Innovation: Start Small But Deliver With Impact

Start with operational innovation, before transitioning towards the 'external innovation'


For many corporates, it’s still difficult to perform a transition from process and/or system optimization, benchmarking, automation, and other continuous improvements towards innovation. In some of my previous articles, I've been focussed on how to set-up effective innovation teams, how to break the operational silos, and how you should be measuring the operational innovation results instead of the process. One thing that those articles have in common is that they aim to provide a direct insight into how to deliver an impact through innovation.

Many organizations struggle to introduce innovation and keep looking for external expertise to deliver innovative solutions. I strongly believe that the best innovative solutions come from internal teams, and although externals can be effective in assisting with the translation of innovation into results, the ideation (the core principles of innovation), should come from the inside of your organization. Even though there are many external innovation specialists that 'promise' to deliver innovation for your organization, unfortunately, the only things these 'specialists' can assist with are:

Start of the Innovation

  • Guiding the innovation process to ensure effective and result-focussed innovation.
  • Ensure a clear framework is established that connects innovation with the desired business results, organizational goals, commercial or productivity targets, and many more.
  • Prompting or expanding ideas in the ideation phase.

During innovation

  • Assist with the innovation 'gate' process to ensure that the organization continues or kills the innovation idea at the right 'gate', and more importantly, stops pursuing innovation ideas that will not deliver the desired business results.
  • Continuous guidance and active support to ensure that innovation or minimally viable solution is continuously improved at every iteration.
  • Ensure that every iteration will deliver impact and get closer to the desired business goals.

Continuous Innovation

  • Ensure that the innovation successes and failures are celebrated to allow the organization to transfer into enterprise-wide innovation acceptance.

So, how do you start small, but deliver a big impact?

The main area where innovation can start 'small' is your operational environment. Across Finance & Accounting, Human Resources, Supply Chain, Procurement and many other sub-operational departments, including transport management, accounts payable, accounts receivable, intercompany, performance management and many more. Organizations can start introducing innovative solution development to deliver innovation. Even though these areas will not be the 'sexy' innovation solution that many senior executives, middle management, and your employees classify as innovation, these are the areas where innovation solutions will have the biggest impact.

By making small changes in how organizations integrate their end-to-end value chain with/without technologies, it allows an end-to-end impact on the operational environment and on the bottom-line. Areas where I've seen major innovative solutions:

  • Finance & Accounting: Using machine-learning functionality to move towards continuous accounting, with 'automated reconciliation', 'continuous financial accounting matching', immediate allocation management and many other effective solutions.
  • Human Resources: Changing performance processes and introducing 'feedback tools' to introduce a direct feedback, career guidance, weakness monitoring and many more.
  • Supply Chain: Introduce an end-to-end transport management and e-commerce solution to deliver self-service, pre-determined bidding, integration with procurement and other back-office solutions.

By starting small and looking at which operational areas are most in need of innovative change, I have been able to actively guide organizations to introduce effective operational innovation solutions that deliver results.

So, the next time you look to kick-off innovation in your organization, consider starting with operational innovation. Only by actively introducing cross-functional operational innovation through value-add solutions, where internal and external operational environments are connected, you’ll start small, but deliver the impact you're expecting from innovation.


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2016 State of Crowdsourced Innovation