All organizations talk about innovation and its growing importance but few succeed in actually doing it on a repeatable scale. So what does inhibit innovation? What would drive innovation success? What aspects of innovation are critical to have so innovative growth can be achieved?
Where should a company place its emphasis to gain both an improving impact on its performance and strengthen its innovation capabilities? There are countless questions that need asking but more importantly answering.
Innovation is complex and demanding
The difficulty for many is that innovation is a complex process that has many intangibles within the total mix to manage. Management today is far happier managing the ‘harder’ aspects of business, the more established, the more traditional ones that can be managed in efficient and effective ways to reduce complexity.
Innovation tends to be made up of many aspects that run counter to this approach of order and predictability, it creates uncertainty, it calls for risk, it demands investment, it is often messy as a process. It relies increasingly on the person to be engaged, to be motivated, to feel they are being trusted and empowered. This does move very much more to those ‘softer’ more intangible aspects much of management today is not well equipped to manage.
“Although innovation cannot be touched, heard, tasted or seen it can be felt. It is probably best described as a pervasive attitude that allows business to see beyond the present and create the future, it promises something new to the world. In short, innovation is the engine of change and in today’s fiercely competitive environment resisting change is dangerous. The key driver of the organizations ability to change is innovation. However, simply deciding that the organization has to be innovative is not sufficient. That decision must be backed by actions that create an environment in which people are so comfortable with innovation that they create it”[i]
There are many variables or factors for ‘innovation success’ and often organizations suffer from the inability to sustain innovation over time. There is a failure to fully appreciate or recognize that there are many interdependencies that surround innovation. Often selective activities generate limited success but sustaining innovation is often elusive.
The need is to build a real innovation fitness that is dynamic and constantly changing to meet the different challenges and can ‘travel’ over different, often rugged terrain to provide the capability to consistently offer innovation in new ways that grows, sustains and improves our lives.
[i] Taken and adapted from “Culture and Climate for Innovation- Summary- Pervaiz Ahmed- European Journal of Innovation Management