Innovation efforts can be many things, but it should be predictable at its core. When many hear the word innovation, we think of creative brainstorming sessions where anything goes. And while creativity is critical to the process, continuous innovation must be structured to make it repeatable and predictable over time. There are countless examples of ‘one-hit wonders’ in the innovation space, but innovation at scale requires the ability to create incremental to breakthrough innovation repeatedly. In my experience, the biggest obstacle to innovation at scale is chaos.
But what is chaos related to innovation at scale, and, more importantly, how do organizations overcome it? Organizations are better suited to innovate at scale through an InnovationOps approach —a combination of cultural philosophies, practices, people and tools. Let’s look at how an InnovationOps approach can help remove chaos and synchronize an organization’s innovation efforts.
Unify disconnected, unreliable and inefficient innovation systems
If you charted the typical company’s many innovation processes and strategies, it would look like a veritable spaghetti maze. Too often, there are competing products, projects, timelines and priorities — and information about these components is either siloed or known only to select groups or individuals. As a result, innovation at scale is nearly impossible because groups wear blinders that only allow them to focus on what they need to accomplish. Even when groups work together on a product or project, there’s no real collaboration. They simply complete their responsibilities and hand off the baton.
The key to innovation success is having a unified platform where each department can work and collaborate how they need to and share real-time updates and insights, allowing everyone across the organization access to those updates. Doing so helps to create a culture where every department, team and team member is focused on how their respective jobs fit into the company’s broader innovation goals.
Operationalize innovation across the company
So often, companies lose sight of their North Star in the midst of complexity. Deadlines, market pressures, disorganization and other factors force products and projects forward without using an established innovation strategy as the guiding force toward the finish line. How do we control that complexity and synchronize operations to ensure the strategy remains front and center?
It comes down to thinking differently and operationalizing innovation. When an organization-wide innovation strategy is part of every decision, then every product, idea and project will move toward the same goal. Innovative companies like 3M and Hersheyhave perfected this component of the InnovationOps approach.
Shift the focus from process to jobs
Every company is a snowflake from the standpoint of the processes they use and how they morph it and make it their own. And it isn't one process. We'd love to say, “Agile rules the world.” Or, “Zero-based phase-gate rules the world.” But they don't—it depends on the organization, its needs, the type of innovation and even the industry (e.g. highly regulated industries) . As we’ve discussed, the methodology doesn’t matter with an InnovationOps approach because teams are empowered to work the way that makes the most sense to them.
The fact is, each department has specific jobs to be done and that should be the focus, not the processes they use to get it done. Agile doesn’t make sense on the production line, so why force it? An InnovationOps approach reframes the focus on the jobs to be done, as opposed to the methods by which they’re done.
We are at the beginning of the InnovationOps wave, and implementing this approach takes time. But it starts with shifting your organizational mindset of how your company views innovation and, more importantly, how it makes the process more efficient and repeatable. For more useful insight, check out the first installment of Sopheon’s Mastering InnovationOps webinar series, “What it is and Why it Matters.”