The latest research published in MIT’s Sloan Management Review (Spring 2013) includes a study of 759 companies from 17 major markets worldwide. The study found that corporate culture was a key driver of companies that were more innovative. Using the study as a springboard, Professors Jay Rao and Joseph Weintraub of Babson College identified six major elements that form the foundation of an innovation culture, namely: processes, resources, values, behavior, climate and success.
Systematic innovation processes, in particular, play a major role because they are the means by which ideas are generated, shaped, evaluated, captured and used. Proven processes such as stage-gate systems help a company review and prioritize which ideas to develop further, refine and invest in.
How good are your company’s innovation processes? Rao and Weintraub offer some questions to ask of your company to assess its innovation processes. First, in the ideation phase, does your company generate ideas from a diversity of sources and people? Drawing from a diverse base brings in multiple perspectives and ways to approach a solution. Second, do you have a system for filtering and refining ideas to identify the ones of highest potential and fit with your company? Third, does your company prioritize projects based on a portfolio method? Companies that answer “yes” to these questions are the most innovative, Rao and Weintraub found.
Once the highest-potential ideas have been identified, best practice dictates moving them to prototype quickly so that you can get feedback on them. Ideally, companies should get feedback from customers, not just internally. At this stage, ideas that don’t meet pre-defined criteria should be halted. Some companies are slow to stop projects that aren’t meeting their predefined targets, and that’s a mistake. Those resources will be put to much better use when applied to projects showing the most market promise.
Improving your company’s innovation processes along the lines outlined above is a good way to set your company on a path of innovation success.