Get in touch if you want to talk louder about Innovation Management or how to start your Innovation Journey. And say Hello Possibility!

//Maria Rojas, Innovation Leader, Prevas AB
Tel +46 40 691 95 55