How to be truly innovative

According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, called The Five Requirements of a Truly Innovative Company by Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant there are five parts of an innovation engine often overlooked:

1. Employees who’ve been taught to think like innovators

So few companies have invested systemati­cally in improving the innovation skills of their employees. Those companies wanting innovation must teach  individuals to challenge invisible orthodoxies; harness underappreciated trends; leverage embedded competencies and assets; address “unarticulated” needs. It adds that with a bit of training, and some opportunities for real-world practice, just about anyone can (sig­nificantly) upgrade their innovation skills.  

2. A sharp, shared definition of innovation

To manage innovation in a systematic way, companies must have a widely understood definition of innovation. However, coming up with a practical definition of innovation is harder than it sounds, particularly if the goal is to rank every new initiative or product by its “innovative­ness.” It can take several months for a company to hammer out its defini­tion of innovation. As a starting point, it is important to look back over a decade or two and identify the sorts of ideas that have produced noticeable margin and revenue gains.

3. Comprehensive innovation metrics

Companies measure just about everything that has an impact on the bottom line, yet strangely, they often shy away from measuring innovation. While it is difficult, there are ways of measuring innovation performance. A comprehensive dashboard should track inputs, throughouts, outputs, leadership, competence, climate, efficiency and balance.

4. Accountable and capable innovation leaders

Most leadership development programs give scant attention to innovation-enabling attitudes and behaviours. Through selection, training, and feedback, companies must work hard to create a cadre of leaders who are as adept at fostering innovation as they are at running the business.

5. Innovation-friendly management processes

The article points out that any process that significantly impacts investment, incentives or mindsets needs to be re-engineered for innovation. While over the past couple of decades, virtually every company has comprehensively over­hauled its operating model for efficiency and speed, few companies have devoted anywhere near this level of effort to retooling their management practices for innovation.

The full article can be read here.