Innovation is the life blood of any enterprise’s success and growth. Embracing innovative ideas is important for any brand’s sustained leadership in the market. History is testimonial to the fact; businesses which have not implemented new ideas on time have eventually been elbowed out of business by competition… and organizations which have resisted the needed change have perished without trace. While it is normal for organizations to strive for excellence, claim to be receptive to new ideas and accommodative to changes; seldom do we see them doing something real to make innovations happen.
A survey by Price Waterhouse Cooper’s reveals ‘61% of CEOs worldwide say that innovation is a primary concern within their businesses’. A recent Bain & Company survey found that two-thirds of enterprise executives named innovation as one of their top three priorities.
We know well, an organization is a large pool of innovative ideas; people whether they are employees or customers or partners have great ideas to make a business successful. But the real challenge is how to tap this collective intelligence for common good. People have great ideas; they have the wish to participate but there isn’t any platform where they will be heard & valued. People in the bottom rungs of the organization often don’t have access to the top management. But does that necessarily mean they couldn’t have ‘life changing’ ideas?
Let’s accept, managing Innovation is tricky. It needs a lot of deliberate efforts to build an active appetite for innovation. How to build the right strategy for innovation? Could Innovation be managed & fostered? Here are some great ways an enterprise could make INNOVATION happen!
Don’t hesitate to be repetitive
A professor of Physics in a University used to repeat the same question in every exam he gave to the students. ‘Same question in every exam? Why would you do this?’ asked his fellows in academics. ‘You could always ask different questions?’
The professor replied earnestly ‘the question no doubt is the same but as far as I get different answers I am OK. I get new versions of the answer every time because the students are evolving with every class & exam. In that sense I actually get new ways to solve the same problem every time’.
Innovation is highly iterative. It’s not linear… it happens in cycles. Innovation is a journey. In this journey you often experience ‘déjà vu’…and sometimes frustrations too. It’s a continuous process. If you have developed a great ‘mobile app’ today… chances are the competition comes out with an even better one next week. Mind you! It’s a journey chasing excellence. There is no destination.
‘Suggestions@xyz.com’ is not enough for innovation to happen.
Many enterprises have email IDs such as email@example.com where people are expected to share their ideas for some great innovation. But…hardly anyone actually shares anything. Eventually the ID becomes a junk box/ a black hole which no one even bothers to check. Such initiatives only increase the chaos. ‘Digital suggestion box’ is not the right way to foster innovation. Innovation doesn’t happen that way. Innovation needs a mature platform.
Provide people with a platform to ideate… They all can’t be in the boardroom
Study by ‘Idea Champions’ reveals- only 3 percent of the people come up with their best ideas at work. The other 97 percent said their best ideas come to them while they are in the shower, on vacation, taking walks, enjoying a glass of wine, or just doing nothing.
Often we too have our ‘eureka’ moments in the cafeteria or while attending a boring conference call J but all we could do is park the idea to be discussed in the next office meeting. No wonder ideas die before they are incepted.
Having an Enterprise Social Network (ESN) doesn’t guarantee innovation
Innovation doesn’t happen by chance. Ideation should be an active, repeatable & quantifiable business process within the organization. ESN could be a great way to enable collecting ideas. Ideas could be crowdsourced from customers, employees, partners etc in the internal & external communities of the enterprise. While this is important for innovation; even more is how these ideas are driven from concept to reality. Most of the ideas which emerge as great ones do not get materialized because there isn’t a mechanism in place to incubate and implement them.
Enterprise Innovation Management (EIM) could make an enterprise thrive on innovations
A true collaborative enterprise should have a platform to make innovations happen. There has to be system which should actively capture, share & evaluate ideas. Ideas should go through a ‘graduation’ process where they are evaluated on various parameters by people from different groups. It’s a process to separate wheat from chaff. It’s a process to separate real signals from noise.
People need collaboration and mobility tools to work anywhere, any time. Ideation could be workflowed into the daily works of the employees. In most of the enterprises Innovation is still a siloed, separate activity.
Implementation of the qualified ideas is key to successful innovation
Once the idea graduates; there has to be the further necessary actions like budgeting, funding, Go to Market, Product Management initiatives, RoI calculations, customer communications, Trials/ POCs etc. Many people are required to bring ideas into action. This could be done assigning people with necessary ‘tasks & projects’ in a time bound manner. Collecting ideas is important but even more important is what we do of the ideas we collect.
Ensure participation & engagement of all stakeholders
Methods for engagement like gamification could help in motivating employees to participate in the ideation process. It’s a way to instill ‘high value’ behaviors in people. As per McKinsey 50% of highly profitable companies have 50% more engaged employees versus unprofitable companies. What drives profit? Excellence & Innovation at work right? Gamification exactly helps in doing that.
Measure. Think. Repeat
Idea Analytics could help in monitoring how the process of ideation is fairing. How people are participating & sharing. Reports/ dashboards/ data visualizations help to keep a tab on the entire Innovation management process right from inception to implementation.
Keep ideas safe so they are not stolen away
Proper Access & Identity Management could help to ensure only the right people see the details of the ideas and all discussions around them. Be pragmatic. You never know, some disgruntled employees might take your nice ideas to the competition before you implement them. Be ware.
Remember no idea is bad… only that its time hasn’t come.
If an idea cannot be implemented immediately; it always remains in the repository to be evaluated later. No idea is bad. Every idea has it’s time. Sometimes a great idea comes out of nowhere and jumps into your lap. You never recognize it at first as a great idea, then suddenly it hits you “it’s a GREAT IDEA” you just never noticed it before.
EIM (Enterprise Innovation Management) is a platform to manage ideas and make innovation happen. It helps to check that ideas don’t slip through the cracks.
A successful enterprise would always find ways to manage ideas properly. It would strive to harness and not hamper innovation.
Unsuccessful enterprises have many options...of which one could be to remain content with an email ID like:
we_need_some_great_ideas_now!_Hurry! send_them firstname.lastname@example.org
What would you be like?