Who are the Custodians of the Innovation eco-system?

Are you the champion of innovation?

Are you the champion of innovation?

InnovoFlow’s Victor Newman and Simon Evans have been developing an innovation game that exposes the legacy innovation process to view, and opens up the options for designing a more proactive innovation ecosystem.

Successful innovation relies on a well populated and carefully tended eco-system of processes, skilled people, architectures and strategies.  This complex environment will not deliver results if it is not continually refreshed and fed, but who in the organisation is responsible for doing this?  Who is the custodian of the innovation eco-system?

As part of what has become more of a consulting process than innovation simulation, the issue of who owns the innovation eco-system has come to fore, in the sense that our consulting has brought out the issue that often the legacy innovation process is fractured, emergent (in the sense that participants make up their piece as they go along) and in some cases largely invisible (where there may be a corporate model that is not reflected in practice).

The benefits of having a clear eco-system for innovating seems obvious, but as in so many other things, who owns the overall responsibility for managing the innovation process, the most important process at the heart of creating new value, growth and survival?

We asked a group of key innovators with practitioner experience this question, and also how would they manage this eco-system to best effect?

It would be true to say that they struggled to come up with an answer that they liked or agreed on.  The initial reaction was “The CEO or everyone” but further discussion examined other possibilities:

  • It seems in many cases IT management steps up to provide a technology centric solutions and will often look also to designing new business processes to suit.   This tends to miss the point as IT is not well placed to deliver the softer, non tech side of innovation.  The “Idea Management System”, however useful is not the total solution to innovation
  • R&D may see themselves as the natural home of innovation, but they are not positioned to drive the whole idea life cycle from inspiration through creativity, development to value realisation.
  • The role of the illusive Chief Innovation Officer may at first seem to cover the ground, but how many organisations properly fill this role with someone who can truly influence across the whole business?  They may be responsible for the processes and architecture but does their role really cover all the behavioural and cultural aspects of the total solution adequately?
  • The innovation team/initiative – are lost before they start!  They tend to be disconnected from the business, sent into a corner with no budget and told to “tell us how to be more innovative”.  They can sometimes  be populated by a few creative “troublemakers”, nominated for the team to keep them out of the way and prevent them from asking difficult questions!

There was an emergent thought in the discussion that as innovation is ultimately about creating value, either to the shareholders or to some other community, the key individual or group is the one that is accountable for the delivery of the value to the target.  Possibly the Chairman or …… everyone!?

Maybe the topical answer is a coalition, but who must be involved for it to be effective and how would it be managed?

Thoughts on a postcard!

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