Innovation is Not One Size Fits All (Part 2 of 3)

>>>Innovation is Not One Size Fits All (Part 2 of 3)

InnovationIn my last post, I discussed the importance of innovation to the organization and why it needs to be managed. In this post, I am going to briefly define “accidental innovation” and validate the need for an innovation framework to harness ideas.

Accidental innovation is not structured. It can happen by chance, from anywhere in the organization directly to implementation. The problem is that we miss ideas from the very same people who live and breathe our organizational values and keep our business alive. More times than not, great ideas do not make it to the decision-makers and get lost in translation through middle management and other inhibiting processes. Think of it this way, who has a better chance of pitching an idea to the CEO, the VP of Sales or the paid intern. Although both ideas may be valuable, the VP is in a much better position to be heard since the intern will likely not have adequate exposure.  Now you may be thinking, “How does an organization remove the roadblocks to allow all ideas to be heard?”  The organization should develop and institute an innovation framework.

Frameworks allow organizations to streamline processes and provide a consistent method that can be understood and followed by the intended audience. If developed correctly, an innovation framework provides opportunity for all ideas to be heard regardless of title or position.  A great innovation framework is not ‘one size fits all’.  It should be tailored to the organization and has many important mechanics. Here are three critical components of a sound innovation framework:

  1. Mechanism to collect ideas – This is perhaps the most important step to standardize exposure. While processes are good, it is imperative that your framework doesn’t work against the grain. If the process
    is time consuming or complicated, employees will not bother participating. Note that there is no correct method, if an old fashioned drop box works best for your company, than it is no better or worse than a techy application used to submit ideas. I have seen frameworks fail in organizations because the mechanism selected only appealed or was open to senior level management, leaving possible brilliant ideas behind.
  2. Metrics – Every idea, no matter how big or small should be measured to assess the value. On the highest level, the idea should be measured against:
    • Value Created – what value does it bring to the business?  First to my customers, then to my employees, and then to my vendors.
    • Capability – Is the idea feasible? Does the organization have the technology and human resources to bring the idea into fruition?
  3. Evaluation Team – Another critical element is the leadership team’s availability to guide the initiative. When ideas are presented, they must be evaluated by a diverse team with many lenses. Marketing will view a problem and solution through a different lens than finance, weighing the benefits at different value points.
Once the framework is developed, it must be clearly institutionalized to all levels of the organization so that each and every employee understands how the new process works. I have seen some companies use competitions with incentives as a way to build awareness and promote idea generation. I was blown away by some of the internal ideas submitted across all departments and levels. This confirms that brilliant ideas can stem from any area of the firm and validates that more companies need to utilize frameworks so that all voices can be heard.

We have now discussed what an innovation framework is and how it might fit into your organization. In the next post, we will discuss how the ‘mechanics’ of the framework and how your organization might go about developing one.

Chris Miladinovich is a Principal Consultant at SDLC Partners, a leading provider of business and technology solutions. Please feel free to contact Chris at cmiladinovich@sdlcpartners.com with any questions on this blog post or to further discuss your innovation strategy.