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There is no “one size fits all” formula for innovation management success. Demystifying innovation takes experiments and practices. In this article, we’ll explore five tactics to use in order to develop and manage a successful innovation program.

The essence of innovation is made of trying the different combinations of known things to create new stuff and figure out the better way to do things. Digital innovation is the incremental improvement – radical innovation continuum. Different organizations have different strengths and competencies to innovate. It takes strategies, disciplines, and daily practices to flex the “innovation muscle“ and renew creative energy to reach the next level of innovation maturity.

Discover the Needs

Innovation is the most wanted change. It is important for businesses to discover the needs of innovation as the first step. Innovation has a broader scope in the digital era, it accomplishes far more than incremental product improvement or internal process optimization, it can build evolutionary business models, as well as path-breaking products and services that leap the business to the next level of business growth cycle.

Digital is the era of customers. Innovation is in the eye of the beholder – customers. Thus, people and consumers’ experience are at the center of everything you do. Focusing on meeting important customer needs helps to assure that the results of an innovative approach will have a positive impact on clients, users, partners, and the marketplace.

Business innovation is about creating a value proposition that would move your prospects to become your clients; more importantly, to improve customer retention. It takes vision, empathy, and understanding of innovation efforts to manage a balanced innovation portfolio with the right mix of breakthrough innovation, evolutionary innovation, and incremental innovation.

Leverage Information Technology to Foster a Creative Environment

The other innovation practice is about how to take tailored innovation approaches or apply better methodologies or the latest technologies to improve collective creativity. Digital technology enables companies to leverage their various environments, or ecosystems, to foster a creative environment, chase innovation and accelerate performance.

Digital innovation has a broader spectrum and diverse taste. Information Technology is the super glue to weave people, processes, and all other critical business elements into unique innovation competency, integrate policies, programs, and structures for managing a balanced innovation portfolio, scale up innovation practices, amplify innovation effect, set up the collaboration platform and glue up the innovation framework which enables the business to manage innovation in a structural way.

Develop Employees Entrepreneurially

To keep innovation alive in the organization, it’s necessary first to assure your think tank that you are willing to make an investment with calculated risks. There is no template which you can apply and suddenly have a creative workforce. It has to be done slowly, patiently, and individually. Encourage employees to do things and solve problems in their own way to bring good results.

It’s important to create an environment where people want to work, encourage brainstorming, the top leaders inspire idea sharing, respect collective insight, develop employees entrepreneurially, and discover new innovative stars and let them drive. If you could create a culture that nurtures creativity and catalyzes innovation, people will dare to be innovative as long as they know they won’t get penalized for a bad idea and get rewarded for a good one. Business innovation is bravery – practice, practice, and practice more, it can take you to a whole other place.

Transfer Knowledge

Knowledge fuels innovation. If you take knowledge from one context and bring it over into a new context, you have knowledge or technology transfer innovation. Absorbing knowledge is only the beginning of learning. How deeply your understanding is based on the mindset, logic, lenses, and methodology you leverage to interpret things. Learning becomes a knowledge builder and we can define learning through the information it absorbs, the insight being captured, and the capability it builds.

The learning friendly workplace uses the diversity of ideas as a rich source of connectivity and relationship, to foster innovation, and provide breakthrough thinking to arrive at creative outcomes that would be otherwise very unlikely. The ultimate goal of knowledge transfer is to ensure such organizations keep tapping their innovation potential and they know the tasks and knowledge required to sustain themselves and create an environment and business systems to reach the well-defined vision.

Feed-Forward Practices

Either for improvement or innovation, feedback is always about how to improve performance so it’s always about the future. Feedback is not limited and static as opposed to expansive and dynamic. If you want to create a great future for the organization, the team needs to be responsive to feedback. Feedback does not focus on the past, it tells you what is happening so that you can adapt.

Feedback needs to be continuous, as close to real time as possible. Feedback not only helps to act but also aids to feedforward for managing innovation. Eventually, feedback should always be genuinely proper, precise, and substantive, it is a solution to the problem of cluelessness. In fact, feedback-feedforward practices are important to improve innovation effectiveness and achieve fruitful business results.

High-mature digital businesses and emerging markets offer particularly fertile ground for exploring innovation opportunities and developing innovation competencies cross-industrial ecosystems. Innovation has to result in something which leads us to a better state than where we are today. There is no “one size fits all” formula for innovation management success. Demystifying innovation takes experiments and practices. Each organization has to define its own compelling and unique methodologies, develop tailored innovation practices, and take a mix of different approaches to address the needs and meet their own circumstances to improve the success rate of innovation and amplify innovation impact.

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 “Digital Master” book series and the “Future of CIO blog.