- Innovation strategy requires a plan for scaling innovation.
- Building scaling processes into your innovation platform, like those created by IdeaScale, makes it easier to move pilot projects and department-scale approaches to a broader scope.
- Scaling innovation requires clear goals, properly delegated responsibility, access to the right tools, and long-term thinking.
Once you’ve refined your innovation strategy as a pilot program or within a department, it’s time to scale up and give everyone the right tools for success. Here’s why scaling matters, what challenges you’ll face as you scale, how IdeaScale helps you through the process, and how to get started.
Why Scaling Innovation Matters
Regardless of the size of your company, you’ll need to scale your innovation program to the entire organization for a few key reasons.
A common organizational problem is duplication of effort. One team may solve a problem they’ve been facing, while another struggle with the same issue because they didn’t compare notes. Giving everyone the tools to launch organization-wide campaigns brings people together from across department lines.
NASA had a dramatic example of what happens when innovation scales up with its NASA@Work initiative. One team within the agency faced a challenge to develop a better way to collect liquids in low-gravity environments for testing—so they started an agency-wide crowdsourcing campaign to gather feedback and ideas from across different departments. And they found that not only had another team already been working on this issue, but it had a functioning prototype, which saved money and months of development time.
Scaling innovation expands growth by getting everyone on the same page for their needs and giving everyone the same tools to address those needs. If customers are demanding a new product that’s been developed in one region, scaling tools make it simple to find possible roadblocks, delegate necessary personnel to overcome them, and get the product to new markets.
Scaling up means bringing in more teams in a way that helps those teams talk with each other. Cross-communication between different areas both fosters creativity and tightens teamwork bonds, making it easier to work together—and not just when it comes to innovation. As departments get to know each other better, they’re more equipped to send requests and paperwork to the right people.
Scaled innovation strategies allow for a more consistent vision across the company. It offers a foundation to work from for departments and groups to point to and work towards. It also helps far-flung groups and departments with different focus better understand each other.
Innovation works best when people with different perspectives and approaches all look at the same idea. Potential problems and their solutions come to light, improvements can be found, and efficiencies can be added to push innovation further.
What Challenges Does Scaling Innovation Face?
When discussing scale, it’s important to remember the square-cube law. Mathematically speaking, the square-cube law notes that as you expand something, its volume increases faster than its surface area. This means that as you grow your innovation team and open your toolbox, you need to change your designs to ensure maximum effectiveness.
This is as true of abstract concepts as it is of buildings, which presents a few challenges when scaling.
Not all parts of an organization use the same language or are familiar with how to talk to each other. You need translators, metaphorically and sometimes literally, to ensure that ideas can cross cultural, language, and conceptual boundaries. Scaling tools help these change agents volunteer for the work.
Another challenge involves resources. Smaller teams may need to appoint someone who handles innovation as part of their duties, or they may have so much to do that finding time to engage with innovation strategy is a struggle for them.
Innovation requires a mosaic of perspectives. Sometimes, all some perspectives can see in an idea is another problem. Groups will need to learn how to see through each other’s lenses and address potential issues before they happen.
Opacity and Narrow Focus
The larger an organization gets, the more difficult it becomes to connect the dots between what’s happening in one part and what’s happening in another. What can emerge is that it simply wasn’t in the culture to talk to somebody about their ideas or concerns, so they had no way of knowing that a good idea in one area may also be useful in another.
How IdeaScale’s Tools Help with Scaling Innovation
As part of our overall process with our innovation platform, we’ve created a set of tools to make scaling innovation and deploying access to your custom solutions a smooth process.
Data is crucial for effective innovation. Using IdeaScale, you can easily set and compare performance benchmarks. This is important not just to see who’s doing what with your innovation campaigns, but also to find where you need to address concerns. If a process is unwieldy for a team, this allows you to diagnose the issue and streamline the process so the team can continue to build campaigns.
Not everyone has the same role in an organization or a dedicated innovation committee. With scaling in place, you can give individual customized permissions in the back end to design reports, customize tools to fit each department’s needs, and add capabilities as needed to make their campaigns more effective. It’s especially useful for smaller teams when one person has to wear multiple hats, and where tools like real-time translation need quick deployment.
Sometimes, you need the raw data either to run through your own tools or to develop custom approaches of your own. IdeaScale has built our API to meet that need.
Specifically, IdeaScale uses the representational state transfer (REST) architecture, making it a RESTful API. It is built in HTML, making it easy to understand and access, and easy to move data around as needed. The API also supports JSON data transfers, allowing for easier movement of files and data trading.
Finally, the IdeaScale team can come in to work with you directly as needed. We can train leaders, take a “train the trainer” approach to help propagate innovation strategy throughout the company, and even work with your entire organization. To get a sense of how these sessions work, request a demo!