Reimagining Innovation

Manifesto for Effective Empowerment and Change

All organisations across the globe have been impacted by the tumultuous change that the COVID-19 health crisis brought. For some, the impact is a threat to their very existence, and for others, the opportunity to benefit from new ways of working, purchasing and using services that people and business are now embracing.

As we enter the initial stages of recovery and beyond, senior leaders of many organisations are taking the opportunity to step back, look and how they did things before, and consider whether there are alternative & better ways of working.

Innovation has a key role to play in this recovery, but an honest appraisal of past innovation efforts is leading many organisations to assess whether innovation itself needs to be tackled in a more transparent, inclusive, agile and effective manner, as more of their workforce, partners, suppliers and customers adjust to a different future with significantly increased remote working, selling and buying.

Our Manifesto for More Effective Empowerment and Change presents smartcrowds’ view of the challenges that lie ahead, with a number of articles that provide insight into WHY reimagined innovation should be a goal of many organisations, WHAT an architecture for reimagined innovation might look like, and HOW reimagined innovation can be delivered in practice.

WHY Reimagine Innovation?

One of the most critical barriers to successful innovation is organisational culture. The sudden arrival of the Covid-19 crisis has only served to accentuate these cultural issues, with many organisations re-assessing how they do business, how they support their employees and how they make the best use of digital technologies. These sound like perfect candidates for innovation challenges that could get the creative juices of the workforce flowing; but what if the organisation is not yet culturally ready to involve its workforce in its innovation initiatives effectively?

In this section, we look at some of the foundational challenges that need to be addressed by organisations who aspire to be innovative, with a focus on how they can better position themselves to respond to increased uncertainty, maximise engagement from across the business & its wider stakeholders, and adopt a balanced attitude to risk that supports an innovative culture.

Innovation – An Essential in a Fast-Changing World

In recent years, the acronym VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity) has been gaining popular use in the business press. Add Digital into the mix and the VUCA(D) world can seem a scary place, but it needn’t be. Here we suggest some traits that we see in organisations that are best placed to embrace the challenges and opportunities of the VUCA(D) world.

Thriving in a Changing VUCA World

Setting the “Why” for Innovation in Your Organisation

Getting informative answers starts by asking the right questions. The same is true for innovation, set the right challenges and the chances of uncovering game-changing ideas is multiplied. But where to start? Here, we suggest some techniques and tools to identify where to focus challenges and how to communicate them effectively.

Preparing for Strategic Innovation

Driving Change with an Effective Innovation Risk Culture

Risk is inherent in all organisations and must be managed to maximise opportunities and mitigate against threats. The same is true for innovation; take on too many big risky bets and the organisation may not be around to tell the tale; take no bets and run the risk of being disrupted by a competitor who does. Here, we suggest some tactics for managing innovation risk effectively.

Reducing Risk in a Volatile World

Employee-driven Innovation – Gold Standard Engagement

You can have the best systems, processes and documentation and your innovation programme can still fail. Why? Because, at its heart, innovation is about people, it’s about your employees wanting what is best for your customers. Here, we suggest some traits we see in innovative organisations that supports employees to think innovatively and ways in which an innovation system can be organised to maximise this engagement.

Engaging For Stronger Innovation

WHAT is Reimagined Innovation?

The design of an innovation system is a critical cog in the overall success of an organisation’s innovation programme. Designed well, the system will be a natural extension to the existing structure of the organisation – so much so that innovation just happens. As work practices change, including increasing numbers of the workforce operating remotely, it is more important than ever that the innovation system that is put in place not only supports the objectives and mission of the business, but does so in such a way as to help every employee easily understand how their efforts can make a difference, and rapidly build confidence in their own involvement - whatever their role in the organisation, the innovation process or their place of work.

In this section, we look at various approaches to innovation system design, highlighting some of the potential risks and pitfalls that are associated with a design that doesn’t support distributed working effectively. We present our views on innovation system design thinking, along with techniques and approaches that might enable organisations who are looking to embrace a new way of working to flourish in the months and years ahead.

Democratising Innovation with Technology

Organisational Innovation has often revolved around central innovation teams managing initiatives on behalf of stakeholder business units. As the move towards more distributed working intensifies, we discuss here how that approach might stifle innovation, and present key architecture questions that organisations should consider as they seek to democratise innovation, enabling business units to own and manage their innovation activities locally.

