There is universal agreement among our multinational companies, politicians, universities and educators that innovation is critical to ongoing success and competitive advantage. However, sustained innovation remains an elusive goal for most organisations.
The pace of change in the market is tectonic, so it is not only a challenge for organisations to surface innovation opportunities, but to turn innovation into action at the speed of today’s digital world. Based on Avanade’s internal experience and our work with clients globally, a solid framework is needed to drive ongoing innovation. It may seem counter-intuitive to provide structure around innovation, but a roadmap will help to support a culture of experimentation and underpin the cross-functional engagement needed to embed innovation across an organisation.
Here are five tips for building a framework to turn innovation into action:
1. Search beyond your own backyard for innovation ideas
When establishing a goal for innovation, organisations should not just be watching competitors within their industry; they must compare themselves to the best innovators, period.
It’s about identifying the leaders, analysing their actions and successes, and then deciding how their strategies and ways of working can play into your organisation and strengths, and linking these back to what you want to be known for.
For example, if a university wants to keep up with digitisation and move into the online space, they should not limit themselves to looking at what other universities are doing. Rather, they could analyse Amazon and other major players in the digital space, and look for strategies that they can apply to help clear the best path to innovation.
2. Form an innovation council, comprising an executive sponsor and multi-disciplinary team
The most effective means of driving innovation and new technology projects is to form an ‘innovation council’. This council should comprise of a group of people from all levels across the business, who fundamentally know the organisation inside and out, and together possess a mix of strategy, design and technology skills. A blend of these capabilities will help to progress the smooth implementation of new innovation and technology projects.
A dedicated, multi-disciplinary team also increases the likelihood of projects being followed through to completion. All too often, projects with no clear leadership or committed team to back and drive them can be pushed aside.
A multi-disciplinary team is also essential for driving a shared vision through the business. They can ensure the whole organisation and its employees are taken along the journey – which will make a world of difference to project support and a readiness to accept change.
3. Conduct an innovation maturity assessment to gauge cultural readiness and capabilities
The number one driver of success when it comes to implementing new ideas into a business is culture.
Organisations need to recognise and acknowledge that the willingness of their employees to embrace change and adopt new ideas is a critical success factor for sustained innovation. To remain relevant, an organisation-wide operating model review will typically be necessary, including an assessment of whether the right skills exist for the emerging digital world. Most organisations will subsequently need to implement strategies to rotate its capabilities to embrace digital and cloud technologies, by upskilling and acquiring talent.
4. Map your innovation strategy to business strategy
Innovation programs can become stale if they lack clear goals, so it is important to have clearly articulated objectives tied to specific business problems. A clear understanding of both the organisation’s strategic direction and opportunities to deliver maximum value to the business will provide clear guidance on what your innovation goals should be and how to prioritise them.
5. Establish a governance framework to guide innovation pilots and implementation
Determining whether to promote a ‘top-down’ or ‘bottom-up’ approach to innovation is a common conundrum for organisations. In our experience at Avanade, it should be a bit of both. Leaders need to empower people at lower levels in the organisation to be a part of the innovation journey, but clear executive sponsorship is necessary to drive the cultural change essential to sustained innovation.
Your innovation strategy and governance framework should operate in parallel; good governance will promote innovation effectiveness and maintain momentum, as well as help to demonstrate ROI.
Adam Johnson is the Chief Technology Innovation Officer at Avanade Australia.
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