Every organisation has an army of potential innovators at its disposal. Not only its employees but customers, partners, suppliers and beyond.
Businesses want to be innovating so they make innovation a key goal. Then they set about innovating. Some months later, not much has happened, priorities change or the appetite for the initiatives started wanes - as no one is seeing much or any return.
The challenge here is how to implement sustainable innovation. Wazoku’s EveryDay Innovation Report shows that more than half (52%) of employees believe that although their organisation is full of people with great ideas, there is no established process for ideas to be shared and filtered.
The best way to overcome the issue is to adopt a methodical process to engage all stakeholders, generate a sustained flow of ideas that can be prioritised and rolled out and measured.
Easier said than done.
So what are the key steps in the process to achieve innovation? The Guide to Becoming an EveryDay Innovator by Wazoku gives businesses a step by step guide.
Becoming an innovative organisation involves process, project management, more process, resource, time, space, experiment and iteration. By its very definition, innovation cannot be successful if it is viewed in isolation, constrained into a single business function or silo. Yet, time and time again this is exactly how organisations around the world attempt to be deliver it.
Outcome driven change has been shown to be more transformational, stickier and more effective. Before you even start you must ask why you want to innovate and what is it you want to achieve through your innovation. You can then create a vision statement around these objectives to share with the wider business so everyone is working towards a shared goal.
Assess your capability
Before you start blindly innovating, you need to assess your organisation’s ‘innovation readiness.’ This can be achieved by measuring your maturity level against five pillars of innovation: Strategy, Leadership, Management, Culture and Process & Tools. There are tools available for you to easily carry out the assessment and the framework will provide a benchmark to obtain a true picture of your organisation’s current innovation capability.
To obtain an accurate understanding of current innovation capabilities it’s essential to include a cross section of stakeholders - board members, leaders, managers, employees and even external partners and suppliers.
Ask some hard questions. Does your organisation demonstrate sharp degrees of difference in maturity across the five different pillars? Are stakeholders across the business aligned or is there great disparity in viewpoint by role, job function or geographic region? Furthermore, have you identified isolated pockets of innovation that aren’t aligned with overall business objectives or activities in other parts of the organisation? This will help you map out what needs to be done next.
So what now? Look for quick wins. It’s important to show some early successes and communicate these out to key stakeholders and the wider organisation. Inform, engage and get advocates for the programme. To do this:
- Consider the innovation language in the organisation.
- Don’t focus just on the areas you score the lowest on, but also look at areas where there is a broad range in the results.
- Look at the tools used to drive and deliver innovation.
Experiment & Deliver
At this stage it’s time to put planning, learning, data and design thinking into practice. Don’t take on too much, as with any change process it is important to manage the change and deliver it pragmatically.
It is ok in this phase to experiment. In fact, it is important to try, fail, pivot, learn and iterate. Throughout the process, measure and understand whether it has a positive impact. Rapid prototyping and hackathons are great ways of testing newly implemented ideas.
Knowing when and how to measure innovation is difficult. This makes it easy to fall into the trap of measuring too narrowly (a minimum ROI on innovation activities is necessary in order to drive tangible results) or too loosely (innovation is about creativity and measurements will stifle it).
The trick is to engage all your key stakeholders to define a consistent set of metrics to evaluate what is working well and what needs to be altered.
For an organisation to become an ‘EveryDay Innovator’ - where innovation is happening across teams, locations and job functions on a daily basis - clear goals, processes, communication and measurement are needed.
An example of a company that has been able to address strategic challenges by building a repeatable and sustainable innovation programme is Abellio Greater Anglia. Its online idea management platform, The Spark, allows all stakeholders to submit ideas to reach its vision of improving customer experience. With two concepts already being piloted, significant business improvements aren’t far off.
Working towards and achieving a culture of innovation is a long term commitment, not a one-time event. It requires resources, cultural fit and skills from across the business. If sustainable processes are implemented, the rewards can lead to competitive advantage, truly engaged stakeholders and enhanced customer loyalty.
By Simon Hill, CEO, Wazoku