It’s no secret that innovation is a keyword in any company looking to succeed. However, innovation is a tricky thing to pull off. In fact, it’s not uncommon for innovation to fail in an organization.
Innovation is a lot like a delicate flower; if you don’t tend to it, give it the right conditions, and protect it from harsh elements, then it will wither and die.
To make innovation flourish, it’s important to hold yourself and your team accountable for the success of innovation in the company. Innovation accountability isn’t a simple thing to manage. In fact, it takes a lot of effort and commitment.
What is Innovation Accountability Management?
Innovation accountability management (IAM) is a process in which you hold yourself and your team members responsible for the success of your innovation projects. The goal of this process is to ensure that your innovation projects are successful and that you have the resources necessary to achieve this.
Typically, IAM programmes would be based around the SIMPLE framework. The SIMPLE framework is an acronym for:
- Setting expectations
- Inviting commitment
- Measurement of progress
- Providing feedback
- Linking to consequences, and
- Evaluation of effectiveness.
Well-optimised IAM programmes emphasize the continuous improvement of the innovation process and ensure the focus shifts from outputs to outcomes and impacts. There is less concern with attribution with a team held accountable, and the team is one that is encouraged to take risks, experiment, and always keep learning.
Why is IAM needed?
Innovation accountability management is needed to ensure that your innovation efforts are not in vain. The point is that to make innovation truly successful, the C-suite need to be the ones held accountable. This means that the executives need to be involved in the innovation process, and they need to understand and support it.
It’s not uncommon for executives to have an idea of how innovation should be done (watch our webinar about the HiPPO here), and this can create a bottleneck. Innovation is best done when there is an open and collaborative environment that allows for new ideas to come forward. The more open the environment is, the more innovative it will be.
Executives need to understand that innovation takes time and that it is not a sprint. Innovation is both a marathon and a culture, and it is something that has to be managed and nurtured every day.
It is easy in the whirlwind of the day-to-day for executives to get side-tracked, and before long, innovation initiatives lose importance in the quarterly budget battle, and they fall by the wayside.
The point is that innovation needs to be protected because it is a long-term strategy that takes time, effort, and commitment.
Moreover, innovation accountability management ensures that everyone (not just the R&D folks) in the organization is held accountable for their innovation efforts. This means that you need to ensure that your innovation efforts are supported by all departments in the organization.
This can be a challenge, but it is something that you have to do if you want to achieve innovation success.
Innovation accountability management will help you create a culture of innovation in your organization, and this will benefit you and your company in the long run.
Where are you on the Innovation Value Pyramid?
The Innovation Value Pyramid is a way to measure your organization’s innovation maturity. The pyramid has four levels, with each level representing a certain degree of innovation maturity, closely aligned with the Value Pyramid created by Mark Wardell several years ago.
The four levels of the Innovation Value Pyramid are:
- Innovation Starter – This is the lowest level of innovation maturity. At this level, the organization is just starting to realize that innovation is something that is important. The organization doesn’t yet have a clear idea of what innovation is, and they don’t know how to manage it, or if it is even worth their time. Typically, at this level of the pyramid, the organisation is managed heavily by the owner; the owner is working in the business instead of on it. This can be a challenge because the owner will usually have a lot of other things on their plate. As a result, the owner will often put innovation on the backburner, and it will be given short shrift.
- Innovation Adopter – This is the second level of innovation maturity. At this level, the organization is starting to understand the importance of innovation, and they’ve identified some areas that they can innovate in. However, the organization is still trying to figure out what the best approach to innovation is, and they haven’t really committed to it. At this level, it’s not uncommon for the organization to have a few innovation initiatives on the go, but they are all still small-scale and limited in scope. In many cases, the organization isn’t really committed to innovation, and it’s only being done because someone in the organization has convinced the owner that it is a good idea. As a result, it is not uncommon for this level of the pyramid to collapse, because the people in the organization are not committed to innovation and the systems are not in place to support and maintain it.
- Innovation Systematiser – This is the third level of innovation maturity. At this level, the organization has committed itself to innovation. The organization has made a conscious decision that innovation is a priority, and they are actively pursuing it. The organization understands that innovation is not something that you can do half-heartedly, and they are willing to commit the resources to make it successful. At this level, the organization will have a formal innovation program and an innovation champion who is in charge of the program. The organization will also have a formal innovation strategy that is owned by the executive team. The organization will also have a dedicated innovation budget, and the budget will be considered a line item in the annual budget. This is a good indicator that the organization is investing in a systematised approach to innovation. Having the right team structure, processes and innovation framework in place is also a good indicator that the organization is at this level, however, the initiatives will still need a proactive push from the executive team to maintain momentum.
- Innovation Leader – This is the highest level of innovation maturity. At this level, the organization is considered to be an innovation leader. The organization has a clear and proven innovation strategy that is being successfully implemented by not only the executive team, but a culture of innovation has formed within the organisation, and the innovation strategy is being driven from the bottom up. The staff has committed themselves to be at the top of their game, and innovation is embedded into the very DNA of the organisation. At this level, innovation is not just something that is done by the R&D department. It is something that is embraced across the entire organization.
