How (and why) to empower corporate innovation in times of crisis
Why invest in innovation during times of crisis?
I recently had the pleasure to speak to RGI in their first online Innovation Summit, where I shared my thoughts on ‘managing innovation in times of crisis’. Here are the summary points.
Why invest in innovation during times of crisis?
1. To increase your opportunity discovery bandwidth. The world is changing rapidly and the ability to spot high-potential innovation opportunities, early enough, becomes a survival trait for businesses.
2. To improve the ‘state of mind’ of your company. Innovation can strengthen the connection among employees and teams, it can fix the morale, the shared attitude.
The key elements and actors for supporting corporate innovation during lockdown.
How to empower innovation in times of crisis?
1. Make it more ‘available’. Provide all the innovation resources via digital means; make your innovation channel always-on.
2. Make it more ‘flexible’. Remove bureaucracies; Make your innovation process simpler, faster, and asynchronous.
3. Ensure it is ‘purposeful’. Connect innovation with the purpose of your organization; innovate with a purpose.
4. Increase its ‘bandwidth’. Enable the company to spot and evaluate more innovation opportunities, faster.
But how to drive the above improvements?
1. A digital home for innovation resources: The Innovation Portal.
1. Present the Innovation Context & Calendar. Your purpose, big problems, and ideas along with a timeline for your innovation activities and plans.
2. Provide a digital toolkit for innovation. Tools, templates, and services that empower people to innovate with digital means — while working remotely.
3. Diffuse Innovation Knowledge. Training material, innovation stories, and a ‘Gateway’ to the ‘community of innovators
4. Provide Access to Innovation Assets. A demo space for innovation artifacts — where people can discover innovation deliverables — prototypes, designs, case studies, experiments.
2. Emphasize the message: Innovation is the means to achieve a bold purpose
1. Review your purpose. Ensure that your purpose is still relevant; re-frame it as needed to reflect the new order of things.
2. Communicate the purpose. Explain how innovation can help to better serve this purpose.
3. Set the Innovation Agenda. Create the Corporate Innovation Agenda — the focus areas for innovation and how they are linked to the organizational purpose; along with problems worth-solving and high-potential ideas waiting for further exploration.
3. Establish a stream of problems worth-solving
1. Share the message: Innovation is not (only) about ideas. Invite people to innovate, also by submitting problem statements; Add ‘problem submission’ to the innovation gamification scheme
2. Handle ‘Problems’ as ‘innovation assets’. Regularly evaluate and prioritize problems — based on their importance and relevance to your strategy.
3. Establish a Backlog of Problems. Make the problem backlog visible via the Innovation Portal — an ongoing ‘call to innovate’ where people can discover important, prioritized problems that need great solutions.
4. Establish an always-on ideas channel
1. Make Idea Submission ‘always-on, accessible by all’. Make your ideation process available to all, at any time: Encourage people to share any idea, in or out of context. Ensure there is a prompt and meaningful response.
2. Make it Self-Service. Introduce a simple process > submit & discover ideas through the Innovation Portal. Initiate ‘Lightweight Hackathons’ and ideation sessions.
3. A model for ideas. Provide a template for ideas: Help people articulate their ideas, or product concepts and features. Provide ideation event templates: Standardize the ‘idea generation events’- e.g. brainstorming. Help people organize ideation events remotely, using digital means.
5. Establish an always-on opportunity discovery panel.
1. Perform regular reviews — evaluate problems and ideas. Establish a regular review process: a panel with the right experts, to evaluate and prioritize problems and ideas; based on objective criteria. The goal is to provide the tools to spot more high-potential ideas, faster.
2. Setup an action plan. A high-potential idea; then what? The team must be able to trigger the right process and forward ideas to the right teams/ stakeholders to take action, immediately.
3. Educate your innovators. Adopt an educational attitude: Provide constructive feedback to innovators; act as innovation mentors.
Founder of Datamine Decision Support Systems ltd • Extensive experience in designing AI-powered digital products and software services • 20+ patents on data-driven systems and Artificial Intelligence concepts • 80+ innovative, data-intensive projects, including Data Warehousing, Data Mining, Predictive modeling • 4x Startup Founder • 20 years of product architecture, software systems design, and digital product development – from concept to launch • Worked for/with 10 multinational corporations in 4 markets • Author of ‘The Innovation Mode’ (Springer 2020) • Producer and chief editor of the '60 Leaders on Innovation' ebook series • Innovation and Technology Advisor with experience in designing/ optimizing 4 Innovation centers/ labs for global technology organizations. Views and opinions are my own.