The Case for an Innovation Redesign (part two)

The Case for an Innovation Redesign (part two)There are a host of reasons ‘renewal’ might be needed to be explored as part of a more radical redesign of your innovation system. Today, when markets are especially tough, looking long and hard at what you have, and jettisoning what you don’t need, becomes essential to reposition yourself as leaner and more flexible, far more agile.

Looking to be capable in incremental innovation is simply not enough, we need to be at the same time achieving more distinctive and breakthrough innovation. This is the higher demand point that is expected from the innovation system within organizations,  and regretfully this is not happening as much as it should.

There are many pressing needs why organizations have to ‘shape up’ and make some adjustments to their innovation activities. One of these is simply don’t ignore the need for looking to explore a re-engineering of the innovation process. It can really make a lasting difference to the fortunes of the organization.

Here in this second part of the case for re-designing your innovation activities are some thoughts to offer and support this call for a more in-depth look at overhauling your innovation process.

What is valuable, what is not?

What does give you real value within the existing process? What are really non-added value activities that have been implemented over time to defend, to protect, to layer on the existing? Perhaps having a fresh perspective, driven by changing market conditions, you can challenge many present activities as work that might be unnecessary, as you make a greater focus on optimization and speeding up, consolidating activities, as part of your needs to adjust and meet this market change that is happening at present.

The need for focusing on new responsive outcomes not just task or unit inputs and process outputs does need radical rethinking.

To be more responsive you might need to place into the innovation system a higher sense of urgency, of reducing time to market, of delaying certain decision points closer to the end. You need to be more adaptive to these changing market conditions and this might need some radical rethinking by challenging existing practices and norms.

Firstly what is achievable within the existing system?

What is possible with leveraging different technologies, collaborative platforms, more flexible structures and exploring synergies across the whole innovation system? If you were able to cut across existing boundaries, changing existing controls and constraints presently imposed and challenge the existing structures, what would that achieve?

Of course you begin to challenges sensitivities, threaten personal silo’s and comfortable routines built up and nicely established, you challenge existing attitudes.  All of this has increasing ramifications on existing structures so you have to move cautiously and in thoughtful ways.

Focus on those that might be effected most, that can block and challenge, then set about to offer them a clear alternative. One that they can see a different potential and ‘richer’ promise than often just the protect and defend of the daily grind. You need to paint an inspiring vision and some details of the journey and outcomes expected. Get them involved, excited and wanting to change, those that don’t, well it just simply will get harder for them to block real progress if you can gain real momentum and early success is quickly seen and felt.

A more radical rethink needs a reason

When we are evaluating the existing business processes, there will always have a certain structure and measured set of activities within it. These are designed to produce existing acceptable results from a set of particular outcomes that might have worked, but I expect, really expect, you were not really happy with the results, it seemed to give a certain disappointment. If you are truly dissatisfied with your innovation outcomes then you need to see these existing systems and structures as an obstacle and barrier to a different innovation path.

It is when the dynamics change, then you need to be alert and ready.

What if you needed from your innovation process, the shift to a real need for building in agility and higher market responsiveness for example? Changing the existing process is unlikely to work it needs re-engineering. You certainly don’t just change just for the sake of it, this does not make sense but changing it for a new strategic purpose does. If you markets are changing, if we are moving towards more volatile trading conditions this provides the strategic intent and motivation to change.

Are you ready when the CEO enters your office and expects different innovation?

In the coming months and over the next few years CEO’s will be finding their way to your executive office, more and more. Or equally to the marketing teams office or R&D centres, demanding far more from innovation. As responsible for managing within the innovation system do you have you a complete ‘handle’, an in-depth understanding, of what is truly possible to respond to this increasing demand from the CEO? Not just knowing your existing innovation system and structure but what are the possible options and ways to rise up and respond to a new set of challenges?

I would suggest that you should be already working on it because the way we are all doing business today, is certainly about to change, if it is not already under-way.

It happened to me some years back

I recall one event many years ago when it was expected to improve productivity within the system by 15 to 20% in the organization I was working for.  Admittedly not the innovation system but the whole organizational system. I had to go out and deliver this as my area of responsibility across a global operation. Equally there was a further demand to reduce operating costs by 15% and standardise the process so it could be understood and totally visible to the CEO.

The outcome delivered was 25% improvement in productivity and 25% saving in operating costs to channel differently. Both outcomes allowed for increasing throughput desperately needed and holding operating costs so as this allowed us to channel much of this to different new value adding activities to raise performance even further and drive through more volume.

It took a significant amount of time, commitment and resolve to alter structures, systems, processes  and the mindset across a global organization that had been very defensive in its local organizations. What it did do is radically altered the market competitive position of the total organization and gave the customer more of what they wanted, a guaranteed delivery to his desired needs when it was expected.