Innovation is a complex and challenging activity. There is no one “right” way to do it, and there are many facets to consider. Developing an innovation accountability management system that works for your organization is a journey. It will be a journey that will take time, effort, and commitment to develop and maintain.
To work out whereabouts your organisation is on the Innovation Value Pyramid, Innovolo have created an Innovation Value Audit (IVA) tool. The tool is designed to help you benchmark your organization’s current innovation maturity and identify areas where you can improve.
Innovation is a complex activity that requires a lot of effort to be successful. However, innovation accountability management can help you to make your innovation efforts a success.
We see organisations daily that are ‘doing innovation’, and failing at it. They have support from the top executives, and the guys on the ground are all bought into the process. So why are they not creating the impact they’re striving for? Why are they failing at innovation?
Why innovation fails.
From our experience, there are five main reasons why innovation fails:
1) The fear of taking risks.
The process of innovation is tough, tricky, and carries no guarantee, and is often risky. It’s inherently uncertain. And because the fear of risk exposure typically makes organizations want to stay the same, they revert to their old ways, like a dog returning to its vomit. And they end up right back where they started from.
President John F. Kennedy famously observed that “success has many fathers; failure is an orphan.” The duty of persuading skeptics with business cases and deeply studied data to show that innovation pays off may require more effort than the innovators chose to invest. Sales and finance staff may need to be educated by the research and development group to understand that sitting tight and not innovating may pose more risk than supporting the concept.
An Innovation Accountability Partner can help the organization by providing a neutral third party to help the organization understand the potential benefits of innovation and the risks associated with doing nothing. They can help in the education process by identifying the facts, figures, and research that the organization needs to make the case. They can also help by providing the tools and frameworks to make sure that the innovation process is well thought-out and the business is prepared and ready to capitalize on the opportunities that innovation may bring.
2) Lack of Commitment.
It’s not uncommon for organizations to talk a big game about innovation, yet they don’t provide the resources necessary to make it happen. Often, innovation is a small side project that the organization has committed to because it’s a cool idea. Or they may have a small budget that they are not willing to commit to unless the innovation can show that it will be a quick win.
An indicator that a company values creativity may be found in its job descriptions. The inconsistency of tasks that relate to inventiveness and innovation reflects a company’s uninterest in it. Employees may feel that the absence of assigned creative tasks is additional work for some of them. Day-to-day affairs can occupy an agenda with a level of importance that excludes the creativity that a company may need to survive in the years ahead.
Using an Innovation Accountability Partner will help you to make sure that you are not just talking about innovation, but you are doing it. They will help you to create a clear and measurable innovation strategy that is aligned with your business objectives. They will help you to make sure that you have the right people in place to make sure that innovation happens. They will also help you to make sure that you have the right processes and tools in place to make sure that the innovation is successful and you are able to capitalize on the opportunities presented.
3) Lack of Commitment II.
It’s not uncommon for organizations to have an innovation strategy, but it is not being implemented. The problem with innovation is that it is a continuous process. It never stops. Innovation is not something that you can do once and then forget about it. It requires constant nurturing. It requires constant attention. It requires commitment from the top of the organization, and it requires commitment from the bottom of the organization. It requires commitment from the left and the right. It requires commitment from the middle.
Innovation Accountability Partners are what they sound like. They work to make sure that you and your team are 100% committed to the cause of innovation and will hold you accountable to your innovation strategy.
4) No Measurement System in Place.
Facts and data set you free. If you can’t measure something, then you generally won’t do it. Innovation is no exception, and it’s not an easy beast to measure. It requires a measurement system in place to determine the value of innovation, and whether or not it is worth it. Without a measurement system in place that is designed specifically for your organisation to capture the value of innovation, then you are flying blind. You are basically guessing. In our experience, most organisations are guessing. They hope that innovation will pay off. They hope that innovation will lead to growth. They hope that innovation will create more value than it costs to do. They hope. Innovation is too important to be a hope-based initiative. Innovation needs to be measured. It needs to be verified. It needs to be validated. And it needs to be verified and validated by a third party in order for the organisation to trust the data. An Innovation Accountability Partner can help you to develop the measurement system that your organisation needs in order to make the case that innovation is worth it.
5) Not Having A Dedicated Partner.
Innovation is a tough job. It requires a lot of energy. What we find, time and time again, is that organisations often have the best intentions at heart. They have a great innovation strategy, they have the drive from the top and buy-in from the bottom (or vice-versa), yet they aren’t able to maintain momentum. They even have the tools in place to measure it.
So what’s wrong? The problem may lie in the Iron Triangle of Innovation: In our experience, organisations have two (never three) of the following three characteristics:
- The Need.
- The Capacity
- The Capability.
We’ll cover the Iron Triangle in more detail in a future post.
Innovation accountability management is a way to manage innovation in your organization in a structured and methodical way. It is not a “silver bullet” or a “magic wand”. It is a disciplined way to get the most out of innovation and make it work for you.