By David Crosswhite
Your growth mandate has been set. But have you organized for innovation?
What does that mean? Sounds like another management concept that looks good on paper but doesn’t exist in reality. What exactly are we talking about? Why is it important? What does it mean to achieve it?
Good questions, all.
Let’s start at the beginning. Nearly all organizations say they value and prioritize innovation as part of the growth strategy. But how many actually do so? How many have a set of meaningful and sustained actions and activities that drive an ongoing and impactful agenda? In our experience, the answer is very few. Only a small number of organizations take the actual time and effort to walk the talk by truly defining what that means to them, and then establishing work, methods and organizational support to drive that agenda.
To begin with, your organization needs to thoughtfully define your definition of desired innovation outcomes. If you’ve been through this exercise, you know it’s easier said than done.
Then you need to establish the proper organizational supports to drive and sustain that innovation agenda. This means developing the right innovation work processes for you, your agenda, and your cultural realities. There are many to choose from! Next, building and maintaining the right roles and skills to perform the work and processes are critical, and can take some time and iteration. We all know what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done, and innovation measures will need to differ from those of the core (and already scaled) business(es). Do you know what yours are? Incentives for both leadership and beyond need to be developed and hooked to those additional or revised measures. Funding and resourcing methods should support innovation and aptly “compete” with the resource needs of the core business(es). And surrounding management processes and systems like annual strategic planning or talent acquisition have to support the innovation work and resourcing approach rather than conflict with them.
Using the framework offered below, ask yourself – how many of the elements does your organization “check off” as having addressed to enable and support an innovation agenda or “flywheel”?
|If you said “most”, then you’re in the minority. If you said “all,” you’re in rarified air.
You need to intentionally organize to support outcomes you want to achieve. It doesn’t occur by happenstance. Serendipity is a bad strategy to achieve sustained innovation outcomes. Organizations achieve exactly what they are built to achieve. It stands to reason that doing something new and different (that is, innovating) is not going to happen automatically. You must make some deliberate, intentional adjustments.
And you need to organize to support your innovation agenda that is fit-for-purpose for you – for your industry, your objectives, your organizational context, your constraints.
How that design is developed is a longer conversation. However, we can share here some principles to live by when “organizing.”
Follow these four principles as you design a system to drive your agenda, using the levers like those illustrated in Figure 1, and you’re a long way down the path, and well ahead of many organizations. The specifics and options available regarding some of those levers are the topics of discussions to come.