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It’s Time to Grow Again…and Innovation is the Way (Part 2)

June 16, 2011
Last week, we addressed innovation and the need for employee engagement within an organization during times of change.  This week, we will take a deeper dive into the innovation process in action and getting started. Enjoy!

Through Linkage’s exclusive partnership with Clayton Christensen and Innosight, we have helped clients better understand the innovation process and the tools that bring it to life, as well as teach others how to apply it to their organizational challenges, problems, and opportunities.  We have implemented this innovation process with a number of clients and helped employees think this way in their daily work—key elements in creating a culture of innovation.

For example, for the last 1 ½ years, we have been working with one global client to educate their entire marketing function on the process and how to apply it to their annual brand planning approach.  In addition, we have worked with the client’s internal consulting group to educate them on the innovation process and apply it more broadly.  Also, we have applied these concepts around the world.  In all situations, we have worked on REAL issues and opportunities and developed innovative solutions to deal with them, improving the quality of ideas generated and implemented.

The Innovative Solution is Only the Beginning

But developing and testing the innovative solution is only part of the process.  Most innovative solutions will cause the need for additional changes in the organization. Identifying all of the changes associated with an innovative solution requires a systems approach to change—making sure that you anticipate the ripple effects of the change throughout the organization.  In addition, the success of the change greatly depends on how effectively the innovation process has been executed—it is the results of this process that provides the basis for building organizational commitment and helps to answer questions like:

  • Is there a compelling case for the new innovative solution?  What important job does this innovative solution help the customer do now that they couldn’t do before?
  • Have the right people been involved during the innovation process?  How can we leverage them to implement the innovative solution?
  •  What’s the roadmap for change?  What parts of the organization need to change in order for the innovative solution to work?  What processes and systems need to be different?
  • What elements of culture will help drive the innovative solution forward?  What would get in the way?  How will we deal with these?
  • What barriers do we anticipate implementing the innovative solution?  Have we checked all of the major assumptions we are making about our innovative solution, especially ones that will have a big negative impact if we are wrong?
  • Will the innovative solution be able to be implemented in our current organizational structure?
  • What additional competencies are required to implement the innovative solution?
  • How will we measure success?  What success measures need to change?

Putting it all together

We are learning, too, as we help clients apply these innovation concepts.  For example, while it is important that everyone in the organization understands and uses a common innovation process and tools, that alone might not be enough to ensure success.  In fact, when working with organizations, we noticed that there are several capabilities that need to be present for the innovation process to be successful.

We have developed a way to make sure organizations have these capabilities—the Linkage “Innovation Academy”.  The Innovation Academy focuses on three major capabilities required to be successful at innovation:

  • How to think more strategically and systemically
  • How to apply the innovation process with less risk
  • How to drive change in a more committed way

Getting Started

Start with the executives—they need to understand the innovation concepts, model them and encourage their use.  They also need to carry the message that innovation is the way the organization will grow and prosper, and that a culture of innovation in everything we do needs to start today.  Also, executives need to understand that this is an iterative learning process and we are not going to get it right the first couple of times—and the best way to get that understanding is to experience it.

Then, branch out.  Some organizations begin by rolling out the innovation process to the more externally focused functions—strategic planning, marketing, and sales.  This approach might help identify disruptive growth opportunities in the marketplace more quickly.  Others focus on improving the sustaining innovation capabilities by improving existing processes and systems.  Start where you have your biggest opportunities to drive the business strategy forward.  Regardless of where you start, the goal should be that eventually everyone will use the innovation process, tools and concepts to identify opportunities and solve problems.

It is time to move on from the Great Recession and focus on growth. Let’s start to get the excitement back.  At Linkage, we believe that innovation is the key to growth and re-engaging employees in a committed way.  Innovation needs to be a sustainable, repeatable process that can be taught to all employees.  An “if you build it, they will come” approach to innovation only works in the movies.  When everyone uses the same models, tools and techniques, it will improve the chances of successfully implementing any innovative solution, so that you will meet your growth targets.

Join us for a free, three-part webinar series on innovation:

Five Sure Fire Ways You Can Drive Innovation
June 20, 2011 1pm EST
Register here>>

Simulation for Innovation: Creating a Competitive Advantage
July 19, 2011 1pm EST
Register here>>

Eight Ways to Create an Innovation-Capable Organization
August 30, 2011 1pm EST
Register here>>

About the Author:

Ron Porter, Linkage

Ron Porter is a principal consultant at Linkage, based in the northeast region.  Porter has over 25 years of consulting and coaching experience working with senior executives, especially in the areas of strategy development/clarification/execution, organizational effectiveness, leadership alignment and development, change management and strategic communication.  He has a Bachelor of Science, Business Administration degree in Organizational Behavior from Villanova University and an MBA in Management from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

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