The practise of innovating consistently can be challenging for most organizations today that can deprive companies from sustaining their existence in a competitive marketplace.
In their book, “Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates” Peter Skarzynski and Rowan Gibson highlight some of the pecking challenges faced by a number of organizations in attaining innovation sustainability:
• Innovation is restricted to a specific department/incubator such as R & D – just a piecemeal to innovation objective
• Managerial practices, policies, and processes are skewed towards achieving efficiency at the expense of innovation
• Lack of adequate budget allocation towards innovation activities
• Innovation is not received as an everyday cultural behaviour
Given these challenges there is a need to install proper mechanisms to ensure that corporate innovation becomes sustainable. Fortunately, Peter and Rowan offer remedial solutions that can enable companies to successfully sustain innovation. Their recommendations are discussed in-depth in the remainder of the blog as they highlight how “the balance between efficiency and innovation” can be attained, and is crucial for innovation sustainability.
A systemic approach is required. Companies can make a transition provided that they include all factors that are necessary to make innovation a corporate-wide capability which can in turn sustain capability to drive better company performance than industry.
It is important to deploy a series of actions systematically. While there is no “one size fits all solution”, a number of factors are known to be important to establish this culture of innovation:
- Structures supportive of innovation
- Leadership engagement should be visible
- Access to processes and tools for creating tremendous opportunities and insights
- An approach disciplined to build skills and hire right people
- Open innovation marketplace, and mechanisms for deploying resources
- Company’s metrics, incentives, management processes, and training with appropriate employee accountability to ensure that innovation is given equal importance as efficiency.
- Important to be attentive day by day to processes of mutual accommodation of efficiency and innovation
- Conversation and communication about activities of innovation
- Cultural activities promoting innovation and making it possible to thrive.
- Take initiative by launching own, small-scale innovation to get CEO’s attention – (Example: Six Sigma initiated by a mid-level Motorola employee brought to management attention)
Importantly, Innovation should also become a “self-sustaining company capability”. Even though a CEO is required to drive innovation from top, the company should still continue to have an edge even if CEO is unable to continue further with the company. Therefore it is essential that innovation becomes a part of the organizational “bloodstream” or “its core DNA”, and should not be just concentrated to one portion of company such as an incubator or a department.
Whirlpool exemplifies how a right balance can be maintained between innovation and efficiency, when the company CEO, Jeff Fettig utilized $700 M to shift the organizational focus towards innovation following heavy investment in efficiency.
Source: Skarzynski, Peter, and Rowan Gibson. Innovation to the Core: A Blueprint for Transforming the Way Your Company Innovates. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School, 2008. Print