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Cultivating Innovation Agility

How to be-come an agile organization

23May

In a recent Forbes article, 'What Innovation is, and isn’t' by Rob Preston, from Oracle, he suggests that consumers are suffering a bout of 'innovation fatigue' He presents data from communications firm, Ketchums’ new Innovation Kernel study, which attempts to figure out how consumers 'define, perceive, and value innovation.'

The Ketchum study is based on an online survey, conducted in January 2015 with M/A/R/C Research, of 4,094 working adults in the US, UK, Spain, China, and Hong Kong. The study never quite defines innovation, but survey respondents said they’re most interested in innovations that improve their quality of life (58%) or help them be more efficient (57%).

He goes onto to state that 'Arguably, it’s that same commitment to continued innovation, backed by visionary leadership and sufficient financial resources that keeps first-mover products on top over the long haul. Think Oracle Database, Adobe Photoshop, and Quicken QuickBooks. Without that long-term commitment and vision, first movers quickly become also-rans—or answers to trivia questions. For every Oracle Database or Adobe Photoshop there’s a VisiCalc and a WordStar: great early products that didn’t keep up'.'

Innovation agility provides leverage for long-term focused visionaries

The first point about understanding innovation agility is that it is, in essence; a blend of great advances in technology development together with the leading edge practices and principles of innovation management and visionary leadership. This enables people to see and solve key problems in adaptive and consistent ways, through incorporating lean and agile principles, within a systemic framework.

The focus is on using financial and key resources to 'out-innovate' the competition in ways that improve the quality of people lives in ways that they value and cherish.

In their book 'Agile Innovation' the authors state that agile innovation addresses the critical drivers of innovation success.

At ImagineNation™ we see these drivers systemically and synergistically because they involve making organizational climate, culture and process change decisions simultaneously. This enables organizations to balance short term objectives with long term needs. It also enables them to stay on course in successfully delivering the organizational outcomes they want to achieve from real innovation that either improves efficiencies or adds value to the quality of people’s lives.

If we adopt a business eco-system context we can;

1.Accelerate the innovation process,

2.Reduce the risks inherent in innovation,

3.Engage the entire organization as 'co-ideators' and broader ecosystem in the innovation effort.

See this illustrated in Our Conceptual Framework – A Systemic Approach

1.Define the results you want to HAVE

The first step is to clarify what kind of short-term results and longer term organizational outcomes and the desired future the organization wants to have. Many global organizations state that they want to have agile innovative organizations that compete strategically. Through innovation to 'out-innovate' the competition and create high value and low cost, new market segments. Seldom is this expressed and articulated within a visionary, quantifiable and clear goal and defined strategy.

2.What most organizations DO

In many cases, we noticed that organizations tend to focus their innovation efforts on either;

a) Achieving short terms results involving quick and easy ways of generating income and or reducing costs. These are mostly internally focused, tend to be episodic and seldom outwardly focus on understanding and empathizing with customers’ problems, their perception of value or efficiency, or involve true organizational learning.

Companies who do this think they are being innovative, and focus their efforts by investing in idea creation processes such as hackathons and company-wide ideas competitions that are largely supported by technology-based idea management platforms.

Whilst this is an effective way of engaging people and harnessing their creative energy towards imaginative ideas that may ultimately add value to bottom line results, it is only a first “baby step” towards developing real innovation agility.What they neglect to do, is focus on achieving a visionary, longer term objective around developing real agile innovative organizational capability.

b) Achieving longer-term objectives such as business transformation programs or innovative organizational culture programs are often initiated via some kind of skills-based leadership and management training program.

Whilst skills training is important as a critical success factor, it’s really the last and not the first area of focus for learning and development in bringing about the desired changes or outcomes the organization wants to have.

What most organizations should do!

•To achieve longer term objectives and sustainable results, the first step is to know how to see and deal effectively with the company’s own unique set of inhibitors to change.

•Next is to pay attention to what is needed to acknowledge and flow with people’s survival and learning anxieties when involved in any kind of change process or new learning intervention.

In other words, to engage and enroll them, at the cognitive, heart and visceral levels in the results they want to have.

As well as to create an environment where people have the chance to, are able to and want to create the desired changes that deliver the outcomes the organization wants.

Most organizations neglect the BE in innovation agility

Also as these types of skills-based training programs tend to be theoretical and often academic in nature and may even be delivered by a renowned academic institution. They seldom include and integrate the three key phases of innovation; discovery design and delivery and mostly focus on execution and not ideation.

They also tend to neglect the critical foundational factors of enabling people to;

• Know how to see and interact effectively with the world from their customers’ point of view to empathize with their problems. Especially with their specific products or services, or to see and perceive the key converging trends in their industries that provide 'blue ocean' possibilities and opportunities for agile innovation development.

• Knowing how to ignite people’s intrinsic motivation by creating an urgent necessity and passionate purpose for innovation in their organization.

• Cultivating people’s entrepreneurial traits and most resourceful emotional states to equipping them with the self-efficacy and resilience necessary to stay and flourish in the innovation game as well as to develop a safe and engaged organizational climate.

•Creating true learning in terms of the desired core growth, outward and systemic mindset changes required to develop consistent innovative processes, cultivate an innovative culture, accelerate innovation and reduce risk adversity.

If organizations invest precious resources in integrating these key factors into their innovation efforts they will build their foundational internal core agile innovation competency. This is necessary to keep up with the current speed of change requiring people to be trained and up-skilled continuously. It also ensures that they successfully avoid being out-thought and out-maneuvered by competitors.

It’s actually this BE level that drives what we DO to create the results we HAVE, especially in regards to innovative entrepreneurship and agile innovation.

Imagine if organizations invested in creating constructive organizational cultures where people are able to improvise, take intelligent risks, experiment and fail without fear of retribution or punishment?

Where people feel safe, motivated and esteemed when they dip their toes into the experimental, iterative and agile waters that the lean start-up methodology and business model offers.

Where visionary leaders do the really hard work of leading self-organizing teams from whom they are being and fearlessly role model real collaboration and true agility.

'In the end, what customers’ value is true innovation—opportunities 'missed by most people,' Thomas Edison famously said, because they’re 'dressed in overalls and look like work.'

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