The human body serves as the perfect metaphor for understanding the innovation challenge facing today’s organizations. The body is built to adapt and respond to demands that are placed upon it. The greater the demand, the stronger the response. If you and your organization are going to thrive in this world you must build and keep your innovation muscles strong. We know that only the fittest survive.

Unfortunately, too many organizations suffer from overweight bureaucracies, which crush employee enthusiasm and creativity. Rather than seizing on high potential opportunities and championing a bright future, they procrastinate and deny market realities. These out-of-shape organizations find themselves falling behind on a quarterly basis because they are unable to think differently, decide quickly, and collaborate effectively. They are simply not fit enough to successfully compete and win in today’s fast paced global economy.

Measuring innovation fitness

To meet the innovation challenge head on, it is critical to know how your organization is performing. Knowing outcome measures like the percentage of revenue generated by products developed in the last three years is helpful, but insufficient. You need a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the enablers and barriers to innovation. You must know what is working and what is not in order to be able to harness the full potential of your innovation capabilities. Without a framework or any metrics to guide your analysis you will be forced to guess at the fitness level of your organization.

Based on our work with pioneering enterprises around the world (e.g., BBC, Panera Bread, IBM, Toyota, Swisscom, Phillips, Stanford University, Kaiser Permanente), we have learned a great deal about what makes innovation successful. And we created a survey, which focuses on ten innovation success factors that separate the peak performers from poorly-conditioned organizations who find themselves unfit to deliver innovative solutions to the market on a consistent basis. Those factors include:

  1. Innovation Leadership
  2. Management Accountability
  3. Employee Engagement
  4. Innovation Training
  5. Sponsors and Resources
  6. Innovation Tools
  7. Breakthrough Ideas
  8. Collaborative Culture
  9. Market Inspiration
  10. Open Innovation

Your organization’s fitness level is determined by the ability of your people to effectively create value through the implementation of new ideas. Rather than taking a lone genius approach, we believe it is everyone’s job to think about how to create a better future. In fact, innovation needs to flow top down, bottom up, outside in and inside out. A culture of innovation recognizes that good ideas can and do come from anywhere. These inclusive and collaborative cultures view innovation as a team sport and understand that from diverse perspectives comes novel solutions. New web 2.0 tools enable an enterprise to easily and cost effectively tap the collective intelligence of its people.

Leading the Way

There are many ways you can start to build a fitness program that welcomes innovation and gets the most out of the potentially boundless ideas of their employees. Armed with insights from the survey, you can target your interventions toward areas offering the greatest impact. The goal is to use the survey results to develop a game plan that ensures your workforce is fundamentally fit for the future—resilient, adaptive, inspiring and accountable.

We have found successful leaders boost the innovation potential of their enterprise by inspiring others about what is possible; ensuring the importance of innovation is recognized by all; and by creating what may at first sound like an impossible paradox – establishing a discipline of innovation. These leaders strategically and systematically build this discipline through a unique mix of resources, processes, tools, and values that allow everyone to contribute, while making it hard for rivals to match. People at all levels are expected to follow the leader’s example and embrace an innovative mindset and master the skills required to achieve the highest levels of innovation fitness.

The benefits of being fit

Enterprises that have established a high level of innovation fitness benefit from having everyone, everywhere, take responsibility for innovation everyday – whether as an Idea generator, mentor, sponsor, facilitator or team member. These organizations enjoy numerous advantages:

  • An infinite source of high potential ideas
  • Speed and agility of implementation
  • Continuous performance improvement
  • Delighted and loyal customers
  • Employee engagement and satisfaction

The last bullet should not be overlooked. Innovation offers a powerful vehicle for engaging employees. Being invited to share your creativity and contribute ideas builds ownership, satisfaction, and loyalty. Few things are more motivating to employees than seeing their ideas get realized. It is a win-win proposition. The organization gets valuable ideas from employees who feel valued.

How fit is your organization?

If you’re interested in learning what your innovation score is, take the quiz here. You can find out what skills to enhance and grow and all survey participants receive an excerpt of the EDG book COSTAR.

If you have questions about the survey or how to improve the speed, flexibility or impact of your innovation efforts, please don’t hesitate to contact the Enterprise Development Group.

By Laszlo Gyorffy

About the author

Laszlo Gyorffy, M.S. is President of the Enterprise Development Group. For over 20 years, Laszlo has worked with organizations around the globe to expand the possible; helping them refocus, redesign, and reenergize their business strategies and innovation practices to succeed in an increasingly dynamic and demanding market place. Laszlo is an accomplished speaker and author of Creating Value with CO-STAR: An Innovation Tool for Perfecting and Pitching your Brilliant Idea as well an opening chapter on innovation leadership in the textbook The Global Innovation Science Handbook. He is a certified instructional designer and trainer and has delivered transformational programs like the Innovation Advantage and the Secrets of Silicon Valley. Laszlo recently developed the One Hour Innovator, a cloud-based toolkit that helps people innovate better, faster, and smarter. The methods used in these trainings and tools have created business solutions worth millions of dollars in new revenue and cost efficiencies. You can reach Laszlo at

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