Every organization is different, every innovation initiative is also unique, there is no “one size fits all” formula or practices to build breakthrough innovation competency.
With the increasing pace of changes and cutting-throat competitions, nowadays innovation can occur anywhere in the organization, and frankly, it has to occur in every aspect of the organization. To effectively respond to the digital dynamics, companies across vertical sectors must begin thinking about ways to build innovation competency, and broaden their ecosystems and revenue streams.
In reality, true innovation always spurs certain disruptions, otherwise it is not innovation. Breakthrough innovations are very risky but on the other hand, you will get very great chances and opportunities for achieving leapfrog business results. To become true leaders, companies have to develop a learning organization and take a structural way to manage innovation, especially breakthrough innovations which are disruptive and will change their organizations in many fields.
Spot innovators and develop individuals’ creativity: The digital era upon us is about innovation. The variety of innovation research papers show that organizations that have earned a spot as the most innovative tend to have a larger proportion of innovative employees than organizations not on the lists have. Innovators present creatively disruptive traits, disrupt old ways, and inspire better ways to do things.
How can organizations hire, retain, and recognize innovators – those energetic individuals with the types of unique characteristics, which can help organizations catalyze the culture of creativity and create an optimal environment for innovation? Being innovative is less about thinking alike, more about thinking differently. Being a digital innovator means you need to break down silo thinking, break through conventional wisdom and challenge the status quo.
Spot innovators based on how they think, their intellectual curiosity, their abilities to connect the dots, and their learning agility. Innovators can ask open questions, identify blind spots or mind gaps, in order to identify the issues behind the scenes; they can shape a bigger box of thinking, think outside of the company, industry, or many other boundaries.
In short, innovators obviously think differently, problem-solving is part of their DNA, whether it is in the invention, communication, marketing, or repurposing something already being there. Organizations should appreciate their innovators because they can lift the business out of the stagnation and leap the company toward the next level of the growth cycle.
Develop the organizational level innovation competency: Due to the fact that innovating in today’s digital world has become increasingly complex in nature, often, organizations can no longer rely on a single individual or team to drive innovation. It is a strategic imperative to develop the organizational level innovation competency. Innovation can happen anywhere across the organization and its ecosystem. When looking at businesses or organizations, the most powerful innovation navigation system involves tapping the organization’s ecosystem for collective perspectives and knitting all critical business elements such as people, process, and technology into differentiated innovation competency.
To develop the organizational level innovation capability, businesses need to have a balanced portfolio of innovation projects, across the matrix of different types of “hard and soft” innovation (process, product/service, business model, communication, culture, leadership) and three degrees of innovation (incremental, substantial, breakthrough). Incremental innovation generally brings short-term value additions but breakthrough innovation differs from incremental innovation to be a “game changer.”
Every organization needs to develop tailored innovation principles, methodologies, or practices by leveraging effective technologies, tools or disciplines, apply them wisely with the expertise to really add value and develop the organizational level innovation competency.
Build a highly innovative learning organization: Knowledge is the foundation of innovation. Learning organizations are comfortable with complexity, ambiguity, paradoxes and they have a penchant for candor. A learning organization is the one in which leaders encourage learning-doing as the iterative continuum; the majority of the employees at all levels are open to new ideas, experiment with new ways of doing things, learn from, instead of condemning or punishing mistakes or errors. Knowledge is shared instead of hoarding; it also involves those tasks which enable the transfer of learning from the back end to front end employees and vice versa.
The business is in a healthy state of flow – information flow, idea flow, and mind flow. It is often true that unless there is a disruption, people very rarely move out of their comfort zone. In fact, growth is not possible unless people are willing to move out of their comfort zone. Practicing innovation and intrapreneurship is about creating the future via learning, experimenting, and discovering.
Developing people’s innovativeness and the business systems’ innovation capability raise different learning issues that organizations must deal with smoothly. ‘The “adaptive learning” must be joined by “generative learning,” which is the type of learning that enhances our capacity to create and develop collective innovation competency.
Innovation is a journey, not a destination. Every organization is different, every innovation initiative is also unique, there are no “one size fits all” formulas or practices to develop a learning organization and build breakthrough innovation competency. Digital leaders should weave an enriched innovation ecosystem which enables systematic innovation management, with critical components such as innovation leadership, culture, processes, tools, recognition systems measurements, and risk approach. It is full of science behind the magic of breakthrough innovation.