October 1, 2013 - FILED UNDER Agile Business
What is Innovation Management?
October is innovation management month here at Mindjet HQ, and although we’ve already touched on the subject a few times, there’s no doubt that we’ll be talking about it even more going forward.
Part of that is because we’re still so excited to have merged with innovation management company Spigit (if you haven’t taken a peek at our merger announcement yet, please do). It’s given us the opportunity to bring our customers a repeatable process for business innovation. More than that, though, we’re up for the challenge that managing innovation and corralling ideas presents.
We’ve Done it to Ourselves
Bringing a more precise, strategic process to something that often falls victim to ambiguity is only logical, but that doesn’t make it simple. If it did, the need for repeatable execution wouldn’t still be there. Somehow, a foundation would’ve grown organically from us noticing an obvious pattern, the same way that we’ve done with stuff like baking cookies — in a nutshell, ingredients + temperature = deliciousness.
What did happen was that, somewhere along the line, people started to notice that great ideas alone weren’t enough. Even getting stakeholders to buy in to those ideas didn’t always mean anything would happen. True, big innovation killers are much the same as hurdles faced by all aspects of business: budget restrictions, interference from project contributors with subjective agendas, etc. But at the core, we’ve suffered an inability to actually plan around the promise of multiple ideas — instead of just a single, specific concept.
In other words, we’ve been okay at recognizing an idea with potential, and even mapping out the various resources we’ll need to make it a full-blown project. But the direction we take has typically been dependent on what the idea is. It’s caused innovation to be at the mercy of available resources, and in turn, suffocate before it even gets the chance to breathe.
A Recipe for Repetition
We can’t leave something this important up to chance anymore, even if it does seem a little counterintuitive to mechanize something rooted in creativity. That’s why we need some sort of process that supports ingenuity but still follows a tactical blueprint. Similar to say, wide-scale vehicle production, innovation management allows for both system evolution and the selection, capture, and implementation of new processes; it helps us develop a way of responding to market change with fresh perspective, and take calculated risks with more to rely on than just a pair of crossed fingers.
Here’s how it’s done.
- Crowdsource. In short, crowdsourcing is about generating a ton of ideas en masse; it’s a way of engaging people to provide resources outside of standard organizational means. Basically, you get access to widespread genius without having to do a whole lot.
- Graduate ideas systematically. Vet possibilities — which have been brought to the surface by crowdsourcing — according to business impact, but let the crowd do the work by implementing things like Pairwise Voting, which allows participants to select ideas through careful consideration and comparison.
- Be armed with a plan. After you’ve chosen one or more ideas that made it past the crowdsourcing and voting gates, it’s time perform risk analyses, data aggregation, and resource assessments. Think about schedules, budgets, and team communications, as well as how project management will be handled.
- Make it sustainable. No process is worth much if you can’t do it more than once, so be clear about what that process is (or was). Lay it out from start (engaging and ideating) to finish (implementing and executing). Tell your people about it, and then encourage them to participate, generate, and iterate.
For many companies, getting to a point of repeatable business innovation will be a disruptive process; but it really only needs to shake things up once or twice. Innovation management isn’t really all that different from managing other processes, but it’s all about the framework — creating a system that aligns with your company goals, and weaving clear, core principles into the everyday practices of your business.