As an innovation management professor and product management trainer, I have spent a good deal of time this year talking with leaders of product development and management in organizations of all sizes. The three most frequent topics are:
- How to create a culture that embraces and promotes innovation,
- How to create a group responsible for innovation, and
- What should the responsibilities of an innovation group be?
Often the discussions begin with one of these questions and leads to the others, as the topics are interdependent. To explore one large company’s experience with these questions, I interviewed Jeff Honious, the VP of Innovation at the RELX Group. The organization is a global multi-billion dollar enterprise that describes their work as helping scientists make new discoveries, lawyers win cases, doctors save lives, and executives forge relationships with their clients. In summary, they are in the business of massive information – experts in Big Data before the term was even used. For a company of such scale, it might surprise you that Jeff’s innovation group is in the single digits – just a few people that primarily help to connect the dots across the enterprise as well as guiding proof-of-concept experiments.
See link for podcast interview below.
The Path to Creating an Innovation Group
Jeff was part of a small team that benchmarked the innovation practices at other companies. Benchmarking is the process of identifying best practices in an industry or field and comparing them to your company’s practices with the objective of making improvements that typically address quality, time, and cost. The benchmarking study concluded that a one-size-fits-all innovation approach would not work across the organization given its decentralized structure. Instead, a small team was created to share best practices and tools and act as a force multiplier for innovation efforts. Jeff became the leader of this team.
The Group’s Responsibilities and Key to Success
The innovation team has two primary responsibilities:
- build and deepen innovation capability throughout the business by helping groups set up their innovation process, provide training, and use tools, and
- make resources available for strategic projects with specific expertise and added capacity for developing products.
Their success often begins with the synergy of existing capabilities, additional smart resources, and business champions who have a problem that needs to be solved. They then use the combination to investigate the possibilities, reduce risk, understand priorities, and create proof-of-concepts that reduce uncertainties.
It is a practical approach to innovation with a very small group in a large decentralized enterprise.
Listen to the interview with Jeff Honious on The Everyday Innovator Podcast.
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Chad McAllister, PhD is a product innovation guide, innovation management educator, and recovering engineer. He leads Product Innovation Educators, which trains product managers to create products customers love. He also hosts The Everyday Innovator weekly podcast, sharing knowledge from innovation thought leaders and practitioners. Follow him on Twitter.