An Innovation Ecosystem for a Better Normal

Ensuring Return from Innovation through Effective Governance

For organisations seeking regular breakthrough change, the use of isolated, fleeting challenges that spring up across the business might initially seem like a good idea. Here, we look at the problems of associated with this ‘transient’ innovation approach and consider how an ‘organisationally aligned’ approach that adopts a balanced blend of autonomy and governance can support the organisations goal of developing a growing pool of serial intrapreneurs.

The Challenges of Transient Innovation

Facilitating Innovation in a Distributed Workforce

Driving innovation outcomes that always align with an organisation’s complex and changing strategy, with a more distributed workforce, increases operational risk. That risk can be managed by the development of incremental innovation capability across the business, but how can this be achieved with more wide-spread remote working? Here we discuss an innovation architecture which supports this distributed innovation challenge and is designed to deliver consistent results.

A Design Approach for Autonomous Innovation

Building your Innovation System around your Organisation

Your organisation is a complex, multi-level hierarchy of interlinked business units, each with goals that contribute to the achievement of the business's objectives. Driving sustainable improvement & innovation in such a setting might seem a daunting endeavour. Here, we consider that this is an achievable goal, and present an organisational-design approach to innovation systems that optimises alignment with business goals at all levels of the organisation, with agility and governance as guiding principles.

Designing for Democratised Improvement

Reimagination in Practice

Successful innovation stems from more than simply the collection of a bank of ideas. It requires a robust, collaborative framework that steps the organisation from the initial problem that needs to be solved (challenge setting) through to implementation of new, original ideas. Throughout the years, physical, face-to-face workgroup events have proved an effective means for organisations to drive their innovation initiatives forward, but the enforced distributed working environment brought forward by Covid-19 has rendered these events all-but-impossible.

In this section, we look at the key stages of a typical innovation challenge and the impact that more flexible working practices, including more prevalent distributed working, will bring. We consider various methods, approaches and tools that can help organisations retain (and even enhance) the energy and momentum that was previously generated in office-based, in-room innovation events, but with a blend of diligence, structure and agility that will be required as more of us work apart.

Helping your people think differently for new ideas

The challenge has been launched, the target group identified, and the communications sent stating “we want your ideas!”. It can’t fail! All that is left is to wait for the ideas to roll in. Although this approach might uncover some ideas, a better approach is to generate more ideas, then some more again. Here, we look at how to increase the number of ideas ‘in-play’ significantly and increase the chances of finding transformational ideas.

Engaging for alternative ways of thinking

Communicating new ideas that build energy and momentum

Some research claims that 90% of new ideas never get actioned because they are simply not understood by anyone other than the originator. If this is anything like true, then ideation, brainstorming, and other methods of idea creation may well be a massive waste of effort. Here, we suggest a method of communicating ideas, including a basic numbers model, that allows the person(s) assessing an idea’s potential to quickly understand it without further clarification.

The Importance of Clear Communication of Ideas

Planning and Running Remote Ideation Sessions

The world of work has, for many, markedly changed and is unlikely to return to be exactly like it was pre-Covid-19. This brings challenges for those, including innovation leaders, who relied on in-room, face-to-face meetings and other sessions to help engage the workforce to drive transformational thinking and meaningful business change. Here, we look at how these sessions can be replicated, and even improved, in the world of remote teams.

Planning and Running Remote Ideation Sessions

Opening up the Innovation Pipeline – Faster Screening and Selection

It can be tempting when carrying out an initial assessment of ideas to discount some that seem too difficult, too expensive, too time consuming to implement or do not meet any number of other criteria. The danger with this approach is that transformational ideas are rarely ‘easy to do’ and may be discounted early. Here, we suggest a simpler, consistent and repeatable initial assessment that can be carried out, along with later stage exploration to test wider criteria.

Screening Remotely - Faster Idea Selection

Helping Good Ideas Take Root and Grow

The exploration phase is where the extended testing of an idea’s validity should take place. This phase of the idea life cycle should build confidence that the idea should be progressed to the implementation stage or should be shelved. Each of these outcomes is valid, if they are done quickly and without incurring high costs. Here, we discuss an accelerated learning method which promotes rapid testing of the ‘riskiest’ idea assumptions first.

Gaining A Toe Hold on a Smooth Sheer Cliff Face

Using Numbers to Build Confidence and Momentum in Good Ideas

Innovation is an activity that carries risk. Innovation is about the future and doing things that haven’t been done before. This is the stuff of risk and uncertainty. So, what role should “number-crunching” play in the innovation process? Should innovation teams be encouraged to rely only on entrepreneurial instincts, or can numerical analysis help them? Here, we present a sensible use of numerical modelling that speeds up the innovation process while reducing risk

Measure for Measure – Increasing confidence in an idea