So you think you’re innovating! Don’t know why you didn’t jump on the innovation bandwagon before really. A Boston Consulting Group report in 2015 revealed that 79% of respondents ranked innovation as a top-three priority at their company and now you’ve joined the innovation party. It was so easy to transform into an innovation-led organisation, wasn’t it? You held a board meeting, maybe listened to a presentation, had a bit of a debate and then announced to the world that in future you were going to be a business that innovates.
Admittedly you had to make a few changes in order to be seen as innovative. So you’ve allocated an innovation budget and you’ve appointed someone to take on the ‘head of innovation’ role. And that’s it; nothing more to do. Even better, the reports you are getting back are fantastic. PA Consulting’s Innovation as Usual report in 2015 may have revealed that in the UK alone, £64.7 billion is lost each year through wasting good ideas, but you aren’t going to be part of that circle anymore. There seem to be so many innovation projects starting up across the organisation you may even have to rein them in for fear of being too innovative!
But wait; has anything really changed? Are you now an organisation which has really baked a culture of innovation into its heart or are you just practising ‘innovation-like’ innovation. In other words, are you really doing innovation or are you just carrying out some projects under the name of innovation? And all these innovation projects which are starting up; be honest, how many of them are identical in structure and management to the ‘business-as-usual’ projects you used to do?
I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a fair few. After all, it wouldn’t have taken long for your people to have worked out that by attaching a false-positive innovation label to a project they could tap into that budget which you have so thoughtfully allocated. Because all you’ve done is change a few labels then they can happily carry on as before without bothering about developing a real innovation strategy or culture, or using innovation tools, methodologies, frameworks, processes etcetera.
Quite frankly, if you thought that transforming your business into one which embraces innovation was simple, quick and painless then there is no way that you are a truly innovative organisation. Building a culture of innovation is not rocket science but it does take time and effort and in many cases a complete change of outlook. So if you think you’ve transformed to become an innovative organisation tell me:
- did you define innovation so that everyone in your organisation knows exactly what it is and shares a common understanding of how to contribute?
- did you take time to understand the difference between invention and innovation and build an appreciation of how innovation can be used to provide solutions which add real value and drive growth?
- did you carry out an innovation maturity assessment in order to really understand where your organisation sits today and be able to plan a roadmap for the future?
- did you develop bespoke innovation tools, methodologies and frameworks to enable your people to solve problems better than your competitors?
- and did you in fact take your organisation on a culture change journey which saw you engaging your people and building innovation capability throughout the business?
If you didn’t then you may be carrying out ‘innovation-like’ actions but you certainly are not building a culture of enterprise-wide innovation. Innovation isn’t simply an add-on to an existing culture, nor is it a tick box/budget allocation exercise. Admittedly you will need to allocate a budget to aid in the transformation, but you also need a robust culture change structure. And you’re not going to get that unless the senior team have not only taken the time to understand innovation but also have personally accepted the change of attitude and outlook which innovation requires.
Sadly a recent Wazoku report revealed that just 32% of people say board level employees are taking the lead in driving innovation. As a CEO, as a member of the board, I challenge you to stand up and be counted; to stop coasting and start delivering the vision and strategy which your organisation needs if it is to survive in an increasingly competitive environment.
Let me tell you that innovation isn’t a mañana exercise. I know it’s easy to think it is; I am all too aware that the majority of CEOs and senior team members I meet are not in enough real ‘pain’ to make innovation the imperative which it is in today’s marketplace. You think you’ve got plenty of time, you think that you’ll just get through this product launch or the end of the next reporting cycle and then maybe you’ll have a think about innovation.
I can tell you that by then it will be too late. What you’re thinking now is little different to the approach followed by organisations such as Woolworths, Comet, Blockbuster and Nokia. Household names which failed to see how the tide of change was washing away their foundations. So tomorrow is too late, now is the time to act; to build understanding, to change personal attitudes and behaviours and to sponsor change.
When you understand how innovation can be a game changer, you value it. When you value innovation then you are prepared to put in the time to develop understanding and to align a strategic approach to innovation capability and culture building to your existing corporate growth strategy. When you are serious about change then you may just be able to overcome the business-as-usual pathway and develop something amazing for your organisation. But, this is only going to happen through committed leadership on the part of the CEO and senior team.
There are some truly innovative organisations out there and it’s easy to see why you would want to emulate them as they are capturing market share as well as the hearts and minds of customers, employees and investors. But you don’t become a match winner through talk alone; it takes dedication, hard work and courage. So I ask again, do you really think you are innovating; more importantly do you have what it takes to succeed?
If you’re a CEO, senior leader or HRD and you’d like to understand how to measure your organisations current innovation maturity, how to develop innovation leaders and how to build a culture of innovation, get in touch and let’s talk.