In last week’s blogpost, we introduced our tool, the Ecosystem Map, to highlight the importance of the interconnectedness of innovation programs. As a refresher of that piece; programs that are not interconnected often tend towards Innovation Theater - programs that look good on paper but do not create real value for the organisation. This week, we will delve deeper into the components of the Ecosystem Map, and what those components look like in a practical setting.
When assessing the quality of an organization's innovation infrastructure, we typically conduct a workshop activity based on Ecosystem Map created by Tendayi Viki - where we try to understand whether or not their innovation programs are creating real value for their organisations. Prior to the workshop, we ask leaders and teams to capture every innovation program that they are running within their company and write those programs down (i.e. one per sticky note).
Using the Ecosystem Map we then map out all the innovation programs on two axes:
While some might believe that ‘evaluating’ an innovation program would simply be about examining the value they create - meaning how much the programs are ‘moving the needle’ - our tool encompasses two different kinds of value - which we believe are both essential to the pursuit of consistent and repeatable innovation.
Value Creation is about the creation of new products, services, value propositions and business models. Programs that score highly on this axis seek to directly create new sources of revenue for the company - think for example of an innovation lab.
Culture Change is about changing the structures and processes inside the company so that your organization can build the capacity to innovate in a consistent and repeatable way. Programs that score highly on this axis - think for example of a Leadership Innovation Bootcamp - aim to generate:
Leadership Support - to get strategic guidance, portfolio management and protected resources. Leaders understand how innovation works and they invest their time - as well as allocate their team’s time - to innovation and testing.
Organizational Design - to build a bridge between innovation and the core business, create the right incentives and get legitimacy for innovation. Leaders understand that innovation is not a side hobby for team members, it is a legitimate and important part of their contribution to the organization - this perspective ripples throughout the organization.
Innovation Practice - to put in place the right innovation tools, methods, processes and skills. Repeatable innovation is not about gut feelings - it is about introducing a system that collects evidence and bases its decisions on that evidence. Leaders need to trust that evidence and trust the direction that it leads the teams in.
When we outline this framework, some innovation leaders question: but why do we need to care about the cultural aspect of innovation? Don’t we just need to focus on generating new promising ideas? You need to care because without a culture auspicious to innovation, it will not be possible to leverage your new promising idea into a business that can create real value for the company. - and we will outline what this might look like with practical examples below. These three aims are hence incredibly important to help create a culture that encourages and structures innovation.
Without ❌ : Teams are not given the time or ability to pursue their innovation projects - whether it's during a sprint or after it. Innovation related activities are understood to be irrelevant by managers, who hence refuse to adapt workloads and deadlines to enable teams to successfully participate in the projects.
With ✅: Teams are given the time & legitimacy to pursue their projects by their hierarchy. Leaders understand that innovation is an essential part of the team member’s job, and when required, the necessary time is dedicated to the testing process - not because it is a chore, but rather because it’s understood to be an important task.
Without ❌: New ideas are never allowed to leverage the company’s capabilities and knowledge base. The lack of adherence and penetration of the project mean that they are perceived as superfluous by the rest of the organisation, and any calls to assistance are met with contempt and reticence.
With ✅: Innovators in the accelerator can leverage the knowledge and capabilities of the broader organisation and of the standard business operation. This might take the form of branding, or of tools that have shaped the success of the firm. The startup can use the core business brand when they are ready to launch (negotiate better terms with vendors) - or simply rely on the expertise of other members of the organisation (manufacturing, legal procuring.)
Without ❌: Identification of winning ideas is made on the basis of very partial evidence and of leadership’s gut feeling. Even when evidence points towards shelving an idea, senior leaders can override the testing process and decide which ideas to pursue.
With ✅: Innovators are given the possibility to improve their skills over time - through practice and training - and leaders trust the testing process and their teams. Decisions are made based on strength and quantity of evidence rather than gut feeling, and there is an accepted belief in the importance of the innovation ecosystem, rather than simply emphasizing a single program.
In an organization that has adopted & integrated a real innovation culture, teams are given the necessary time, legitimacy, resources and structure to take their ideas from unproven business models to fully leveraged growth engines. The Leadership’s Support enables teams to dedicate the necessary time to testing and iterating. This support largely influences the Organizational Design, and the team’s ability to leverage the company’s capabilities. With support from the hierarchy and the broader organization, teams are able to conduct thorough testing and to base their decisions on the evidence - leading to consistent and repeatable outcomes. This is why we believe it is so important to assess innovation programs based on its ability to build an innovation culture.