Last, but certainly not least of the seven innovation domains are two people oriented factors: the people who participate in innovation, and their motivations and measurements. Based on the intangible nature of ideas, the creativity that’s needed and the insights that are required, innovation relies on engaged, motivated people like no other initiative or process. However, the risks and uncertainties associated with innovation, compounded by the lack of experience, suggests people have little motivation to do innovation without appropriate compensation, recognition and rewards. How people are engaged and motivated, and how their work is measured and rewarded, comprise the last of the innovation domains.
People deliver innovation, nothing else
There is one other area of focus for an executive team concerned about building a powerful innovation capability or discipline, and that is the focus on people, their skills and roles.
Rather than isolate this focus in one “domain box” in the work mat, we decided to call out the need and recognize this goes across all the seven domains. People make innovation happen.
We need to recognize that people, skills and roles belong in all of the aspects of the mat, they ‘run across’ all that is needed for successful innovation. People are essential across all of innovation; innovation does not work unless you have full engagement, commitment and desire. Everything else simply enables and supports.
People are the vital cog in the innovation wheel
Innovation is the last people-centric process. While many other business processes or functions have become automated, innovation demands more from people than any other business process or function. People are required to generate ideas, to evaluate ideas, to judge ideas, to select ideas and to develop new products and services from the original ideas and then manage these through the innovation process. Little of that work can be automated, and much of it requires active, engaged, trained people in order to do the work effectively.
Innovation demands that your best, most engaged people participate in all aspects of the innovation process. To that end, executives must focus on:
- What people should be involved in innovation and when
- What critical innovation roles must be identified and filled
- Who “owns” innovation responsibilities and reporting
- How these individuals gain new skills
- How to provide space and time for innovators to work effectively
Identifying the right skills and attitudes is vital for innovation success
Clearly, senior executives must identify leaders who will deploy the innovation vision, so executives aren’t likely to be active in many of the details of implementation. But the people aspect of innovation is one that cannot be stressed enough. Good people, actively engaged, and provided with the right skills and motivations, will drive innovation even in difficult times. Good people, who lack clear strategies, who lack functions and governance, or who face a hostile culture, can’t or won’t be successful.
Even your best people, however, may not have the skills and knowledge necessary at the outset to perform innovation activities at peak performance. They may need to refresh long dormant skills or add new skills based on new innovation tools and methods. They may need to learn new skills to help them perform innovation roles effectively across the Workmat and this needs senior management attention.
It is essential that you motive and measure
Executives must also understand the extrinsic and intrinsic motivations and rewards that drive innovators. Research from Dan Pink, the author of “Drive, the surprising truth about what motivates us”, and others have shown that many innovators are influenced by intrinsic motivators, such as recognition, the ability to pursue their ideas and other non-monetary rewards. Motivating innovators requires a slightly different mentality and focus than traditional motivational programs, and executives must understand how to best reward their innovation teams.
Innovation, however, should ultimately result in benefits to the organization. These benefits should align to strategic goals, and therefore can be measured in terms like revenue growth, share growth, market awareness, clear differentiation from competitors’ products and services, recognized leadership position in a market place and many other factors. It is important to establish clear innovation goals and to constantly evaluate innovation returns, using measures and metrics that are attuned to innovation activities, beyond simple ROI. You need to measure progress and equally drive corrective actions.
Measuring innovation and learning to shape it
We measure innovation in different ways, through hard, quantifiable targets but also in how we influence and make things happen. Executives need to shape innovation through a mix of incentives that promote inspiration, offer motivation and generate excitement. Highly extrinsic transactional drivers must be combined with more intrinsic transformational aspects.
Further, executives need to define the appropriate time frame to assess and measure innovation returns. Innovation activities often lead to new ideas, which in turn lead to product or service developments, which hopefully lead to new products or services which are then commercialized in the market. These sequential activities can take a significant amount of time. New product launches today represent ideas generated months if not years ago, so executives must establish an appropriate time frame for measures and milestones along the way. This lag time between idea generation and product commercialization also demonstrates why sustained engagement is important, along with consistent motivation.
Executives must also establish timely, appropriate innovation milestones and measurements based on metrics defined in innovation governance. Innovation metrics must align to corporate goals and expected outcomes (market share gains) rather than merely monitor outputs (patents generated).
The Executive Innovation Work Mat series
This article is within a series of seven articles that discusses the Executive Innovation Work Mat approach and the seven domains for innovation alignment.
In this set of articles we are discussing specifically each of the seven domains for innovation alignment, our thinking in the rationale and benefits for this combined framework.
This makes up the final discussion as introductions to the seven domains. This discussed where People align with the motivations and measures (domain 7) for relating to innovation
We have previously looked at the need for innovation to have Strategic Alignment (domain one) as well as develop the context, the communication techniques and encourage an emerging common language (domain two). This then be followed as we discuss the need for having the appropriate Structure, Processes and Functional design (domain three) and the importance of Governance (domain four). The next two domains are Culture (domain 5) and the Environment (domain 6) and why these need to be worked through. As a final article we will summarize the benefits of an integrated framework delivered through the Executive work mat and draw some conclusions.
We provided initially an introduction to “the seven domains for innovation alignment” as the overarching piece in these seven articles, and then we provided the justification in the article “the role senior leaders must fill for innovation success.”
We would encourage you to read all seven articles to fully relate to this
The above link contains all seven articles on one page, as listed below:
Paul 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.
Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of “Make us more Innovative”, and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.