Innovation is not an outcome, it’s an enabler. Innovation must bring value and make things better. But if you want impactful outcomes from innovation, you need to know the “why”?
In our experience, one of the biggest causes of innovation “failure” is when innovation is not aligned with the future direction of the organisation. Our Better Innovation framework avoids this common pitfall.
We humans love to be busy and clog our diaries with activity. We are just the same when it comes to innovation initiatives. And who doesn’t love a bit of keenness?!
But, before creating a bubble of activities, an organisation’s leadership team must be clearly aligned on the imperative for change: their ‘Why’.
Leadership teams must align on strategic ambitions, not just what this year will bring. It takes some thinking, which may feel like delay, as “nothing” is happening, but this thinking creates the foundation to enable innovation impact.
“Strategy is not complex. But it is hard. It’s hard because it forces people and organizations to make specific choices about their future.”
— A.G. Lafley, ex-CEO, P&G.
We don’t like having to make choices, but it’s vital for success.
Successful innovators know that innovation and strategy must be good friends: have a clear strategic imperative or goal, and you will have absolute clarity on the role of innovation in delivering the organisational strategy.
And, how do we know what innovation is?
It comes back to the leadership team agreeing on their unique ‘Why’. Agreeing why innovation is needed, what innovation will focus on and what success looks like.
When Whirlpool embarked upon their hugely successful innovation journey, they spent time developing a comprehensive innovation definition that they have updated over time. They focus on four key areas:
- develop unique and compelling consumer solutions;
- create sustainable competitive advantage;
- develop the potential for further innovations; and
- provide consumers with more value than anything else on the market.
We at Innovate21 help organisations create their unique innovation definition. Be clear on the imperative for innovation and you can be sure to have clear innovation ambitions and focus areas. And that’s what innovation must deliver — the innovation impact that is expected and needed.
Manufacturing giant, 3M is a great example of transparency on innovation focus areas.3M use their Periodic Table of Technology Platforms to provide clear outcomes, and enable internal collaboration and diverse thinking.
The enemy of better innovation is status quo. Leaders need to weight the organisation in favour of innovation, through various mechanisms, policies and behaviours.
Give innovation the conditions needed to be better.
It’s hard to change the environment, but innovation must be given a fighting chance through investment — time, people, resources. If innovation is vital to future success, it’s worth investing in.
Taking time at this stage to create an agreed direction for innovation pays handsome dividends when moving into the Operational and Manage stages of the innovation journey.
Next up in our blog series focuses on the Operational stage of Better Innovation, the execution of innovation and what’s needed to achieve it successfully.
In a series of posts, we share how to make innovation better. To read the series, please find the links below:
- Making Innovation Better
- A Better Innovation Approach
- A Why is Needed to Innovate Better
- Better Innovation Execution
- Creating a Better Innovation Culture
Great article with many good points. My observations, having worked for Whirlpool and with 3M I know that passion is also a necessary ingredient. No process or statement can invoke dedication to a programs success like passion by those doing the work and those supporting them. That passion in support goes with the comments on tough decision making. If leadership is luke warm then success is extremely difficult.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Thanks Steven for the insider perspective – it’s a great point you make. Passion is essential, and this must make up your “why” – what you believe in and what you are making better. I appreciate you taking the time to respond.