Organizing Innovation — Making the Invisible Visible

Some of you may remember the connect the dot painting color books kids used to have; there was no color on the page, just a series of dots that when connected by a wet paint brush revealed a picture defined by different colors. When I was five I thought it was magical, yet someone had thought through the underlying design that allowed a new picture to emerge.

How do leaders and managers organize innovation? While some might say innovation is not to be over-engineered (or it could stifle creativity), there is clear need for a process that connects the elements that contribute to innovative breakthroughs and their implementation. Elements desirable in company cultures today include collaboration, recognition, diversity, and empowerment (google searches on these terms bring up 33 million to 184 million results) — but how are all those incorporated into a process that develops innovation by design?

Price Waterhouse Coopers' report "Demystifying Innovation" connects the dots on business strategy and implementing innovation. To grow markets more than 2% a year radical innovation is required; PWC found that 43% of CEOs in pharmaceuticals, entertainment and media industries feel their greatest growth will come from new products and services. Nearly 40% of CEOs in PWC's study said they expect innovation to be co-developed, through collaboration with outside partners, customers and talent.

The intensive focus on new products and services requiresworkforce planners to identify strategic roles around those new products and services and critical competencies from talent who contribute to innovation. A process to develop innovation and critical thinking to drive a business strategy forward are organizational competencies every company needs. 
Creating conditions where talent can be close to the customer identifies pain points and changing demands. When innovation is a cultural value, it is driven by leadership ethics and recognition of talent who contribute to new thinking. 

Tapping people's creative process engages talent; a can-do culture of open-mindedness and questioning creates a reputation for being innovative and an employer of choice. Philosophers Socrates, Euripides and Descartes said, "question everything" and even comedian George Carlin reminded us we have forgotten to question. Asking "why?" and "why not?" can be the genesis for innovation. As leaders we can ensure those questions get answered.

Author: Joy Kosta
Human Capital Institute Blog, Friday 6/3/11

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