Insight Articles

How to innovate All The Time & Everywhere!

The Growth Imperative
There are really only two ways in which companies grow; either organically by developing new products & services and expanding into new markets, or via Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A).

The cyber-world is awash with conflicting ‘data’ regarding the relative effectiveness, or otherwise, of organic vs. inorganic growth. What is certainly true, however, is that regardless of the growth strategy employed, most companies struggle to accelerate and sustain high levels of growth.

This is the goal of Organisational Innovation – the ability to embed innovation so that it happens all the time and everywhere – providing an limitless pipeline of growth and developmental opportunities.

What is Organisational Innovation?
Unfortunately, for too many organisations, innovation has become synonymous with risk and uncertainty, or is still regarded as another term for R&D.

Innovation is a really just a systematic approach to creating value from new ideas, or by re-purposing existing ideas. In it’s simplest form it is a business process, much unlike any other.

However, innovation needs a partner – the capability to generate novel and radical ideas and solutions. This is creative thinking.
Organisational Innovation brings together People and Process in a way that allows great ideas to flourish and create lasting value, be that in the form of new products and services, or improving business processes, or employee wellbeing.

The reason why most companies fail to accelerate and sustain organic growth is either because they’re executing bad ideas well, or poorly executing great ideas; or, in some cases, both!

Based on over 10 years experience, think has identified five essential elements – enablers – of highly effective Organisational Innovation that ensure that you are capable of creative thinking, selecting and nurturing the best solutions and executing them successfully.

1.  Strategic Thinking
High growth companies recognise the need to move beyond a traditional research and development (R&D) focus. Instead they develop clear strategies for innovation, articulating the need for, and role of, innovation in the company’s growth portfolio e.g. explosive or sustainable growth.

Leaders in innovation create balanced innovation portfolios spanning new products and services, as well as internal processes and business models. The most effective portfolios also seek a pre-defined combination of incremental and breakthrough innovation, linked to the innovation strategy, budget and tolerance for risk.

Experience has also shown that coordinated innovation across several areas simultaneously drives greater reward.

Elite innovators are clear about what innovation means to them and how it should be executed. There are a multitude of options, from creating discrete internal innovation teams, to implementing company-wide open innovation systems.

2.  Igniting Talent
Most companies fail to harness the creative potential of their workforce because of ineffective talent management.

Many of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs including, accordingly to recent research, around 25% of self-made billionaires, had previously been fired from established companies because their behaviours did not fit with the prevailing talent models. They were frustrated, poorly incentivised and under-rewarded.

Leading innovators recognise this and actively seek out different roles, skills and behaviours required for highly effective innovation management – the whacky idea generators, the hard-nosed analysts, the process managers, executers and decision-makers all have a role to play.

By linking into the corporate culture, elite innovators are able to attract and retain the right mix of these talents required to sustain leading innovation and growth.

What this means in that many leaders in the field are transforming their organisational management; adopting a flexible, fluid approach to building innovation capability based on organisational need and individuals’ desire.

Teams are incentivised to collaborate openly, execute quickly and – if they are going to fail – fail early without recrimination or fear of punishment.

3.  Systematic Approach
For innovation to be successful in turning radical ideas into actionable solutions, there needs to be a coherent process for managing risk and uncertainty.

Successful innovation processes are repeatable, predictable and scalable.

By the same token, they also need to be flexible enough to accommodate different innovation pathways, accounting for existing as well as new paradigms.

What all innovation processes have in common is a means of agreeing on specific challenges, enabling divergent and convergent thinking, a means of idea development and de-risking, and executing the final solution. The best systems also accommodate a means of both measuring and building on success.

At the most critical – highest risk – Action stage, the most successful processes leverage lean and agile methodologies to efficiently incubate ideas in iterative cycle of “build-test-learn”, constantly engaging with stakeholders to ensure success.

A systematic approach to governance and decision making is also a key factor – how to select challenges, filter & select ideas, and how to avoid “corporate think” by adopting novel approaches to decision making.

Without a systematic approach the result is “innovation anarchy”.

4.  Curating Culture
Even if you successfully develop an innovation strategy, ignite talent and adopt a robust innovation process, it will fail to generate explosive or sustainable growth without a corporate culture that nurtures and promotes innovation.

Leading innovators systematically identify and remove cultural and institutional barriers to innovation and instead incentivise and reward innovation-enabling behaviours.

By adopting Facilitating rather than Directing management styles, leaders foster open collaboration, engagement and decentralised ownership of business challenges and their solutions. Effectively empowering the entire organisation to innovate.

To accommodate this, leading innovators must also create an environment that allows for managed risk taking. They accept failure as an inevitable part of the innovation process, and critically do not punish individuals for failing!

Many leading innovators are now experimenting with highly decentralised and intensively networked organisational models, promoting a much higher degree of democratised decision-making.

Importantly, innovators also recognise the need for genuine workforce diversity – the value of having radically different skills, backgrounds, personality types and cognitive abilities, that are all critical to an effective innovation management system.

In addition to enabling highly effective innovation, this Curating Culture approach has been observed to drive much higher levels of employee motivation, wellbeing and performance, providing a double positive impact to the organisation.

5.  Tools and Techniques
Einstein famously stated, “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you always got”.

This sentiment lies at the heart of innovation management – the need to think and act differently. Without that, the chances of executing breakthrough, transformational or disruptive innovations are very small.

Leading innovators work with partners in an innovation ecosystem to access an ever-changing toolbox of skills, platforms and techniques; from visionary foresight and creative ideation to problem solving, analytics and incubation.

think is a global leader in innovation enablement, and has worked with many of the world’s largest brands to assist in embedding innovation to the point where it becomes an integral part of the organisational fabric and culture.

How can think transform your ability to innovate and grow?