By: Pearl Zhu
The business needs to define strategy, profitability, and relevance at any given time to break through bottlenecks and avoid pitfalls on the path to innovation.
Digital innovation has a broader spectrum and enriched context. Innovation is not serendipity but a management process. Generally speaking, innovation has three phases: Discovery of a problem or new ideas; designing a prototype solution and the ultimate delivery of a commercially astute outcome.
Therefore, the best point of view is to see innovation as a system which is capable of developing the organizational-wide core competency to deliver great products, services or figuring out alternative solutions. However, innovation management has an overall very low success rate in the majority of organizations. From the management perspective, what are innovation bottlenecks, and how do we break them through in order to improve innovation capacity and build a unique business advantage?
Idea Management Bottleneck
The original germ of a creative idea is often, if not always, arrived through the interaction of ideas from different domains of thoughts, knowledge, and experiences. Thus, innovation thrives with a multitude of diversity. Homogeneity is the bottleneck of idea generation and silo setting stifles idea creating and flowing. If creativity is about connecting the dots, then innovation is about applying the structural platform and scientific methodologies to transforming novel ideas for achieving their commercial value.
To break through idea management bottleneck, business leaders need to clarify innovation efforts by questioning themselves and others: Can we learn some innovative ideas across the industrial border? Can we also learn what the trend of such new idea is? Innovation happens at the intersection of people and technology, can we identify important technology trends including potential next-generation innovation waves, as well as the key players who are involved in their development? Can we classify the components or operations of ideas? What can interact with these ideas? What parameters does the innovative idea have? Who else is using such new ideas? Who are the main industry players? Ideas are like water, keep flowing, do we have an idea reservoir to keep them up and manage them effectively to unleash their potential?
Most good ideas emerge from business interactions, not single individuals. Therefore, 3 ”C” (Communication, Collaboration, and Consistency) elements are necessities for keeping ideas flow and practicing effective idea management to achieve their business value continually.
Innovation Process Bottleneck
If idea creation is more art than science, then idea implementation is more science than art. Having lots of ideas mean you will fail if you do not have a screening process to systematically evaluate them. The nature of how the implementation of an idea has to follow a logical path for the tailored solution and provides a great opportunity for the digital organization to shine through based on its scientific management discipline.
The main barriers to innovation are silo, rigidity, inflexibility, static process, or bureaucracy, etc. Different types of innovation should be managed by taking the systematic approach with tailored and integrated processes. If your stakeholders are internal process owners and your output stakeholders are the same, the type of innovation you have is continuous innovation. If you take knowledge from one context and bring it over into a new context, you have knowledge or technology transfer innovation with a higher possibility to manage a radical innovation.
With continuous process improvements, you are implementing an efficiency innovation by reducing costs and optimizing processes. Keep in mind, the right level of guidance and process is important to innovation success, but overly rigid processes or too ‘pushy’ goals will create new bottlenecks and stifle innovation.
One of the main barriers to innovation blossom is a business resource. Organizations have limited resources. Many businesses took a big bite of resource to keep the lights on, only left very little for doing innovation. Thus, resource management becomes a bottleneck for innovation success. How resource allocation is determined should be understood by all important parties. An effective resource allocation scenario helps to take advantage of business resources effectively, optimize cost, set priority, keep process transparent, and manage a well-rounded innovation portfolio effectively and efficiently.
The bottom line is, for any company to succeed, it is essential for the entire company to be pulling in the right direction, break through resource bottlenecks, and maximize the growth potential of their business to reach the next level of business innovation maturity.
Innovation Execution Bottleneck
Even you have many innovative ideas, it doesn’t guarantee innovation success due to the possible innovation execution bottlenecks. Most companies fail at innovation execution because they neither have clear processes nor understand the linkage required to work horizontally across departments and create a disciplined or managed space for developing and testing new business models, products, services, and management approaches.
Organizations can become more effective in executing innovative ideas by relying less on silo functions and more on cross-functional collaboration and continuous improvement. The other key to closing the innovation execution gap is about improving the organization’s culture to become more risk tolerant. If you have the right culture, and then, everything else can be connected seamlessly to spark creativity. Innovation execution is an integral part of a strategy-execution continuum. To bridge the innovation execution gap is to de-risk the introduction of innovation into the market, protecting existing operations and brands, and establishing clear proof-of-concept before making investments to launch and scale up innovation practices and improve innovation maturity.
Innovation Talent Bottleneck
Digital innovation has a broader scope and enriched context, you need people with a different talent for various innovation objectives (incremental or breakthrough) to manage a balanced innovation portfolio in different types of companies (products, services, solutions, etc.).
Fresh ideas require Mavericks since being innovative is a state of mind which disrupts legacy thinking or the old way to do things. Innovators play the odd which involves both opportunities and risks. You need to have both idea creators and implementers who can rise above the status quo. To break through talent bottlenecks, it’s important to build a culture of learning and creativity, recognize innovators and encourage diversity of thoughts. Have the good sense and charisma to attract or to surround yourself with the right people who can either generate great ideas by providing fresh viewpoints or move the idea into actions step by step. Spotting and scoring individual as an innovator needs to focus on individual capabilities and potential to innovate. Have the right people with unique insight and valuable experiences in place to rigorously make the needed decisions, optimize processes, and manage innovation efforts systematically.
Innovation is the core activity of human evolution to changing the environment for reaching high performance and improving profit, for saving of resources and satisfaction of customers. Innovation is about reinventing the business direction and purpose at any time to achieving high-performance business results. The business needs to define strategy, profitability, and relevance at any given time to break through bottlenecks and avoid pitfalls on the path to innovation. Innovation has to become the business routine and collective mindset. It takes strategy, discipline, and daily practices to streamline innovation processes, scale-up, and reap the benefit for the long term business prosperity.
By Pearl Zhu
About the author
Pearl Zhu is an innovative “Corporate Global Executive” with more than twenty-one years of technical and business working experience in strategic planning, Information Technology, software development, e-commerce and international trading, etc. She holds a master’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Southern California, and she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area for 15+ years. She is the author of the Digital Master book series and the Future of CIO blog.