April 17

Developing Innovation Capability – Part 4 of 4

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” From the point of view of innovation and discovery, this statement has always seemed a bit too restricting. For whilst a child’s view of the world can be very simplistic and literal, it is often when we look anew at the world through a child’s eyes and ask “what if” and “why” that our minds open up to fresh possibilities.

Developing an innovation capability and instilling it within an organisation demands the ability to look at the world differently, to take risks and to try out new methodologies. It means opening up rigid pathways and delighting in asking the what if and why questions. It means inspiration and discovery; in fact it means adopting some of those very qualities, which we are supposed to shed when we leave childhood behind us.

If we are successful then we have moved our organisation onto a very different platform in which the culture of innovation drives long-term growth and differentiation. Indeed the American philosopher Mortimer J Adler once wrote that “The ability to retain a child’s view of the world with at the same time a mature understanding of what it means to retain it, is extremely rare – and a person who has these qualities is likely to be able to contribute something really important to our thinking.”

By chance, on the very day on which this blog was being written the Google Doodle was celebrating the life of Leonhard Euler. Born in 1707, Leonhard Euler was sixteen when he gained a Master of Philosophy from Basle University. Credited with inventing many of the mathematical notations which we use today, Euler also made important contributions to engineering, astronomy and optics.

That Euler was so successful in so many fields of research was partly due to the way in which the rulers of that time went out of their way to encourage and support those who were involved in scientific innovation. And it is this very understanding and support which the CEO and the leadership team need to provide if they are to develop innovation capability within an organisation.

In our previous articles we have looked at strategy and taking the first steps on the road to innovation, innovation leadership and setting a culture at the heart of the business. It is only once those elements are in place that an organisation can truly move away from traditional thinking and drive forward along the innovation trail. But, as we have previously shown, this innovation development takes time and it is therefore vital that the CEO and the leadership team are prepared to undertake the whole journey and not get off because the latest P&L is not showing instant returns.

When shareholders, lenders and the markets are all screaming for results it is tempting to live for the “now”; to put profits first ahead of long term goals. But we’ve seen the results of this strategy in the failure of the banks and of other organisations. Barclay’s boss Antony Jenkins acknowledged this when he talked about how short-termism “damaged our ability to make long-term sustainable returns” and about the importance of understanding the “difference between generating short-term profits and long-term shareholder value.”

So, developing a culture of innovation is not a quick fix but by aligning it to the core business strategy, vision and values and by embedding it in the thoughts and processes of employees you will eventually succeed in moving the organisation towards one which constantly flexes its innovation muscles to drive sustainable competitive advantage as an innovation leader. Along the way the organisation will learn how to look at the world differently, gather new, deeper insight, enhance idea generation and turn powerful ideas into commercially viable improvements, products, services or experiences quickly and consistently.

To do that you’ll not only need to train your people to observe your customers and scan the horizon in new ways, you’ll need an innovation process to handle the new pipeline of ideas and opportunities. You will have to make sure that employee thinking is contextualised in the right way, aligned to the customer and the business as well as building their innovation capability. And this brings us back to the first blog in the series with a warning to make sure you start from the right place. Unfortunately, because innovation is seen as the panacea to an organisation’s declining performance or market share, most organisations start by trying to ‘just innovate’ and hence typically start at the end of the process.

Building capability and a robust innovation process should only be done in the order we’ve shown by first creating the innovation vision and strategy, developing innovation leadership, instilling an innovation culture and then developing innovation capability. Only by following these pragmatic steps will innovation stand a chance of becoming a sustainable and game-changing differentiator.

Everyone says they want or even need to innovate but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few, get in touch!


– See more at: http://crisbeswick.com/services/developing-an-innovation-strategy/#sthash.PZdSZ0A6.dpuf

Everyone says they want or even need to innovate but few actually do. If you want to be one of the few, get in touch!



Growth, Innovation, Innovation Culture, Innovation strategy, Strategy

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