By Henra Mayer
It’s a jungle out there. The world is changing quicker than you can say the word “irrelevance” – we talk about Moore’s Law, the role of the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) Big Data, Digitisation, Disruptive Business Modelling and then throw into the mix other specifics like FinTech, the potential of the Blockchain and the sharing economy, to name but a few.
Managing the ambidextrous organisation and balancing the demands of the business of today with the business of tomorrow is a skill. Strategic thinking needs to be elevated to the next level, aligned and resourced to focus on driving innovation results. This is a leadership responsibility and in order to benefit fully from the evolving central role of innovation, management must become more responsible for innovation output, and put in place tactical strategies to give it legs. If strategic intent for innovation is not visible, it will go nowhere and innovation results will continue to be just as undetectable.¹
CEO’s have undeniably turned to innovation in order to address the organisational changes necessary to grow in the future, yet they also feel their organisations are really bad at it. The reason we bother with innovation in the first place is to change the status quo, yet innovation programmes fail more often than they succeed.
Why innovation programmes fail
The process to get ideas to market will differ from organisation to organisation but most challenges in this regard are universal. Think lack of resources, not sufficient budget, inappropriate strategic attention or not enough time to get to innovation as well.
Many organisations talk about innovation with authority, but when it comes to considering a well-defined approach that enables innovation as a strategic lever, talk is often cheap. Getting innovation right requires attention to detail. Demystification of the concept and getting to market is a good start but none of this will yield results without doing the groundwork first.
Innovation capability building in essence includes a consideration of the following enablers:
- Leadership and management – to ensure intent, focus and strategic enablement
- Organisational structuring– where the organisation puts in place the required processes and structures to support innovation
- Culture building – a focus on people and building of cultural DNA to make it happen in a sustainable manner
- Implementation and measurement – getting ideas implemented and tracking returns
- Effective collaboration – effectively supporting collaboration efforts in various stages of the innovation lifecycle, both internal and external to the organisation
When any of the above activities gets left behind, innovation is stunted and returns are left to chance. But there is more that can be done to increase innovation’s survival rate over the long run.
Process and Technology
Tools can help you get to implementation faster
Technology and the power it represents opens a new world of potential all around. It is often difficult to navigate this ever changing landscape but it is necessary to do so with an open mind. Today’s leaders have a myriad of options. Decision-making must consider fit-for-purpose tools in support of strategic objectives, the streamlining of processes and ever changing requirements that requires flexibility. The focus is on enablement by means of strengthening organisational technological capability and driving results. Technology enables efficient processes and for innovation to flourish a finely tuned, transparent innovation process is necessary. Consider idea flow, internal as well as external participation, engagement, gamification, teams and effective collaboration.
The competitive advantage is effective internal and external teams that bring projects to market.
Ideas are just that. Innovation success will depend on your ability to harness the power of people to bring those ideas to market in a feasible way. Organisations good at innovation knows that it must come from various sources, that it depends on diverse teams, internal as well as external to the organisation. They understand that this will lead to an outcome where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Innovation happens at the periphery, thinking in isolation will not yield the same results.
Although the world of business constantly talk about innovation and the potential of disruption – the challenge with doing this successfully is often not linked to a shortage of ideas. It is about getting the good ideas to market, and doing so consistently.
Looking back to look forward
The arrogance of success and managing the ambidextrous organisation.
It is important for organisations to look back at the past, in order to learn from mistakes and capitalise on learnings. In order to remain relevant and stay ahead of the curve it is also essential to understand what needs to be done today in order to prepare for tomorrow. No one has a crystal ball to predict what will happen next, but dabbling in the future with foresight is essential for organisations in the fight for relevance. Many companies, having become dominant in their industries, lost their competitive edge and their desire for the need to innovate. Think Blockbusters and Blackberry, Kodak and Sony, once beloved giants of industry that fell quickly and unceremoniously.
Innovation success will require a focus on doing the right things, but will also ask the organisation to consciously learn and assess. What are your core capabilities, do they still serve you and what else do you need to learn? It is important to understand the competitive forces in your environment and the trends in terms of new and emerging business models required to deal with it. Despite the time and energy required for the day-to-day operations of the business, organisations must develop the commitment and discipline to look to the future, to recognize trends. They must continually innovate to grow.
True leaders have the ability to inspire people to great achievement. They strategically prioritise innovation and keep their fingers on the pulse of progress. They diligently lead their organisations towards the pinnacle of innovation excellence.