In Search of Excellence – How innovation works on practice
There are few business leaders who would deny that we are living in a time of unprecedented innovation. But preserving growth has probably never been more challenging than it is today. The solution, which business model secures the future, which needs the customers of tomorrow have or which competitor perhaps already has the better idea today, can only be found with well-founded answers to the most pressing questions about the trends and business drivers of tomorrow. Companies need to develop a clear point of view about where the world is going and the key trends that could impact their business.
Many companies have already launched innovation initiatives in many different forms. But not all are successful, others are stuck in the middle of the road.
It’s not the lack of ideas – why innovations fail
The hype about modern concepts and methods such as design thinking, crowd-innovation, hackathon, scrum or agile working, fueled the illusion that one only had to allow for sufficient creative freedom and entrepreneurial spirit to bolster innovation. Most often, however, excessive creativity does not lead to the desired results. Many innovations fail because of a lack of clarity about the real innovation challenges, because innovation solutions are not geared towards a specific goal, because strategic alignment with the core business is missing or because integration into the existing organization does not work properly. These common stumbling blocks may also be one of the reasons why many of the newly created innovation labs and hubs have failed in their attempt to copy the methods of start-ups.
On the other hand, some companies stick to very traditional approaches to innovation by using rigid and standardized processes from idea generation to market launch which tend to stifle creativity and are not apt to create more radical innovations.
Overcoming the contradiction: Guided, systematic processes for radical innovation
Both approaches alone are not promising: Innovation needs both creative spaces and openness as well as a clear direction and strong leadership. This “ambiguity” requires companies to accept contradictions and to be able to deal with them. Just to name a few: Hierarchy versus self-determination, creativity and change versus stability and resistance, planning a foreseeable world versus uncertainty, dealing with mistakes versus risk aversion.
Combination of the strengths of the “old” and the “new” organization
Although it is difficult to enter unknown territory and dissolve old thought patterns, this is essential for the innovation management of the future and the innovation capability of organizations. In order to solve the “innovation dilemma” between traditional and innovation-promoting organizational principles and behaviors, companies need to install efficient innovation management systems which are designed to encourage creative problem-solving and idea generation and which mutually are able to take ideas from concept to profitable business models in the existing organization by establishing appropriate strategic guidelines and, usually, new rules, e.g. for decision taking, budget allocation, access to resources or collaborative teamwork. It is the combination of the strengths of the “old” (focused on routine and profitable operations, efficiency and scalability) and the “new” (focused on agility, innovation and speed) organization that makes it possible to master all phases of the innovation process, from idea generation to product development and commercialization.
Innovation Ecosystems – balance and promote both worlds
The challenges on the way to (radical) innovations are varied, complex and associated with many uncertainties. This often requires collaborative processes and teamwork across and beyond traditional internal and external organizational boundaries. Building open networks and innovation ecosystems allows innovation teams to easy access internal and external resources such as technology experts, scientists, customers, (corporate) start-ups, labs, consultants, data, tools and methods. These ecosystem participants can be involved in innovation projects as needed.
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