Chief Innovation Officer Paul Pluschkell on Business Innovation Done Right

Filed Under Innovation

three lamp
Paul Pluschkell

December 5, 2013

The Innovation process can no longer be a one off process that simply asks employees for new ideas at a point in time. In this day and age where the speed of disruption can happen in a moment’s notice, enterprises are beholden to outcomes from their innovation teams. The innovation process must be measurable and repeatable.

Innovation Management is about more than just planning new products, creating new service offerings or creating the next technology inventions. It’s about rethinking everything from business process to how people work in order to compete in new ways. The average life span of a company listed in the S&P 500 Index today is less than 15 years, down from 67 years in the 1920’s.

Yet despite research showing that 61% of CEOs say that innovation is a primary focus, a staggering 66% of them have no innovation strategy in place for their business. This is in spite of the countless number of apparent disruptive technologies, groundbreaking platforms and transformational business processes that are being promoted in the market to provide companies with the opportunity to leapfrog the competition.

What’s even more interesting is that even some of the world’s most innovative companies have recently received much criticism regarding their own innovation efforts stagnating. For example, Google announced an end to its long-standing rule of allowing employees to spend 20 percent of their time on side projects. Apple, another Silicon Valley behemoth, enacted a similar decree. The company’s September iPhone launch cemented doubts about whether the company is capable of building beyond the revolutionary success of the original iPhone and iPad, with both company actions (or rather, inactions) raising questions as to whether innovation has been traded in for a better bottom line.

An effective strategy needs to have a solid foundation. The goal is to have innovation be repeatable. Without a proper strategy in place, innovation becomes a game of chance versus an engine to drive company results.

Elements to Successful Innovation

In today’s workforce — whether it be startups, mid-size companies and Fortune 1000 companies — the power of the crowd, game mechanics and big data analytics are vital to driving ideas generation, innovation and transformative business growth.

Innovation management is exceptionally valuable because it most successfully connects people with diverse opinions — and in disparate locations — with the mechanism to communicate, collaborate and deliver positive business outcomes. Diverse inputs generate superior outputs for more challenging problems and opportunities. Businesses shouldn’t shy away from tapping into a crowd’s aggregate knowledge in order to drive incremental and transformative ideas that will drive growth — and provide gamification techniques to motivate people to propose and elevate the best ideas to drive the business forward. By enabling employees to connect and collaborate more effectively, organizations can boost idea development and accelerate innovation outcomes.

Tips for Creating an Integrated and Holistic Process

Technology — along with a company’s proper process and culture — has become the critical edge to innovate faster and demonstrate greater agility over the competition. Yet for innovation to be successful, technology alone cannot be the sole driver. Rather, there needs to be a process, culture and champion of innovation to yield positive returns over time. According to an Accenture study, companies with a holistic and formal system in place witness a significant uptick in gathering innovation results. Twenty-one percent of companies claim that innovation grants their business a competitive advantage among the competition, while 50 percent are first to market with most innovations, products and services. According to Bain, companies that perform well in innovation initiatives grow significantly faster than lesser-performing companies — growing to a three-fold difference in five years.

The reality is there is an innovation gap in most companies. Typically companies ask their employees for ideas. However poor framing often leads to simple suggestions. The executives become frustrated that their employees can adequately guess how many jelly beans are in a jar but cannot create a radical or breakthrough innovation.

Ideas are networks of other ideas. Experiences shared by a disparate crowds are invaluable for triggering new responses. Idea management is a winning strategy and one that requires proper tools to help companies start with a meaningful purpose, recognize great ideas at the right time, engages diverse crowds with different perspectives, and most of all allows for the development of ideas through collaboration.

Looking at Who’s Innovating

Social collaboration tools enable a global community to come together to generate new ideas and transform lives and make a true difference through efficient, effective and creative solutions. For example, UNHCR is leveraging an innovation management platform to engage its community of staff members, partners and academic institutions to identify, validate and implement refugee-centric solutions. In August this year, UNHCR launched a challenge asking its community — including staff members, partners and academic institutions — how to improve access to information and services for refugees living in urban areas, with the winning idea to pilot next year.

The winner was recently announced on UNHCR’s Facebook page. Justin Senn won the first UNHCR Ideas challenge with an idea for an online information portal for refugees. As a result, the company will be collaborating with him over the next year to formulate, research and test his idea.

Making Innovation Successful

As competitive pressures continue to permeate every level and department of businesses around the globe, and as business leaders demand a more agile, innovative and results-driven organization, the answers are simply not in looking at technology as a driver or at current innovator leaders. Rather, it’s about first defining the right strategy and process, then finding the right technology that meets your company’s goals and process. When a company follows these steps in the correct order, innovation can be a powerful production engine to drive results.

Innovation is the only insurance against irrelevance. Companies that are really serious about innovation allows for all employees to participate in their innovation programs, educate their employees on innovation management similar to the way they train them on their product lines, and treat Innovation programs as a must have and not a secondary offering. You have a choice — innovation can either become your best friend or your worst enemy.

This post was originally published on Wired. Follow them on Twitter @Wiredinsights.