Recognizing an innovation need

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Increasingly I am noticing that Organizations are facing the increasing dilemma of how to organize and manage within their present systems and structures their innovation activities.

Innovation is becoming far too complex for the innovation process installed within the (one) organization. It is far too self-contained and not open to the collaborative environment we need today, where others outside the one organization can freely exchange and collaborate on the same platform.

I have argued for some time we do not have an “innovation fit-for-purpose” system, we still are focusing far too much on having separate solutions for the front end (IP discovery), then idea generation, and then keep separately the pipeline and portfolio management. We are still randomly applying a range of tools that individuals have collected for themselves to complete their part of the job and the outputs can’t be shared. We continue to exchange across different social channels, often seen as a necessary evil to be bridged, as often systems do not “speak” to each other.

We fail to connect up all of our innovation process and design. When will we have a fully integrated, end-to-end innovation system? Some software solution providers seem to be working towards it but tend to keep adding pieces and not stepping back and designing a fully integrated process. Why? We are managing innovation at often very sub-optimal levels of effectiveness.

As organizations are being forced to deal in increasing complexity and environmental turbulence and focusing more and more on ‘adapting the appropriate response,’ they are increasingly being forced to respond early and provide back into the marketplace incremental innovation. Stepping out of the incremental trap and looking for new growth curves remains increasingly a difficult one to master. It actually needs a bold move to radically overhaul the innovation process and practices, without risking to disrupting the current innovation system as you go through the changes this requires.

We are caught in a new innovation dilemma

Yet are there any innovation processes, practices, and system solutions up to the job of handling complex products, in highly collaborative environments, where open exchanges are needed, outside the one entity? The tendency is to stay fixed on what they have got within the existing regime and try to extend it out into a more open collaborative system but these continuous “bolt-ons” do not provide enough change, it needs a radical new design approach.

We need to put into place a more robust innovation system and process to handle more complex, radically designed innovation solutions from end-to-collaborative end needed. For me, that is designing an end-to-end collaborative platform solution, one dependent on the cloud, having a robust technology solution that manages the complete innovation process from end-to-end.

Organizations are caught in a real tug of war within much of what they do in business today; in their responses and reactions to many of the dramatic business conditions they are facing, many deteriorating or being challenged by greater global competition or being disruptive by technology becoming a growing part of any innovation design. We are facing a very uncertain future if we base our actions and measure the outcomes on past practices.

I would argue the market is changing, customers are demanding more connected, technological innovation solutions to meet their needs. We need a new innovation thinking model, one where we are pushing to seek increasing new knowledge constantly on learning continuously about what that innovation solution can provide, right up until the time of launch and then beyond in new insights and improvements.

Past practices and systems are inadequate for today’s globally connected world

In our past management practices, we have operated and exploited the linear world for ever-increasing efficiencies and effectiveness as the critical focal point. Innovation has tended to fit within this, hence why we have so much incremental innovation, it is improving on what we have got.  This approach was fine when we operated and relied on stability, predictability and a willing end-user, ready to accept ‘our’ offer of product or service. All three of these conditions are increasingly absent from our world today and will increasingly be challenged in the future.

The world is increasingly being disrupted, are markets are becoming more unpredictable as more competitors enter the global chase for business growth and the end-user has become increasingly savvy in knowing how to search for the best deal or finding solutions that some limited adaption to his/her needs is good enough to get their job done, even on a sustaining basis.

We are not responding to the underlying changes and demands of our customers in many industries still, we give them what we have, until the nimble, new entrepreneurial enterprise spots weakness and recognizes the real need.

To be ready to respond we must be ready to seek out unexpected outcomes, or unmet needs. To achieve this we need to have a deeper digital connection into our customers, a constant two-way flow to be increasingly exposed to new opinions, experiences and learn from all those insights, spot opportunities, adjacencies and new connections to add and define new potential  value that can be offered, within our domain of expertise or recognize it needs to be brought in through a collaborative environment, so as to meet these needs or outcomes..

