How Culturesque's 5-Stage Framework Builds Enterprise Capability For Innovation
For companies to become and remain leaders in their field, innovation needs to be central to their strategy and culture. While many companies pursue innovation, very few can say they truly succeed in building an enterprise innovation capability. In working with industry, we have found that limitations in an organization's ability to innovate isn't the lack of willingness or skills of employees; it is a lack of alignment around expectations and understanding between leadership, the organization and those assigned the responsibility for delivering on innovation initiatives. While we talk about changing to an innovative culture, unless we can build alignment and common expectations around the process and framework, the resultant tensions and friction will inevitably result in the initiative to falter.
A 2017 EY survey found 93% of companies believe innovation is important to driving growth, yet only 37% of organizations had a innovation framework or process in place. For executives, while the understand the need to innovate, the challenge remains where to we start?
The Innovation Framework
Culturesque’s Innovation Framework is a method and toolset that helps companies develop clarity and align all tiers of the organization behind a common innovation process and strategy. It is a 5-stage process that helps identify the areas of focus and opportunity, the appropriate innovation paths and channels, defines the innovation culture and helps engage employees as participants in the innovation process.
What sets Cuturesque's corporate innovation framework apart from the innovation approaches present in most companies are the institutional aspects in Stages I and II were we develop and build the institutional foundations and support. In order to develop an innovation culture and framework, we first need to develop and build literacy, trust, and comfort with the innovation process.
I. Organizational Readiness assesses the organization's capacity to innovate, looking at the:
- Current understanding of innovation
- Existing culture, mindsets and mental models
- Willingness and ability to accept risk
- Industry maturity and lifecycle stages
- Capacity and resourcing
The process helps educate and set expectations around innovation and to develop the framework and model that best suits the organizational traits understanding what works in one organization won’t necessarily translate to another. At the end of this initial stage, organizations should be able to answer these four questions:
- What are our expectations of innovation, and how do we see this contributing to our strategic success?
- What is our risk mindset? How fast or far are we prepared to initially move?
- Do we have the culture to support it?
- Do we have the capacity, knowledge and bandwidth currently within the organization?
While a ‘No’ to any of these questions is not fatal to Innovation, it does need to be taken into account when building the innovation culture.
II. Innovation Themes define areas of focus that have the potential for greatest impact and align to the vision and strategic priorities of the company.
- Themes provide alignment and clarity throughout the organization as to where energy, investment and focus should be directed.
- Allows innovation to be directly connected to the organization's strategy and vision.
- Helps educate and engage senior management in the process.
- Permits innovation activities to occur knowing that these areas have Executive support.
- An Innovation Theme ideally should be championed by an Executive Sponsor.
- For the more ‘Conservative’ executive, it provides a method of providing comfort in respect of the bounds and focus of the innovation process.
III. The Creative Thinking tier provides the creative energy in innovation programs. There are many popular methodologies and approaches that address the creative and critical thinking aspects of innovation that can be leveraged by organizations, and most are interchangeable. In addition:
- A well written innovation theme in Stage II contributes to creative thinking by both stimulating and focussing thought on high impact areas.
- To succeed, companies need to create an environment that allows employees to develop a creative attitude, where employees can contribute and discuss ideas free from initial judgement, challenge or criticism.
- While companies invest in stimulating the creative effort and process, they must also have a feedback loop for contributors. Lack of feedback about ideas quickly undermines the culture and energy as people become disillusioned.
IV. Enablement addresses how we pursue and develop the idea and concept. Traditionally enablement would have simply been how we resource the project, but with today's more advanced and complex projects, the focus has moved to looking broader to identify the best innovation channel (internally or externally) that brings the best capabilities and resources together in order to provide greatest likelihood of success.
V. Realization focuses on the end goal of realizing value for the organization from innovation. Where we have success, how do we commercialize or monetize? The value of innovation is lost unless there is also the capability to implement or take innovation to market. Where a concept is found not to be feasible, don’t position it as failure; creating a fear of failure will only inhibit and weaken the innovation culture. Formally debrief, acknowledge and the share the lessons and knowledge gained from the process.
Creating the Innovation Culture
The Innovation Framework provides the tool through which you can start to develop and evolve your organization's innovation culture. This culture will be different for every organization, as it is not recommended or and in most cases not feasible to simply take what has worked in one organization and replicate in another. To infuse the behaviors of innovation into your culture, it is best that the organization starts by fully understanding your current culture, beliefs and values.
For many organizations, developing an innovation culture requires a major transformation in thinking and approach. Many companies underestimate the level of effort and complexity, and soon after announcing with great hype their innovation focus their initiatives fall flat and fail. It's no coincidence that Culturesque's innovation framework places emphasis on the readiness and capacity, and a large part of the process is up-front education in order to provide a level of comfort and understanding around innovation.
It is important to not force the culture, doing so will only create resistance. First understand the organization readiness, and start at a place where people are comfortable. As the organization becomes more comfortable and educated with the innovation framework and process and you start to experience success, let it evolve and scale.
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