A journalist recently asked me this question: What are the five things the CEO of a once-innovative company must do to “innovate innovation” (or innovate the innovation process) and get the creativity process humming again?

These were my replies:

  • Get rid of the reasons why it does not work in the first place. Identify the stumbling blocks and remove them. This includes processes as well as people – and in particular the executives that failed on this.
  • Commit to innovation. A key reason for failure is the lack of real commitment. Innovation is difficult, but it is definitely going to fail when executives do not fully commit to the initiatives that are started. Unfortunately, I see this too often with (open) innovation.
  • Communication is key. You only get one and a half chance to create an innovation culture and thus make innovation work. If you have failed once, then it will be much more difficult the next time you want to implement innovation efforts. The stakeholders in such a process will monitor your actions closely and clear communication on what you intend to do becomes critical.
  • Action speaks louder than words. Communication is key, but it is even more important to walk the talk. One example is middle-management that often hinders innovation just by doing their job. They are told to deliver on very specific terms and they do not want to be disturbed. If innovation efforts require resources they need to get their job done, they are disturbed and conflicts arise. Situations like this need to be solved from the top down.
  • A strong innovation culture requires a strong networking culture. This is becoming even more important as the open innovation movement really takes hold. Executives need to understand that networking does not happen by itself. You need a strategy that sets directions, you need to develop the skills of your employees and give them the time it takes to develop and nurture relationships.

The journalist also asked if I could give an example or two of a company or CEO that has succeeded in innovating innovation.

I like how John Conoley, the CEO of Psion, which makes handheld rugged computers talk about their open innovation efforts. They want to do this to become competitively unpredictable. This is a great goal and I like how he realizes that this requires a trial and error approach. He once said something like this: Do we know all that needs to get done? Definitely not. That is why it is my job to create the conditions for this to succeed.

P&G is the poster boy of open innovation, which definitely is about innovating innovation. 10 years ago, then CEO A.G. Lafley started their journey and it is highly recommendable to look into the many great articles on how he and P&G turned this into a huge success.

By Stefan Lindegaard

About the author

Stefan Lindegaard is a Copenhagen-based author, speaker and strategic advisor. His focus on corporate transformation and innovation management based on leadership, the work force and organizational structures has propelled him into being a trusted source of inspiration to many large corporations, government organizations and smaller companies. He believes business today requires an open and global perspective and he has given talks and worked with companies in Europe, North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In his role as a strategic advisor and coach, Stefan Lindegaard provides external perspectives and practical advice for executives and corporate transformation and innovation teams. He is a widely respected writer and he has written several books including The Open Innovation Revolution published globally. You can follow his work on LinkedIn Pulse.