Making Innovation Sustainable – Part 2 of 4

Making Innovation Sustainable – Part 2 of 4If you missed Part 1, you can find it here

If You Want Systemic Innovation, You Need Systems to Manage It

If you are really serious about creating sustainable innovation in your organization and engaging more than just a handful of people in the generation of ideas, you not only need to have a group of people to manage the process (either part – time or full – time), but you also need systems to manage the idea generation, idea evaluation, and idea development processes. This class of software is commonly referred to as innovation management software and it is often sold in a Software as a Service (SaaS) manner. Organizations with above average privacy or security concerns may choose to run this software locally in their own organization (see Figure 10.1 ).

There are tons of companies selling innovation management software, but the four heavyweights in this area are Brightidea, Hype, Imaginatik, and Spigit, but you also have software like Invention Machine and others that serve similar or adjacent needs (patent searches, etc.). But there is no reason you couldn’t build your own innovation management solution into your enterprise portal or collaboration software platform such as Lotus Notes, Microsoft SharePoint, and others (see Figure 10.2).

It’s not completely accurate to call it innovation management software because it only manages ideas, but having a software platform for managing ideas is crucial to ensure that you are able to do the following five key tasks.

  1. Capture all of the ideas.
  2. Allow employees to collaborate on evolving ideas.
  3. Allow program managers to evaluate them.
  4. Allow program managers to track idea development progress.
  5. Allow program managers to monitor commercial success of ideas.

No matter how you choose to solve the need for an innovation management software solution, make sure that you have a plan for how you are going to address these five tasks, both in the software and in your organization’s policies and processes.

Innovation versus Flexibility

Does your organization focus on identifying only new innovation projects and not on making the organization itself more agile? For innovation to be sustainable, the organization has to become flexible enough to remake itself as its environment changes and succeed at completely new ways of doing business. Think about Nokia going from tires to mobile phones. Could your organization do that?

Or, think about the Apple iPod, and how Apple went from being a computer company to a consumer electronics company. Figure 10.3 shows one way to think about the changes that both the organization and the customer had to think about (see the case study at the end of this section for more detail).

Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire – Figure 10-3

Innovation is all about change. It’s about finding a new set of solutions that customers value above every existing alternative – including your current products and services. While investing in innovation projects is important, you have to also make sure that your organization is capable of adapting to the changes in the marketplace. What good is coming up with a breakthrough customer insight that drives great innovation ideas and projects if your organization isn’t capable of making the internal changes that are necessary to execute upon the insight and bring the product or service solution successfully to market?

If you live in the United States, you may be familiar with a couple of failed airlines — Ted and Song. United started the ill-fated Ted, and Delta started the equally unsuccessful Song in response to the growing success of low-cost competitors like Southwest and Jet Blue. Given that Ted and Song came along and copied a successful, proven business model, how did they manage to fail so miserably?

The answer is not a simple one, but in addition to the brand confusion they caused among customers, the harsh reality is that neither organization could change fast enough to operate as efficiently or effectively as Southwest Airlines and then create any innovation capable of proving their solution to be valued above every existing alternative.

Quite often it is not the technical aspects of invention that keep established companies from delivering disruptive innovations, but the change that is required either on the part of the customer in order to adopt an innovation, or on the company’s part in order to deliver the innovation to the marketplace (or both). Investing in innovation without also investing in organizational agility is often a fool’s bet.

You can read ahead by getting the book or downloading the sample chapter, or by checking out the other parts here:

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