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Innovation and Organization Culture

Source | Happiest Minds : By Shantanu Paknikar

One of the myths about Innovation is that it necessarily needs to involve the Eureka moments of inspiration and creative insights. While those are important, it is possible that Innovation can be treated as a management discipline with structured and systematic approaches, processes, and methodologies defined and implemented. There is a lot of literature on this topic, my personal favorite being the writings of Peter Drucker. In this article, I present seven steps that can be followed by any organization to foster a culture of innovation across an organization.

Fostering an Innovation Culture: Recommendations

1.Formulate a systematic, structured approach to innovation
Once the methodology is established, it is important to identify areas to focus on for innovation initiatives. One technique for doing this, along with a set of recommendations, is available in an earlier blog post: http://www.happiestminds.com/blogs/leveraging-disruptive-technologies-for-systematic-innovation/.

The first step is to define a formal methodology that will be followed for innovation initiatives. Invariably, this involves mechanisms for the entire innovation lifecycle including idea generation and capture, idea evaluation and shortlisting, business planning and market validation, engineering investments, sales and marketing, and  installation & support. Most important is to follow a phased approach and invest accordingly. Here is one example a formal methodology we have put together for innovation initiatives at Happiest Minds, and that we recommend for our customers. You could of course, devise whatever works for your context.

2.Focus on both incremental and radical innovation

Incremental innovation is about efficiency improvements: How to do the same thing differently (faster, better, cheaper). Radical Innovation is about doing something different. A part of any organizations innovation methodology should be a plan for dividing the portfolio of innovation initiatives into incremental and radical ones. The percentage split for the two vary based on the organizations risk appetite radical innovation requires much greater risk (with correspondingly higher returns). For example, a product company might have a 30% – 70% ration for incremental and radical innovation, whereas a services company might have precisely the inverse.

3.Link Innovation initiatives to Business Priorities

A critical success factor for innovation initiatives is to have direct traceability to business priorities. It is this linkage that can drive investments;create greater risk appetites;help to develop a better understanding of long-term returns; and encouragepatience if short-term (quarter on quarter) returns are not encouraging.

4.    Project reports,Reviews, Meetings to include a section on innovation

In any organization, reports and review meetings are common mechanisms to track progress. To move towards and innovation based culture, one enhancement to project weekly status reports, reviews and meetings would be to have a specific section on innovation. For example, during a weekly team meeting, each team member can share one example of something innovative they did as a part of their work. Experiments along these lines could yield interesting results.

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