For many October is the peak month for bringing together their strategic and operating plans for 2012. Meetings get frantic, issues get raised, and plans get drawn up, rejected and redrawn. The period becomes a fever pitch.
Where does innovation figure within this? In new products, new services and plenty of noble entreaties to adding to the growth I am sure. One aspect you might want to consider within all this activity and planning, is to develop a resolution list of issues that need resolving, I mean really, finally, actually resolving in 2012, to allow innovation to have a greater ‘hold’ on future thinking. Achieving a consensus, a clear focus, and a corporate commitment is what strategic plans are about so draw up your list of innovation resolutions needed to be resolved in 2012 and commit to them within the plans. Be upfront and bold.
Make sure you choose ‘soft’ as well as ‘hard’ innovation resolutions within any mix
One thing I would recommend when you draw up your list. Most corporate executives find the ‘softer’ aspects of innovation harder to work through. There is this certain ‘hard wiring’ that everything has to be clear, measurable and tucked away in the accounts or ‘ticked off’ in each person’s mind. Softer aspects of innovation often don’t conform to this orderly view of the world and it is addressing this inconsistency ‘head-on’ has great value.
As anyone working across innovation challenges can recognize it is the intangibles, the softer aspects of innovation, that make it truly work, so my recommendation, make sure you embed these softer ones within any set of innovation resolutions. Eventually more people become comfortable these ‘softer’ aspects are critical to focus upon as they become strategically established and it makes the job of any person engaged in innovation a little easier that it is recognized.
Here are nine innovation areas that might need your resolution for better outcomes in 2012.
These nine struck me as issues that are causing problems for innovation but please don’t let me stop you making your own list, but all I ask you is please make sure you have not forgotten them by the end of January. These resolutions should be strategic commitments to really work upon to fully resolve. Raise them, talk about them, get them agreed as important to resolve and build them into your strategic plans for 2012, along with the required actions, resources and thoughtful solutions to delivering on these.
- There is this urge to keep forcing change on the client with new products and services. We are in really different economic times at present and they might find these as difficult to accept so working out ways for extracting value from their need for a ‘steady state’ can provide different innovation opportunities such as adding services to a product.
- The recent emphasis has been on finding the ‘disrupting’ application, product or business model, nothing is wrong with this to change existing markets or move into new segments. There are many other ‘types’ of innovation to explore which might actually not be as equally disruptive to you. Disruptive approaches are often fraught with risks for you and this might not be the time for this strategy anyway, explore the others to contain risks in volatile times. Learning about the significant differences in required competencies and approaches for each type of innovation will provide for a greater dimension to your future innovation activities and your ability to deliver on these.
- Establishing a more ‘listening culture’ so you can discover far more about the issues effecting your customers, your employees so you can adjust your innovation offerings to cater for a more exact need. This can be a really powerful competitive advantage. There is a lot to absorb in this, from social media to CRM and through learning and experimenting. Raising this up within a resolution need for 2012 would be strategically important for your organizations future to really define and structure.
- We struggle to leverage the tools that are available for finding new opportunities, be these at the discovery stage or in market research. By exploring the array of tools that are available for spotting trends, needs or unearthing the next big opportunity you can leverage and exploit these different techniques allowing a deeper appreciation of their value. One really positive outcome is to have established a greater toolkit of techniques to take forward.
- Downturns are really good times to get rid of some of the ‘legacy’ within your organization, to finally recognize older systems, flat file repositories for managing innovation, idea management systems can be reviewed and you reposition yourselves with some incredibly nimble, low cost, highly flexible systems that are available through a Web 2.0 approach. This can greater advance a more integrated flow of ideas to concepts through product life cycle management approaches and cloud management. No time is lost in learning and experimenting with these in pilot, beta testing environments so you can be well positioned to justify new expenditures based on these ‘investments’.
- One of the biggest issues for me is the continued lack of innovation alignment to the strategy within organizations. A recent report suggested that anywhere from 25% to 50% of your organization’s time and effort is being spent on tasks that don’t fully align with the corporate strategies. If innovation folks don’t understand that their efforts are not really contributing to the strategic goals then you should be concerned. I would suggest fixing this potential ‘unproductive loss’ is a great resolution to pursue.
- When is the right timeframe for innovation delivery? Next quarter, next year, in three years or in what period. Setting about establishing that innovation simply does not conform to annual financial calendars and needs to be accounted for differently would be an incredible, potentially internal breakthrough point. Having this on your resolution list to ‘crack’ through extensive internal discussions so as to allow innovations to move within its more natural discovery through to the right delivery cycle. Far to often it is being shoehorned into a unnatural calendar that limits the original concept and compromises the potential result, that could allow for delivering more game changing innovation would be a dramatic recognition.
- The question still remains for many organizations of when will innovation will be totally embedded in the psyche of the C-level corner office. Spending dedicated time and efforts for the numerous C-level executives to finally ‘get it’ so they move from emerging to emergent would solve one of the biggest innovation inhibitors faced in most organizations. Making the commitment to educate and inform the top echelons or your colleagues on a consistent basis would make a terrific resolution to steadfastly go after throughout the next twelve months.
- Quantifying innovation is always a difficult ‘nut’ to crack. Again the majority of the management want everything to be measured, a return on the investment. Taking time out to delve into the different ways to quantify and establish these as the metrics to be adopted and used can put finally ‘to bed’ this perennial issue. Showing the real value innovation brings to the organization needs a real dedication in understanding. Getting to an innovation value ROI map and all that it impacts as innovation ‘touch points’ can galvanise an organization hugely if they understand this. Time well invested.
Of course, these are just some suggested resolutions, tough ones actually but I think resolutions should be demanding on you. I’m sure you have some of your own that should be written down and ‘baked’ into the 2012 strategic plans to manage, pursue and resolve. Sometimes fixing some of what you have got that sometimes does not fully work, is far better than always searching out for something new. Many of the ones suggested above really would strengthen and embed innovation into your organization’s culture.
Go on, adopt some innovation resolutions that need really fixing in 2012, I’m sure you can name a few. Establish them in your strategic goals and personal commitments and then set about cascading them down and across the organization as important ones to be fixed in 2012. Do plan for fixing them by drawing up your innovation resolution list and include it in any and every review.
Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.