Why can’t these types of results be applied to the innovation system you have?

Don’t be dismissive simply because my example is a business process re-engineering one, what do you think innovation has become, a process? It is a business process, with its entire supporting infrastructure, systems, management structures, processes, controls, culture and practices. Recognize the beast that lurks across your organization called innovation in all its forms, it can make or break you, it is that important to your future.

Innovation needs to find slack, it needs to utilize technology, it needs to find new ways to combine and explore. To achieve this you need to engineer time, to save on your existing costs, to improve on your existing process and to allow for experimentation, fresh generation of ideas and concepts and allow for the three ’S’ needs. You need to stretch, to scope and too scale differently on your innovation activity if you want more real distinctive innovation breakthroughs that truly accelerate growth.

What are my three big imperatives (BHAG’s) that need to push you towards re-engineering or redesigning your innovation activities

  1. We need to improve the operations around innovation. We need to improve the formal and informal aspects of managing within the innovation system. We have to adapt our organizational structures to improve the balance between local and global responsiveness. We need to capitalise on all the information systems, communication technologies and infrastructures we have introduced progressively over the years and not harmonized or integrated fully. We need to account more for open innovation. Finally we need to look harder at what adds real value and what doesn’t and rebalance the two
  2. The scope within the operations is increasingly complex and we need to reduce this. We need to build more scale where it matters to outperform competitors and outperform in (deteriorating) market conditions. We need to add flexibility, we need to maintain a standardization in approach, we need to add a higher risk profile into our innovations.  We need to share in a more inclusive innovation strategy and we need to maximise our global processes to help deliver in reducing time frames. We need to make innovation life simpler.
  3. The chance to build fresh capabilities into your innovation systems. When you need to reconsider innovation beyond the existing incremental you have delivered you need to find compelling value propositions. To achieve this everyone involved needs to lift their heads up and find some solid, decent time to be allowed to think through this challenge. Knowing the (changing) innovation strategy and the need, being more included in this dialogue, adding their personal insights built on solid market understanding and not just through reliance on other people’s focus reports. Having a growing sense of trust that the outcomes of any re-engineering will release them.

We need to build  new competencies and capabilities into our innovation system, so as our people engaged in innovation can be able to contribute to improving more helpful processes for them to do their job and, feel engaged in a more compelling work experience. A place where their contribution is truly valued and seen, feeling included and able to ‘freely’ reach out across internal and external networks. Placing real trust and investing in the skills will open up individuals to want to take on new experiences and challenges. They can see they are making a real difference.

So any first step is to see and then respond.

So what do we really need to do to seize emerging opportunities quicker, at tomorrow’s new innovation speed?

Six simple opening steps to begin to think through

  1. Redefine our need from innovation
  2. Sketch out an opening road map of how to tackle any re-engineering of innovation
  3. Identify some opening improvement opportunities that can really galvanize change and significant for the organization can get behind.
  4. Take a hard look on what you need to achieve for any change like this and what it means in efforts and resources. Often not as much as you initially think.
  5. Begin to organize and draw in a team that can undertake the redesign and can share in this. This calls for expertise but seek out a real diversity of opinion but can all come together as a united team once the debating has run its course and results come in.
  6. Seek a growing commitment from those around you, determine the appropriate approach and be ready to clear the decks and take the initiative out of your office into the heart of the organization.

So, concluding my opening case for re-designing innovation.

As I suggested in my opening remarks in part one of this, innovation as we know it today is grinding to a halt for many. The existing treatment and values we offer in innovation’s name are tired, over worked, often over engineered and under delivered into the market place to make real difference.

We need to radically re-engineer the innovation systems and structures to offer a better value from all the innovation activity that is going on within organizations. In  not recognizing the crisis within, is not providing the opportunities to explore & extract the best opportunities we can deliver to meet our customers needs and what markets are looking for in growth and stimulus today.

We have available more means at our disposal to move from the existing to the preferred than ever before. Innovation needs to go back to being the real option for significant growth by offering something that ‘wow’s’ the consumer and creates fresh new markets, found by tapping into the unknown needs and jobs-to-be-done that our consumers are trying to achieve with the existing products and services but failing.

We are in volatile times or heading towards them. The markets and consumers requirements are changing, much is by being forced into making change and they, our consumers, don’t like that. So we have to find different ways to meet these changing conditions with radically altered approaches within our innovation management to respond and be more agile, to draw the consumer back in.

Without question we do need to put back the ‘wow’ factor back into innovation if we want to first survive and then begin to thrive in more compelling ways and in tougher times.

There is a time for this need to re-design what we do in the name of innovation and this might actually be that time

This is part two of the case for an innovation redesign. To read part one, click here.

image credit: twylah.com

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Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

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