How to Avoid the Coming Innovation Divide

Filed Under Innovation

crack in ground header
Rik Walters

February 6, 2014

In my last blog, I explained why 2014 will be the most innovative year ever. For this to happen, we must be aware of the coming innovation divide. In fact, the innovation divide may already be occurring in your organization now, and it could forever impact the ability of many companies to continue the incredible innovation growth experienced over the past decade.

What does your organization see as the biggest challenges standing in the way of innovation success? Budget and resource constraints? Strategy direction? How about leadership belief systems? Sure, all of these are ongoing challenges, but the biggest coming obstacle for innovation lies in human capital leaving the workforce.

Building a Bridge

Innovation has always been a multiplayer game that involves weaving together technological, financial, legal, and other players into creating new products, services, and processes. However, as the global demographic changes, markets will be further fragmented and spread out. Over $1 trillion a year is already spent on new knowledge, and it could likely get even more costly if we do not tap the human capital already in the enterprise.

Leadership is increasingly aware of the importance of sharing information. Changing your business model and the market in which you operate may be more difficult; however, this can prove extremely profitable with the demographic pivot happening now.

As baby boomers begin to leave the workforce, the enterprise runs the risk of losing subject matter experts and innovation evangelists. Enterprise leaders must bridge the innovation demographic, engaging young innovators with older innovation visionaries. The challenge is to turn the coming innovation divide into an innovation ‘bridge’ to opportunity.

Innovation Leaders Must Rethink Human Resources

If recruiting new innovators and maximizing their collaborative efforts are essential to serial innovation, who will train these talented newcomers?

It’s not only that a higher rate of mature workers are leaving the workforce — they’re taking with them the fundamental wisdom, tactical knowledge, and leadership expertise that started new innovation practices across top global Fortune 1000 companies over the past two decades. Human resources must approach talent solutions with a focus on integrating innovation skills for the next 10 years. It’s crucial that companies begin building this critical transition bridge now, and focus on the injection of human capital to sustain innovation momentum and to provide a scalable ‘mentor transition’. Hiring highly talented employees, then leveraging effective innovation management tools and strategies to manage in your enterprise transition, will optimize all talent levels.

Early to Rise, Early to Succeed

As businesses strive to be first to market with innovative ideas, the need for risk taking and each small failure increases, providing opportunities for employees to learn — lessons that have already been taught to experienced baby boomers. Sharing these experiences now with the next generation of innovators will help scale your talent divide faster, establish organizational competency, and speed up the time-to-launch for the next decade of innovation. Additionally, many organizations realize that improved innovation increases proportionally with collaboration. To develop this collaboration, leaders must leverage collaborative software and features to increase the number of harmonious interactions between non-teammates.

The innovation cocktail that baby-boomers crave is made up of a few key ingredients: to be on the leading edge of practice and experience; to work with the best leaders and team members; to have the powerful innovation tools in place; and to be given enough freedom to reach their collaborative potential through trial and yes, error. These factors must be instilled in your current workforce. To inspire the transition of innovation with organizational leaders must provide employees with a practice, rigor and organizational knowledge to collaborate on best work of their lives and to have their work impact the world.

Managing Innovation Demographics at Scale

When you compare the dashboard of a standard automobile to a racecar, you easily see how measurement differs at scale, or speed. The need to assess the smallest factors is crucial to maximize performance more quickly.

At speed, it’s easy to make uninformed management decisions without non-metric driven intuition or recent experience. To manage success, go with a data-based innovation model in your organization, including management of employee innovations.

Top organizations execute using these predictive analytics to alert leadership in advance of innovation management issues, as well as opportunities. Utilizing innovation management platforms leverages the wisdom of past learnings and combined workforce intelligence, in order to influence future innovation decisions and predict potential consequences that might be hiding in the details.

There’s still time to avoid the innovation divide, capitalize on your current human capital, and scale your innovation strategies. Will your enterprise wait until it’s too late, or start planning immediately to avoid the coming innovation divide? If you begin now, you can avoid the innovation divide altogether, and you just may find your most innovative years are just ahead!