What we KNOW and DON'T KNOW about innovation (2 min read)

What we KNOW and DON'T KNOW about innovation (2 min read)

What we KNOW and DON'T KNOW about innovation (2 min read)

What we do know about innovation is that companies that fail to adapt to changes in communication channels and devices, changes in value systems, and changes in structural processing of business operations are companies that are disrupted by new players. That may not mean that businesses still operating under the 'old order' will not remain in business for several years after they are first faced with disruptive competitors, but it does mean that their chance of growing or even maintaining market share is severely compromised.

But even if companies do know that innovation is critical to sustainability, it doesn't necessarily follow that mere adoption of an innovation program will actually protect a firm against disruption. Indeed there is nothing to suggest that firms are even innovating in the right way for their business.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution for how organisations should innovate. And yet if you trawl through the majority of commentary about innovation (in posts here), it would seem to be all a matter of adopting design thinking sessions and agile methods. Okay, yes, design thinking and agile sprints are essential to innovation. But no firm is guaranteed to succeed on their innovation journey simply by adopting innovation methodologies, most particularly if that innovation is happening in a small outpost of an organisation, protected from day-to-day operations and potential brand risk.

If you ask the average enterprise about their innovation programs, they will speak in glowing terms about all the rapid prototyping they are doing. They'll talk about the startups they have invested in, and they will have post-it notes all over their office areas. But if you ask them how many projects and products have been integrated into their day-to-day operations, they will often fall rather silent. They may have a few examples of products they have managed to integrate into business as usual, but more often than not this will be the result of an acquisition or agency-led program.

If you ask a small business, government or non-profit about their innovation programs, you might find a few more examples of innovations being adopted in to day-to-day operations, but there will always be the challenge of ensuring there is capability maturity in the business to continuously improve.

The biggest problem with innovation across businesses of all shapes and sizes is that too much time is spent coming up with ideas, and not enough time is spent considering what problems are worth solving, what problems need to solved first, and how solutions can be embedded in business practice. Part of this process involves an assessment of what are the inhibitors to integration of any innovation process.

That may seem counter-intuitive. How will you know what the inhibitors are to innovation unless you start innovating? Aye, there's the rub. But if you are prototyping, and you are not integrating those solutions well, or if you are innovating but you're having problems with communicating process changes or developing capability maturity to sustain the change, then what we do know is that you are still at strong risk of disruption. If you're not changing alongside the innovation program, then what you are doing is reducing trust in the process.

Here's the thing: you need to hack your own business before you can effectively hack any solutions that will address your business sustainability.

What we don't know - is whether there is any correlation between innovation praxis and barriers to integration of innovation. And from this we want to determine whether there are ways we can customise innovation programs for firm size and industry, and to make some accommodation for different political and social value systems.

What we know about innovation is that it can work. What we don't know about innovation is what is truly needed.