All of us look for something new in our lives. It may be a new product or the same product delivered in a different way; it may be some modification or new features, packaging, touch and feel that appeals to us; it might be a new logo or an extension of what we already have. Loads of research have been done to establish the fact that innovation is essential for sustainability of an enterprise. Further, it has been proven that innovation is partly a creative process and partly the culture of the organization. So, innovation happens only when the organization is designed in a certain manner and the day to day execution happens in a certain way. Let’s discover some of those critical aspects.
Firstly, the leadership in an organization has to be believe that long-term sustainability is important for them and one of the ways they can realize it is innovation. Many organizations have R&D teams, conduct studies to research consumer insights, track competitor activities, sponsor university research aimed at new inventions and proudly state their intent of innovation. However, in the absence of direct involvement of the leadership team, such initiatives run as transactions and directionless; the outcomes do not show adequate returns on investment and hence, innovation remains as a poor cousin. The leaders have to take accountability of innovation in the organization. That is the first building block of innovation.
Secondly, the leaders need to report the progress made on innovation on a periodic basis and set targets for the future period. This rigour forces the leaders across various layers of the organization to have appropriate structure, systems and processes to support innovation process. This is easier said than done because there is no one particular design as a silver bullet that works for all organizations. In some cases, dedicated efforts work and in some, it is a part of the mainstream work. Either design or a blended design works. In any case, the innovation efforts have to focus on the stakeholders, their problems, their lives, their expectations, the options before them and so on. That is the reason companies who care about innovation invest huge energies in observing the lives of their stakeholders and drawing insights. They work on these insights to innovate in any one or more of the areas : product or service, the delivery method, the engagement process, the brand, the business model.
Last but not the least, an organization might have the commitment and involvement of their top leaders; it might have all the designs in place to draw insights from the market and work further on them; however, it might not be able to achieve the desired levels of operational efficiency such as the returns of investment and the time taken to introduce a new innovation. This is because of the people who operate those systems and processes. Since innovation involves deep-dive into issues, imagining various situations, modelling the future, connecting the dots and so on, it calls for minds which can wrestle with a huge diversity of perspectives and make meanings out of them.
Hence, the checklist for us on innovation has three aspects – leadership commitment and involvement, ownership of innovation outcomes at the top and the quality of talent involved in innovating. Quite a recipe!