To go forward, it helps to know where you’re beginning. When building an innovation strategy, this takes the form of an innovation maturity assessment that examines your organization, your team, and your personal innovation approach. Here’s how an innovation maturity assessment works and how to use one.
Finding Your Location
The innovation maturity assessment looks at a host of factors, including:
Leadership engagement: How strongly are leaders and managers involved in driving innovation?
Team engagement: Do employees feel encouraged to innovate and show interest in doing so?
Who drives innovation: Who comes up with the ideas, and how are they communicated?
Metrics: How do you measure innovation and its progress internally?
Training: What’s available to learn about innovation and how your company approaches it?
Communication: The quality of communication within and between departments and with customers and other stakeholders.
Friction within the process: How easy is it to present, refine, and develop an idea?
Scale of current innovation: What ideas have been developed and launch, and at what level?
Ambition for future innovation: What does each stakeholder most want to see?
It also looks at these factors from multiple perspectives. For example, managers might feel they can easily take ideas to the C-suite and get a fair hearing and encouragement to develop them further. Yet team members might not even be aware that their managers are doing this. Identifying important stakeholders and getting honest feedback from them will build a more effective approach.
This is generally found through a number of tools, including one-on-one interviews, broad anonymous surveys, focus groups and group interviews inside and outside the organization, and assessment of existing data, such as customer feedback.
Remember: This isn’t a test. There’s no “passing or failing” an innovation maturity assessment, nor does it diagnose any sort of institutional dysfunction. A thriving, well-run business can lack an innovation strategy completely; it just needs one to endure in the long term. The assessment is a starting point to determine where you should go to reach your goals.
Finding Your Momentum
Once you know where you are, you need to know what advantages and obstacles you have in your path. Each organization’s path towards innovation is as different as the organization itself.
For example, let’s say that when you complete the initial phase, you find that your strengths lie in siloed incremental innovation. That is, each department has a fairly strong approach to innovation internally; people feel they can come to their managers with ideas, managers work with them and their superiors to develop and implement those ideas, but that’s largely kept inside the department.
The initial question here is as simple as, “why?”. This can happen for a wide number of reasons that you might not suspect. For example, organizations that offer a range of services across a number of offices may not communicate as often as an organization more centralized, especially if those offices each specialize more in a handful of services over the others. Unless they’re encouraged to do so, these offices may simply not think to share their innovations because they may not perceive it as relevant; or they may be too busy getting work done to reflect that these innovations might be useful elsewhere.
In this case, you might ask yourself how you can encourage more communication between offices and reach out for suggestions. You’ll also need to develop goals from this feedback.
From the results, what are you happy with, and how did your team get to this point?
What strengths did you find to build from?
What weaknesses did you find that you need to address?
What did the stakeholders who worked with you ask to see in the future?
Once you have a horizon to look toward, you can begin taking steps towards it.
Determining Next Steps
Generally, the next steps will take the form of several different categories. They should also be paired with a handful of metrics that will tell you how you’re proceeding. These can be new sources of data or build on your previous metrics.
Leadership: Knowing how aligned the c-suite is towards innovation and how they’re perceived as being aligned is a good step towards determining what needs to be done at the leadership level. These goals should focus on what current and future leaders can do in the organization to build stronger innovation cultures and how those efforts can be better communicated to the team.
Company Culture: Similarly, once you know how your team innovates and why, you can develop steps that follow up on that good work and give them more tools and approaches. You will also have a better idea of what they’ve asked for and how you can provide it.
Investment And Resources: This may be the toughest one to tackle. Investment is not just money in the budget to innovate. It requires the entire team to invest time and energy into innovation, and this may be a difficult ask, depending on how each employee does their job. Setting these goals, in particular, will require close collaboration.
External Engagement: Customers and clients need to be part of the innovation strategy, as well. After all, they’ll be the ones who ultimately decide what innovations are truly needed. That said, don’t discount that you have other outside groups involved in your innovation process: Subcontractors, other companies in your industry, non-profits you work with, and others will also be part of this process.
These steps should be developed in partnership with your stakeholders, and the metrics and needs should be clear. Similarly, you should commit to a timeline and resource area where everyone can check-in, see where the metrics are, and see their progress.
There should also be flexibility built into the design of these steps. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that external factors can knock even the most resilient and thoughtful plans off track.
This is simply a beginning. As you develop your innovation strategy, much more will come into focus. To learn more about innovation maturity assessments and how they can set your team up for success, get a free consult.
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