Organizations must understand the challenges to successfully harnessing innovation.
Most organizations, regardless of whether they are public or private, are under continuous pressure to improve their performance. Commercial companies need to deliver returns to shareholders and fend off competitive threats by improving their products and services. Government agencies need to deliver improved services to citizens under tight budgets and limited staffing.
For executives seeking to excel in addressing these challenges, innovation is attractive as it offers the potential for their organization to continually adapt to demands and improve performance beyond what is attainable through their day-to-day business. However, achieving that is often elusive and many innovation initiatives fail to deliver on the desired outcomes due to challenges including understanding, culture, and approach.
Innovation is not well understood. A successful program needs to establish what innovation is and whyinnovation is important to the organization. Common misconceptions include regarding innovation as synonymous with invention or prioritizing radical innovations – which are often riskier and take longer to realize – over transformative or incremental ones. This can cause smaller, easier-to-adopt good ideas to become overshadowed by the sexy, audacious proposition. Establishing a clear, rigorous, and transparent evaluation process helps identify the value to the organization of different types of innovation and create a balanced pipeline delivering short, medium, and longer-term benefits.
Culture is a major barrier to harnessing innovation. Most organizations operate based on well-defined processes and management focused on providing consistency and stability. Innovation is to some degree disruptive, which unless carefully managed can cause conflict between the operating business and the innovation program. A realistic understanding of cultural challenges aids in the design of an effective innovation program, including aligning innovation with strategic goals of business or functional units, engaging them as an integral part of program, and by providing appropriate incentives for participation.
Innovation isn’t centralized. While establishing leadership, facilities, and assigning resources to innovation is a popular approach, it can fail to reach the full community of potential innovators. A dedicated innovation group risks become a silo that sees itself as the sole source of ideas rather than seeking them. Good ideas can arise from anyone, anywhere in the organization, and an effective innovation program will foster and mentor innovation across the organization.
RG’s innovation methodology provides a pragmatic, structured approach to understanding these challenges and harnessing innovation aligned with the strategic goals of an organization.