Corporate Challenges to Innovation – How Do You Keep It Going

Keep Innovation GoingThis article is part 6 of a 5 part series, originally started on the Ever Evolving website, where we are taking a deep dive into the 5 common challenges to innovation that an organization faces. And, I admit, that is some funky math. But considering this is a special article written in collaboration with our friends at IdeaScale and the fact that I’m an innovator and not a math whiz, I’m allowing it.

Elementary School Math aside, when the IdeaScale team approached us about doing a joint marketing effort, I got excited. And not the Jessica Spano type of excited, but much more of the Jonah Hill type of excited. With the reason being that we at Ever Evolving, LOVE this tool and their team. They are as passionate about Innovation as we are…which we weren’t sure was even possible. AND, they compliment the value that we provide our partner clients, meaning, we have an opportunity to work collaboratively with them often. Which is awesome!

But, I digress. The focus of this article is on the challenge(s) beyond that final frontier of Innovation or Idea Management. There are plenty of challenges when it comes to just getting an Innovation program up and running. But innovation isn’t a one-time thing. The REAL challenge is, how do you build a program that makes innovation repeatable? How do you build a program that makes innovation perpetual?

 “Innovation is immortality.”

Steve Palmer, Ever Evolving, Inc.

Like a New Year’s Resolution at the start of Spring…

Implementing a cultural change is similar to a New Year’s Resolution in the fact that deciding to start one is easy. The difficulty comes in when you try to prevent the regression to the norm.

I’m notoriously terrible at resolutions. I’m one of those people, that the first week of January I’m at the gym 5 days a week. But by early February I’m happy to be there twice a week. And by March I need a GPS just to find the gym.

But the thing is, there is no reason for me to regress. Plenty of people start their day, everyday, at the gym. So, why can’t I?

Well, when it comes to sticking to a plan, it comes down to two things. One, how serious are you about the goals you are setting? And two, what reinforcement is your environment giving you?

If I was being honest with myself when I set these resolutions, I’m not taking them very seriously. There isn’t a burning desire that, if these resolutions go awry, I’ll have major issues. Instead, I’m OK when I return to bing-watching Game of Thrones…assuming it EVER comes back for that final season!

And two, what support are you giving yourself? People take classes at the gym or go to CrossFit to be around people and use their motivation to persevere in moments of weakness. And I…don’t.

Not All Resolutions are Created Equal

But sometimes changes ARE required. And if your organization isn’t serious about committing to continual innovation, that’s one that needs to be made today!

Did you know that the average lifespan of a business has been cut in half, and is continuing to trend downward? That is, at least partially, due to the fact that the productivity gap between frontier firms and their “competitors” is increasing. And that is evident in a McKinsey & Company survey that showed only 6% of corporate executives are satisfied with their firms Innovation performance.

But, deciding that a change is necessary only gets you so far. To make sure that “resolution” sticks, you need to establish a plan to make it happen.

The good news is, even if you don’t know it, you already have two-thirds of the People / Processes / Technology pyramid needed to implement that plan.

Technology

Let’s start with the obvious. IdeaScale handles the heavy lifting when it comes to technology. If you have a subscription with them, you already have the Technology part of the equation under control.

People

Let’s tackle People next. We start with the premise that, “you probably already have many of the right people on staff.” You couldn’t have grown a successful business without these people.

Now, you may need to augment your staff with a one or more strategic hires. To do this, we recommend hiring full-time staff instead of bringing in outside consultants. Peter Thiel, a well-known entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and author of the book Zero to One states that “…anyone who doesn’t own stock options or draw a regular salary from your company is fundamentally misaligned.” And we couldn’t agree more.

Process

Process is what separates frontier firms from the pack. This process is what allows them to routinely takes in new ideas and develop them from conception to completion.

So, ask yourself this. Does your organization have a process that continually drives your innovation engine?

If the answer is no, don’t worry. That’s where our InnoSpecting Framework can help. We coach organizations on how to use our framework as a baseline, and then tweak it so it fits the way they do business.

Our framework is built on a three-phase process. During the Phase One, the organization goes out and solicits new ideas from sources both internal and external to the organization. This is where tools such as IdeaScale are key, as they help manage and drive this initial round of idea submission and management.

During Phase Two, executives choose which of those new ideas are most intriguing and move forward with experimenting with their highest priorities on a small scale. Of those experiments, the ones that perform well become candidates for further refinement or for being developed and released as new process or product offerings.

While phases one and two are about adding new capabilities, Phase Three is about getting rid of older capabilities before they become an emotional or psychological drag on your organization, its employees, and/or its customers.

This framework, when coupled with regular reviews (what we call Innovation Pulses) and regular promotion (through our 4 Pillars of Continuous Innovation) provides an organization with a roadmap to make innovation repeatable and perpetual.

Conclusion

As I wrap up my guest blog posts, I want to emphasize how close your organization is to being one of those frontier companies. If you are already investing in IdeaScale, then you probably already have two of the three necessary components. Don’t make the mistake of spending money on a tool or set of tools, only to have it sit idle six months into your “resolution.”

To become a company that emphasizes innovation may require a change in culture. And culture changes are notoriously difficult.  But, you don’t have to make that change alone. And when the alternative is going belly-up or being forced to merge with a competitor to compete (with the latest example of that being the Sprint / T-Mobile merger), the path forward is obvious.

You were right to make the purchase. Innovation is necessary to drive your company forward. Innovation is worth investing in. Innovation is immortality.

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This is a guest post authored by Ever Evolving, Inc. Ever Evolving, Inc. was founded on the principle that “Today was great, but tomorrow can be better.” We provide coaching and training services to organizations to help them make innovation management repeatable and perpetual. If you are interested in hearing more about our services, you can schedule a time to speak with one of our team members.

The next chance to hear our team speak will be at the Project Summit Business Analyst World Conference in Arlington, VA on June 18th, 2018. You can get your tickets here.

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