I am very interested in questions about innovation.
Where does it belong in any company? Who is the head of innovation? Are they at Director-level or does responsibility reside with someone in Accounts, or Production, or HR, or Logistics, or Marketing? Have you ever come across a Head of Innovation?
You may say that innovation does not have a champion but is a shared responsibility. So my next question is
What is being shared in this group of people?
There are literally hundreds of possible innovations in every company. And they are so diverse as not to suit the responsibilities of any one person or group of people.
So possibly we can conclude that innovation is something that does not belong in any particular place; it is a variable subject or issue and belongs to no-one! It also varies in size and importance. Someone or some people have to decide how to prioritise the large number of innovations, identifying which comes first, second, third and so on. Also they have to decide when and where it is, or they, are resourced and implemented.
This sounds like quite a major undertaking. The key is knowing who to give the responsibility to and how to make it work for everyone.
Every company is different, but it is clear that there needs to be a group, that does not decide what innovations are needed, but that can collect, process, authorise and fund good innovative ideas in the company; everything from the simplest of changes in working practices to the most tricky technological or scientific developments. If this decision making is wrong, you either have a disaster or nothing at all.
So what do we mean by innovation?
In practice, innovation has several different meanings depending upon where you are coming from and where you are trying to get to. But what does the dictionary say? To innovate means to introduce new methods, ideas or products.
This definition itself provides a wide range of change processes, depending upon your starting point. There is simple innovation, moving through a range of changes to very complex and diverse innovation. Each stage has a degree of change and may involve just one or two people through to literally hundreds of people with different skills.
One of the unusual features of innovation is that you do not always know that you are being innovative, maybe not even until sometime after the event. And then, the person at the centre of the change may be called the innovator. It may not be the person who initiated the change process, but someone outside and disconnected with that change process.
So what term is used to describe the achievements of more able innovatory people? What sort of psychometric profile do these people have?
If we look at these psychometric profiles we can detect which people fit this innovative role. In simple terms we have reflectors, theorists, pragmatists and activists, the four main personality lead types. We know that the creative role or activist has the highest level of the innovator attributes. And those creative activists are generally a rare breed. When these aspects of personality are highly present, they are often not supported by the people who are strong in opposing or related skills; pragmatists, reflectors or theorists. This is an illustration that people within the process may or may not be best suited to participate in an innovation process.
People’s learning styles have a tremendous influence upon the innovative process and we need to understand them to manage the process effectively and efficiently.
So, the first challenge is there for you to see in your team members. It is useful to know the strengths and weaknesses of your team profiles when forming your new learning innovative management groups. You cannot always pick and choose the right combination of learning styles to be successful; you have to work with what you have. However, you can identify the immediate obstacles to success in managing innovation and focus on engendering process behaviours as well as outcomes.
It is true to say that there are good and bad innovations, so be careful and maximise the good development opportunities that provide the incentive for everyone to work hard at establishing the best way forward. Achieving a good innovation transformation is a classic self and group development that involves many disciplines. Project management, security of information, data sharing and confidentiality all combine together with that vital ingredient of innovatory thinking. Peer-to-peer learning can strengthen a multi-generational workforce in the search for new process solutions. Age of participants is just a number.
For innovation projects, it is important to strengthen collaboration in the context of “are you ready for this way of working”, as this is a real time research and development process where nothing is clear at the outset. Too many companies start this process with no formal policy on the type of reward for achievements that are above and beyond the scope of existing job specifications.
If you want good innovations and you have a good idea of what you are looking for, you must have a strategic imperative to drive, plan and process the route map for achieving it. And then get people with the right capabilities involved; those who want to be involved!
Executive Chairman, G-ACUA – the Global Association of Corporate Universities and Academies
Richard has extensive international executive experience in significant organisational development initiatives and renewal. His pioneering works include real-time learning and actionable processes that significantly leverage performance standards and organisation capability. He is dedicated to helping organisations design and manage competitive strategic management platforms for change and development through inspirational and dynamic new learning management solutions.
Richard founded G-ACUA in 2007 and continues to lead the G-ACUA network and its strategic development. G-ACUA works in many countries, offering an extensive portfolio of programmes, resources and services to its members. There is an increasing demand for knowledge about best practices in this competitive and challenging global business environment and G-ACUA carries-out continuing intelligence research into developments in the field of time sensitive development and best practice in response to the urgent needs of its membership.