CCG Innovation Blog – Top 5 Factors in Creating a Pipeline of #innovation – #CCGInnovationTop5

Differentiating a company’s value proposition from its competition is one of the most strategically important things an executive team can do. Innovation is what leads to differentiation, and as long as there are competitors seeking to add to their value propositions, the need for ongoing innovation never ends. Achieving a sustainable pipeline of innovation requires a company to look at innovation from multiple angles. The following is a list of five different dimensions of innovation within a company, all of which are critical to succeed.

Top 5 Factors in Achieving Innovation:

1) Innovation Strategy – A business must have a clear roadmap for what types of innovation are desired, what resources are available, and what goals are important. (What, How, and Who) The overall Corporate Strategy must explain how the company plans to differentiate itself on an ongoing basis. This clarifies where the innovation must occur. A detailed innovation strategy then gives the organization direction on how to continue to differentiate a company from its competition.

2) Culture – There must be a culture that supports and nurtures innovation. The five attributes in “The Innovator’s DNA” by Dyer, Gregersen, and Christensen must be present. Reward structures must also be put into place to signal to employees the importance of embracing change and looking for new ways to remain competitive.

3) People – The skills that lead to innovation are ones that should be encouraged and nurtured across a large percentage of the population of a company. However, it is also vital to have a handful of highly productive natural innovators on your team. There are many books on innovation which put forward a philosophy that anyone can be taught to innovate. This is absolutely true. Anyone’s innovation skills can be improved, and this is a very worthy goal. However, innovating in business is in some ways analogous to winning in professional sports. Anyone can be coached to play basketball better. However, no matter how hard I try, I’m not going to turn into Michael Jordan, regardless of how skilled my coach is.

There are people who have the capacity to see into the future and innovate in ways that a team of a hundred average people could not achieve. You need at least a few of these people. In innovation, one ‘great’ performance can do more for your company than a hundred ‘good’ ones.

Do ensure that you are fostering innovation skills in all of your employees, but also understand that you can have a good group of employees that are trained to be more innovative, but if your competition steps onto the court with Michael Jordan on their team, it isn’t going to go well for you.

Seek out the star players and create an environment where they can be productive, and at the same time coach the rest of your employees to continue to be more innovative.

4) Structure – Having a core group of innovators is critical, but if they are isolated and are unsupported by the rest of the organization, it will be difficult to benefit from their ideas and get new concepts into the marketplace. There is a great book: ‘The Other Side of Innovation’ – by Govindarajan and Trimble, that covers the concept of the ‘dedicated’ portions of an innovation team, and the ‘shared’ resources that must be linked to the innovation, but that are also occupied with the ongoing business.

5) External Connections – No company can stay at the forefront of its industry by focusing solely on what it can do internally. The need for great connections with the rest of the world is the driver for the long term trend towards Open Innovation. This impacts culture, where networking is required. It impacts structure, where some of your resources may not be employees. It also impacts strategy, where you may choose to depend on outside resources to provide innovative solutions that allow you to continue to differentiate from competitors.