The most innovative organizations — noted for their creative designs, unorthodox service, or energizing workspace — make innovation a part of their culture. It is integrated into all that they do, and not just limited to the CEO or an “innovation group.” Here are 9 tips for achieving Integrated Innovation in your organization:
- Don’t Underestimate the Value of Innovation
Legendary management guru Peter Drucker said, “Only marketing and innovation produce revenue. All other business functions produce costs.” While this may be an extreme view, there is no doubt innovation generates value.
- Never Assume Innovation is a Department
Innovation is everyone’s job. It should not be relegated to a single department or specific individuals. Your organizational structure, culture, and workspace should encourage innovation in all aspects of work.
- Give Equal Attention to the Image and Quality of Your Products and Services
Together, image and quality form the “identity” of your brand. To think that innovation is all about appearance or design is to shortchange the importance of innovative processes, logistics, partnerships, customer service, or sales models. And quality can’t be overlooked.
- Use Cross-functional Teams to Assure an Integrated Approach
Using cross-functional teams to review product or service plans and designs will ensure that all perspectives are considered. It will avoid situations where an unorthodox design will price the product out of the desired market, or where manufacturing complexity will not accommodate aggressive release dates. Seeing the big picture allows tradeoffs to be made.
- Focus on Goals and Themes, Not Activities
Empower and align your teams with prioritized goals and themes; let them take it from there. Innovation thrives on freedom and collective intelligence. Focus on outcomes, provide priorities and needs, and challenge those closest to the action to surprise you with their ingenuity. Dictating activities inhibits innovation.
- Recognize and Leverage Different Cultures
Understand the cultural differences across business functions and geographies. People from engineering will often have different approaches and priorities than people in marketing. People in “rules-based” countries will bring something different to your team than people from “relationship-based” countries. There are always exceptions, but knowing what to look for, and then leveraging those differences can supercharge your teams.
- Watch Your Language
Use questions to drive understanding and scrutinize ideas. Rather than silencing the objectors or squash someone’s ideas, challenge them with questions: How would we address the xyz situation? Are there other ways of accomplishing this? How might we do it with less money? Then what would happen? And so on…
- Broaden Your Perspective
Use systems thinking to validate the impacts of decisions on the organizational ecosystem. Nothing happens in isolation. Decisions will impact sales, marketing, customer services, engineering, manufacturing, and many other areas. Make a list of the variables that could be impacted, and document the cause-and-effect relationships across those variables.
- Innovation is Not Limited to the Ideation Phase
Innovation should permeate the entire value chain; it’s not limited to “ideation” or “R&D.” Look at the entire delivery cycle — from demand generation through strategic planning, execution, and customer touch points — and ask the crucial business questions at each step. All of them are opportunities to innovate. Sometimes the smallest touches have huge impact.
Collectively, these 9 tips can help your organization build a culture of innovation from the inside out; engaging employees and customers alike. For more on this, join us at PIPELINE 2012 and view my Breakout Session: Integrated Innovation — the Art of Balancing Structure and Creativity.
I’d love to hear from you. How integrated is your innovation process? Share your experiences by leaving a comment below.