What is innovation?
“The term ‘innovation’ makes people think first about technology: new products and new methods of making them. … If most people were asked to list some of the major innovations of the last few years, microprocessors and computer-related devices would be mentioned frequently. Fewer people would mention new tax laws or the creation of enterprise zones, even though those are innovations too. Fewer still would mention ‘quality circles’ or ‘problem-solving task forces.’ … Even many ‘productivity improvements’ rest, at root, on innovations that determine how jobs are designed or how departments are composed.
“Innovation refers to the processes of bringing in any new, problem-solving idea into use. Ideas for re-organising, cutting costs, putting in new budget systems, improving communication, or assembling products in teams are innovations. Innovation is the generation, acceptance and implementation of new ideas, processes, products or services.”
(Elisabeth Moss-Kanter 1984, p.20)
“An invention is an idea, a sketch or model for a new or improved device, product, process or system. Such inventions may often (not always) be patented but they do not necessarily lead to technical innovations. In fact, the majority do not. An innovation in the economic sense is accomplished only with the first commercial transaction involving the new product, process, system or device.”
[Schumpeter, “Strategy and Innovation” p.6]
“IBM Credit reduced the time to prepare a quote for buying or leasing a computer from seven days to one, while increasing the number of quotes prepared tenfold. Moreover, more than half its quotes are now issued by computer.
“Federal Mogul, a billion-dollar auto parts manufacturer, reduced the time to develop a new part prototype from twenty weeks to twenty days, thereby tripling the likelihood of customer acceptance.
“Mutual Benefit Life, a large insurance company seeking to offset a declining real-estate portfolio, halved the cost associated with its policy underwriting and insurance process.
“Even the US Internal Revenue Service achieved successful process innovation, collecting 33% more dollars from delinquent taxpayers with half its former staff and a third fewer branch offices.”
(Davenport 1993, p.2)
What is the relationship between creativity & innovation?
A creative idea is new - although it only needs to be new to the context in which the idea occurs - and useful.
Innovation is the process of realising a new and useful idea.
Creative thinking is not a talent: it is a skill that can be learnt. It’s a natural ability that needs to be developed which leads to improved teamwork, productivity and, where appropriate, profits.
By making individuals aware of their creative styles and preferences, encouraging them to develop their cognitive skills and allowing their intrinsic motivation to flourish in a stimulating climate, an organisation's ability to innovate and renew itself can increase exponentially.
What is an Innovation Booster?
are facilitated events that address complex issues e.g. the problem involves many stakeholders (decision-makers, customers, experts, etc.), affects a large part (or the whole) of the organisation, requires intervention at an organisational level, etc.
need a "problem owner": the person who takes responsibility for co-ordinating the efforts of these people to solve the problem
can be a one-off event or part of a longer-term strategic project to increase organisational competitive advantage through innovation
are not courses, training or team-building events, simulations, conferences or facilitated meetings; nor are they open events
typically last two days, and have an average 10-30 participants, but can last between two hours and a whole week and can have almost any number of participants
need at least one trained Innovation Facilitator to manage the process. Argenta Europ Ltd. provides trained Innovation Facilitators and Innovation Facilitator development programmes for companies to develop their own internal Innovation Facilitation resources
What is culture change?
Organisational cultures grow, rather like mould. They can grow in new directions, as a result of deliberate executive intent or, more often, as a consequence of historical accident.
An organisation sends messages to its staff through everything it does from the official contracts of employment, offices and training to the apparently trivial coffee machine and stationery cupboard. Employees will attend to these messages just as much or more than to ‘official’ statements.
Organisational cultures are highly resistant to ‘culture change’ programmes, consultants and projects. It is not big-change programmes that change culture, but the accumulation of thousands of small actions or ‘micro-behaviours’ over time.
Also, the more senior, powerful and/or influential an individual, the greater the impact of their own behaviour (for good and for ill) on the way things are done in a company.
Our approach involves working with a small population of influential and effective people to enhance their ability to model and inspire the kind of behaviours and actions that will bring about the desired innovation and change.
[Definition of culture change from “The 80 Minute MBA : Everything you’ll never learn at Business School”, Richard Reeves and John Knell]
What is a “change agent” or “innovation agent”?
Here is one way of describing an “innovation agent”:
We think of an entrepreneur as someone who starts up a new company in response to an opportunity they can see. The opportunity often combines a new field of technology with a new form of consumer behaviour or preference. Entrepreneurs are usually very positively-minded people who bring passion to the hard work of making something new happen, and who are not deterred by the high risk nature of what they want to achieve.
