Building Innovation Capabilities – Insights from the INSMEAcademy

August, 7, 2019

How to build innovation capabilities? How to improve your innovativeness by setting the most proper processes in your organization? Gerry Purcell, Managing Director at Innovation 360 from Canada addressed these issues during the May session of the INSMEAcademy.

Progressing from “business today” to “business tomorrow” is not an easy task, Mr. Purcell stated. While executives believe that innovation is key to achieving their objectives, only 6% are satisfied with their innovation performance. This is not due to a lack of ideas, but it is due to how those ideas are executed in a manner that the innovation taking place can have the desired outcome.

As a starting point, Mr. Purcell stressed that organizations need to define an innovation strategy, that means understanding where to focus the attention on by analysing the organization as a whole and exploring perspectives, best practices, and corrective actions belonging to the following areas: profit, market growth, external transformation, internal transformation, offer innovation, sales innovation, organizational innovation and market innovation.

What leading innovators usually do is to have a logical framework and proven approaches to generate tangible value. This process is composed by:

  • understanding where the organization stands and what it is trying to accomplish, that is to say, defining the innovation strategy. Once this is defined it is important to establish teams and create campaigns dedicated to realizing that innovation strategy;
  • defining the functioning of the ideation process, this means how ideas are created, selected, developed and commercialized;
  • contributing to the business’ growth and value by building a portfolio of innovation initiatives.

Part of innovation management is also understanding what are the core capabilities of an organization, identifying the ones needed to achieve specific objectives as well as the what competences are lacking. Innovation 360 identified and assessed 65 innovation capabilities (e.g. systemic service innovation, idea diffusion, cross-functional collaboration, reward systems etc.) and realized an innovation connectivity matrix to provide a view into potential change management action.

In addition it is fundamental to have the right culture to generate results. Small organizations usually have just one cultural identity while bigger ones might have different divisions that have different approaches to innovation. It is indeed fundamental for every organization embarking on an innovation journey to coordinate within the whole organization as well as align efforts with formal governance structure – e.g. an innovation board – to link strategy with innovation. An innovation board is the governance body that is usually responsible for:

  • Linking strategy with strategic initiatives;
  • Allocating resources for exploration;
  • Making sure the strategic initiatives have a sponsor;
  • Managing the innovation portfolio.

It is also advisable to have a structure dedicated to making innovation concrete, for example a task force to support and encourage ongoing direction. The innovation task force’s duties are:

  • Run idea campaigns based on questions from the Board;
  • Organize innovation events such as hackathons an jams to engage the organisation and the ecosystem;
  • Cluster ideas, form hypothesis and run experiments;
  • Prepare recommendations for the innovation board to make decisions.

When looking at the ideation process, four are the main elements of it: ideation, selection, development and commercialization. Each of these elements plays a fundamental role in the execution and development of an idea. The ideation process is about exploring the ideas and understanding the needs of all the stakeholders. In conclusion Mr. Purcell shared the following non-linear steps of the ideation process:

  • Defining the strategic initiatives and setting up an innovation task force to drive the innovation work;
  • Creating campaigns to collect input from selected groups on how to approach strategic initiatives;
  • Collecting ideas from users, customers, partners and employees;
  • Clustering ideas and selecting which to move forward with;
  • For each selected idea identify: hypotheses, experiments, a contingency plan and next steps.
Source: The International Network for SMEs - INSME

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