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For many companies being and continuing to be innovative is essential. But how can companies become ‘more’ innovative? Carmen Kobe & Ina Goller asked experts, consultants, and managers how they experienced successful improvement of innovativeness in their business life. Out of the interviews four interventions that are used to develop companies’ innovation capabilities could be extracted.

The interventions presented in this in-depth article are aimed at developing companies’ innovation capabilities, and focus on the ability to develop new products, services and processes and bring them successfully to market:

  1. selection and training of human resources;
  2. implementation of new structures and practices;
  3. creation and implementation of innovation ideas;
  4. establishing new values and norms.

All four strategies are effective and were used in various examples in a winning way. The main problem for companies seems to be finding the right intensity and range for their strategy. Looking at human resources for example, companies often concentrate only on the obvious needed competencies like creativity, but do forget to dig deeper and define the bigger picture (e.g. team skills).

The outcomes of interventions aimed at innovation will depend on the company’s strategies, abilities and resources. Sustainable innovation activity requires a combination of efforts and abilities. Change requires ongoing, sustained efforts to change based on thorough analysis of existing systems, establishment of new goals, changes and time for effects to emerge. The pace of change in people and everyday behaviors will be moderate, but even small improvements in innovation capability can produce greatly improved results.

About the authors:

Dr Carmen Kobe leads the Creativity and Innovation research group at Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL), ETH, Zurich. She researches and teaches innovation processes, front end innovation, and development of companies’ and employees’ innovation capability. In 2008 she founded Kobe Consulting, a spinoff of ETH that focuses on supporting technical companies to become more innovative (

Ina Goller has worked in consulting organizational and HR issues in national and international organizations for 12 years. Her interest is in changing systems and people. She is a partner in PTA Praxis für teamorientierte Arbeitsgestaltung GmbH and part of the Creativity and Innovation research group at ASL, ETH Zurich.