May 9, 2011

Established Drivers of Innovation

There is a growing body of work on the leading edge practices in innovation management.

Consultants and scholars concur on a number of proven conditions that contribute to sustained innovation. These includes;

- Shared Understanding: Sustained innovation is a collective endeavor built on a shared sense of what the company is becoming - and what is not becoming. It is also about creating a culture to support innovation - for example, by destigmatization failure and celebrating successes.

- Alignment: Besides promoting values that support innovation, organizations, also have to address structural impediments and realign contradictory systems and processes. As a group head of innovation in one company told me, "we needed to create an environment where it was safe to experiment; where it was possible to pilot and test ideas before they were subjected to our stringent performance metrics.

- Tools: Employees need the training, concepts and techniques to innovate. In the memorable words of a decision support manager at 3M, "It doesn't work to urge people to think outside the box without giving them the tools to climb out".

- Diversity: Innovation requires a degree of friction. Bringing in outsiders - new hires, experts, suppliers or customers - an mixing people across business units, functions and geographies helps spark new ideas.

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