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Structuring Your Innovation Processes

Should Innovation be structured or just left to its own devices?

4Dec

We're often told that Innovation is something that's created by free-will and an eagerness from management to get their most creative employees in environments that permit them to break free from their shackles.

Organisations wanting to create a company culture that promotes sustained innovation have to remember that innovation has to be a constant cycle where projects are carried out irrespective of fears about profits. All too often innovation is an on/off process where a company's initial enthusiasm wavers as senior management fear that a new idea could have a detrimental impact on other more established products, and therefore bottom line profits.

This is arguably more detrimental than ignoring innovation all together because it tells people that even if they come up with great ideas, there's a chance that they'll be ignored. This is why innovation should be systematic and viewed with the company's long-term future in mind. There should be financial resources consistently set aside to fund innovation and it should form a part of every employees job.

When it comes to resources, money normally follows success, with established products given priority over processes that aren't guaranteed of adding profit. This sometimes means that companies put all their money into assets that may not improve their future success, but will help them remain profitable in the short-term. It's because of this that innovation is sometimes forced to take a backseat, as management fail to see past the next couple of months or years.

Repurposing resources from established profit centres and putting them back into growth was successfully achieved by IBM. The process saw senior management watched to make sure that they didn't take money away from innovation when their existing products were in need of some extra manpower or finance.

Another area where structure is needed is within actual teams, especially in regard to diversity. There's been many examples where innovation focus groups have been assembled without the consumer in mind. Products that are targeted at women have only men working within their creative teams, or the other way around. There must be an emphasis on diversity within teams so that people's ideas can be challenged.

The examples above demonstrate a number of examples of how innovation can and should be structured. Innovation shouldn't be left to its own devices, but instead structured and planned for. It's only then that innovation will be seen as a continuous cycle which adds competitive advantages to a company's fortunes.

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