There is this constant set of discussions about changing structures and models to become more adaptive, agile, lean, flexible and fluid; to react and deal with the increasing turbulence occurring all around us but our innovation system of purpose stays rigid and structured to optimize a “repeatable process” when we often seem to miss one critical point, new innovation should be (radically) different.

We need to shift from ideas into impact and that needs a different delivery approach.

We actually are in urgent need of new innovation management operating model based more on technology solutions that can generate digital innovation and deliver greater impact as a connected solution made up of product, service and technology design.

For the way, we undergo innovation and its development of turning ideas into winning concepts of value, the principles of platforms and ecosystems make a “compelling” sense. It draws in the value of technology, connecting up the access to multiple solutions for the client to assess and incorporate in their innovation needs. It brings in outside expertise and specialization to build a solution that has a greater value proposition as it combines physical product, service design, and technology inclusion. A Nike running show has technology built into it, it offers the service of providing the data knowing how you are performing and delivers the right product designed for the job it needs to do. That is an innovative solution that needs a collaborative design to deliver.

We need to raise up our thinking for future innovation design.

We need a new management practice to deal with our digital world that can extract the value it offers. One real need is for increasing knowledge and then being equipped in interpreting this in our learning, daily routines and activities are becoming paramount to break out of a declining performance cycle.

Our increasing connectivity brought about by our digital world is giving us increasing volumes of insights, richness in options possible at increasing speed. We are in a hyper-connected world, potentially global for all of us and increasingly we will be forced to operate in interdependent ecosystems and platforms that allow us to collaborate and share, driving up awareness and performance and bring these insights into products that match this need.

The world is also shifting in the need to design or extend products to prolong their life. We expect to see extended life cycles to support the limited resources we have available in the world. We will see more digital enter into our innovation practices, in cognitive, automating and in analytics and data collection, to speed up innovation cycle times but to increasingly add different value throughout the lifetime generation of that product offering.

Are we able to update products at scale, to extend their useful value by offering additional value propositions? Do our innovation systems set out to purposefully design for longer lifetime use? The consumer is expecting this increase in a resource-stretched world where essential materials are under increasing pressure and recycling is not extracting enough to offset new demand created by updated versions of something. Think Smartphones here, requiring rare earth metals but just being thrown away in the chase for the latest version.

Our world is shifting from scalable efficiency to scalable learning.

We need to explore and scale differently, we need to spend more time on rationalizing our ideas by validating them. The shift from ideas into scaling and execution calls for a broad, ecosystem-orientated business model and this calls for increased scale, speed and set of collaborations, increasingly built on-platform engagement. We need to accelerate decision-making and through access to an ecosystem of innovation partners, there is increasing access to better knowledge and deeper understanding.

Classic models of management are presently being broken down and rebuilt in new ways based on platform and through a more ecosystem approach, this has such exciting potential for applying to innovation management.

This means a more “open” approach, a highly collaborative one, where the power of many can focus on delivering better, more engaging and valuable solutions. We are expecting a more continuous and collaborative structure that stays in place with customers and partners, increasingly reliant on each other, building up trust and mutual value appreciation.

Collaborating in collective ways helps break down complexity.

You have to be open, prepared far more to share, to build trust and seek out increasing relationships and diversity of knowledge and much of that comes from external sources of new knowledge.

What will be rewarded in this connecting world is agility to respond, the ability to absorb and learn quickly, and the nimbleness to translate and adapt new learning into insights and eventual outcomes, that build out our businesses, keeping them healthy, growing and sustainable. That will only come from a more highly collaborative environment, where multiple organizations come together and contribute their expertise.

An ecosystem design for innovation to extract that scalable learning through a platform design where individual organizations recognize they need to collaborate more openly, on an innovation platform fit for today’s environment, where all involved in the design and delivery of innovative solutions, that include the  final customer, are purposefully engaged to achieve the best result.

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