An intrapreneur is an employee of a large organisation who has many of the characteristics of the start-up entrepreneur in that he/she has the desire and the skills to turn invention into innovation using the resources and capabilities of the organisation, despite the rigidities of behaviour and process that are commonly found in large enterprises.
Gifford Pinchot describes intrapreneurs as "dreamers who . . . increase the speed and cost-effectiveness of technology transfer from R&D to the marketplace".
Ideally an “intrapreneur” will demonstrate a range (or all) of the competencies outlined below:
a) Visioning: able to describe a picture of a desirable future
b) Problem anticipation: able to see problems before they happen
c) Problem solving: able to propose a no. of alternative solutions to these problems
d) Completing-finishing: willing to be persistent and flexible in order to reach a result
e) Boundary crossing: able to work with others across organisational boundaries
f) Market research: willing to form own opinions about customer and market needs.
What kind of issues do you work on in Innovation Boosters?
An opportunity for innovation is often disguised as a problem which we define as “a situation of uncertainty about how best to proceed”. Problem-solving, therefore, is a process of moving from uncertainty to greater clarity. (We should note here that many people do not like the idea of having a problem and feel uncomfortable if they have to admit it to others.)
Problems vary in terms of their complexity and of the kinds of options available to make an impact on the situation. In terms of what makes a suitable challenge for an Innovation Booster, if a problem is worth spending time and energy on, then it will need to have at least three characteristics: it must be real, important and complex.
Complexity is typically present in situations in which, for example:
1. a large number of stakeholders need to be consulted
2. there is a large number of possible solutions
3. it’s difficult to get agreement on the definition of the problem, or starting point
4. there is disagreement about what the key priorities are
5. it is difficult to separate the issue from other issues – which all impact on each other
We have tried to cluster the kinds of problems we are typically asked to work on and have come up with seven broad types:
1. Technical: including technical problem resolution, new product development, design “re-use”, human-centred design
2. Project management: including achieving business objectives, quality requirements, achieving specific project milestones, risk reduction, cross-functional team integration, project kick-off events, lessons learned
3. Strategic change and development programmes: including launching an initiative, identifying mission/ vision/ objectives, implementation of strategic objectives, action/ implementation planning, strategy/ policy/ plan validation
4. Marketing: including customer retention, recruitment, customer/supplier relationship management, new business opportunities
5. Internal Communication: including identifying key messages, communication planning
6. Process: including process development, validation, improvement, implementation
7. Integration/ Boundary Management: including defining shared vision and way forward, process integration, cross-functional/ cultural/ company team integration, network-building, knowledge sharing
How do you capture and communicate the impact of innovation?
Our customers often require us to provide them with the information they need to evaluate the effectiveness of the innovation initiatives that they are pursuing.
This poses particular challenges for large companies: most employees in a large organisation find it difficult to connect the impact of small innovation initiatives with achieving the company’s long-term strategic objectives.
Helping employees make this connection is done, where possible, through the presentation of numerical data. However, we find that the careful presentation of qualitative feedback, often in the form of a narrative account of the problem a team faced, how they approached solving it and what was accomplished as a result is often the basis of the effective communication of successful innovation.
There are three key stakeholders involved in the process of capturing and communicating the impact of innovavtion:
1. The top level sponsors of the innovation programme or initiative generally want to know about the actual and potential financial impact of outcomes of Innovation Boosters or other types of innovation initiative; they are also interested in the quantity and type of event or initiative over a period of time.
2. The "end users" or "clients": these are the beneficiaries of innovation-related services such as Innovation Boosters, innovation-related development programmes, or employee idea management schemes: actual and potential problem owners and their teams. They will need to be kept informed of successful innovation initiatives, and of the services and capabilities available to them.
3. The "service providers", i.e. the change or innovation agents, innovation programme managers, etc. An innovation programme manager would like to know, for example, who is doing what, and be able to track activity. All service providers need to capture and manage feedback from the end users/ clients. They usually communicate with actual and potential clients in the form of press-releases. They are accountable to the top level sponsors, for whom they need to generate reports.
We have developed an integrated tool in collaboration with Amovada.com which helps our clients:
a) gather and manage the key knowledge resulting from Innovation Boosters and other innovation projects and initiatives to enable those responsible to generate effective communication tools such as reports and press-releases
b) manage all the documentation associated with running these events, projects and initiatives
c) model any and all numerical data for management analysis purposes