Where do you stand?
In my last post, Check Yourself, we discussed the short list of big questions you need to “check your business before you wreck your business”. That’s because trying to drive growth through the unfamiliar methods of innovation can be an unnatural act for most established companies.
First, do no harm.
It’s easy to do more harm than good.
Growth by innovation – without the right team or preparation – is like going on any journey ill-equipped. Starts fun. Ends badly.
Bad results leave bad memories. Expect failure to delay the appetite for innovation. It may just set you back a few quarters, but if your culture has a long memory, it could take another generation of leaders to risk a second run at it.
You Are Here.
To plan properly you need a more comprehensive assessment, and action plan to build innovation capabilities. It’s like plotting a big “You Are Here” pin on the map. Once you know where you are, it’s a lot easier to get where you want to go.
To do that properly, you need an objective benchmark.
Over the years we’ve designed and refined our own scorecard for corporate innovation. You may find it gives you a clearer path for your own organization.
Chart a path.
Test your executives on their perceptions, and back it up with evidence to ensure objectivity: Do you have an accurate sense of the trends, drivers and volatility underpinning your markets? How clear and broadly understood is your vision? How dedicated would you say your leaders are to taking risks to win the future? What’s the organization’s fitness and alignment to deliver on that aspiration?
We gauge organizations across those factors on five levels of sophistication. It starts with very novice capabilities at Level One, where innovations appear completely random. At Level Two they move up to disjointedly opportunistic, and up the scale to capable Level Three – where your people have the basics down cold on a repeatable innovation cycle. At Level Four systemic innovation means everyone pulls together and you start to see the economies of connectivity, where 1 + 1 produces substantially more than 2.
At Level Five the organization practices a natural competence where innovation looks easy or even disappears into the wallpaper. You flex with the changing markets, completely adaptive to prevailing conditions.
Few reach Level Five’s “innovation nirvana” on all aspects of their organization. But if you don’t try, you won’t have a shot.
You can audit your innovation capacity against this Innovation Competency Matrix™.
Figure out where you are on the scale, then set a roadmap to build innovation excellence into the fiber of the business. When you push your organization forward, you’ll find your:
- leaders inspire informed risk-taking consistent with your portfolio strategy for innovation. In most organizations, leaders espouse grand goals with no clear strategy. Followers either get disappointed when priorities shift, or blamed when efforts fail.
- processes enable your people to reveal new market opportunities and design solutions that exploit your assets and brand advantages. Great innovators know their customers better than they know themselves – much the way that Netflix or Amazon anticipates your preferences and offers remarkably prescient suggestions.
- structure compels teams to collaborate. In most organizations innovation is a hobby sport of self-organizing teams who have to buck the system to take a risk.
- people apply the knowledge, tools, skills, discipline and aspiration to find the future first and win it best.
- culture reflects these aspirations in a virtuous circle.
You will see the results of your efforts in the the quality and cadence of the outcomes you achieve. This makes a useful foundation for a broader survey of your people and your customers.
Measure your readiness.
You’ll know when you’re making progress. Results show up in a growing font of new revenues. Real innovation drives new income streams from sources you could never have otherwise achieved.