The word “innovation” is often used in organizations to portray that they are somehow advancing their organization. But what really is innovation and who can and should innovate really depends upon who you talk to and what context and timeframes that person is referring to. Thus, it seems that innovation is something subjective but people do realize that it is something important and needs to be done at their organization.
But where to start? If you google “innovation” then you will get over 100+ million results! Those are a lot of results! The amount of time you would have to spend to sift through that information would be astronomical. On top of that even if you (or your Artificial Intelligence) have the time to read every expert (there are many) on innovation, you would still have to make innovation relevant and practical for your own organization. That is a tall order!
No worries! In this blog post, I will attempt to create a clear understanding of what questions you should be asking to assess your organization’s innovation efforts at different levels.
Let’s start with some baseline understanding:
- The importance of innovation at your organization is highly dependent on what are the end goals that your organization is trying to achieve
- Your organization is a unique composition of people, processes, products, services, and technologies
- There is a difference between being innovative at an organizational level versus being innovative at an individual level but they have to be aligned
- Culture can kill or flourish your organization’s innovation efforts
At its core, innovation is about new ideas, devices, and/or methods but it is also about improving existing ideas, devices and/or methods. What this means is that the opportunities for innovation are abundant within and outside your organization. Due to this abundance, organizations struggle where to start first. Keeping in mind that innovation is the lifeline of your organization, let’s start asking the following questions about innovation efforts at your organization:
Strategic Perspectives on Innovation:
|1.||Who is incentivized at the executive level to lead the innovation?||Who should be incentivized at the executive level to lead the innovation?|
|2.||What governance structures are in place for the flow of innovative ideas?||What governance structures should be in place for the flow of innovative ideas?|
|3.||Where is the technology used to help in innovation?||Where should technology be used to help in innovation?|
|4.||When and how often innovation needs are clearly stated?||When and how often strategic objectives should be communicated?|
|5.||Why external and internal views on innovation matter for strategic objectives?||Why should external and internal views on innovation matter for strategic objectives?|
Tactical Perspectives on Innovation:
|1.||Who is incentivized at the middle management level to call B.S. on perceived innovation gains?||Who should be incentivized at the middle management level to call B.S. on perceived innovation gains?|
|2.||What business units, functional areas, and teams are included to do innovation?||What business units, functional areas, and teams should be included to do innovation?|
|3.||Where technology hinders innovation processes?||Where technology might hinder innovation processes?|
|4.||When is innovation alignment to strategic objectives communicated?||When should innovation alignment to strategic objectives communicate?|
|5.||Why innovation processes are critical to achieving tactical objectives?||Why innovation processes should be critical to achieving tactical objectives?|
Operational Perspectives on Innovation:
|1.||Who sees innovation as a disease or a cure?||Who might see innovation as a disease or a cure?|
|2.||What business processes and cultural considerations provide views on the organization’s actual vs. perceived innovation?||What business processes and cultural considerations should provide views on the organization’s actual vs. perceived innovation?|
|3.||Where is the technology part of your organization to introduce innovation?||Where should technology be a part of your organization to introduce innovation?|
|4.||When were you informed about the innovation pursuits and feedback needs?||When should you have been informed about the innovation pursuits and feedback needs?|
|5.||Why having innovative ideas about your daily tasks is important?||Why anyone beyond you should care about innovative ideas about your daily tasks?|
By starting to ask the above opening set of questions, you will start to decipher where efforts are concentrated (e.g., people, processes, products, services, and technologies) within your organization and what you could do to connect the dots. You will begin to understand if innovation is just a buzzword in your organization or something more. You will begin to understand if there are biases and barriers to innovation within your organization. You will be able to understand if your organization actually learned its lessons from previous innovation efforts and if new innovation efforts included improvements from previous failures. And lastly, you will begin to understand if failure for the sake of innovation in your organization is really an option.