Are you on a journey of making your organization Design and Innovation Centric?
Enterprises of all sizes know the value of innovation for their business. Many business leaders are exploring ways to make their organizations Design Centric and nurture a culture of innovation within all employees and partners.
Where do you start, and how to start and take the innovation initiative ahead?
These 6 Parameters of innovation would come handy, whether your organization is a small startup or a multi-national, billion $ enterprise. You could use these 6 P’s to identify, where your organization is on the path of innovation, also establish how to invest appropriately in these 6 P’s to make your organization design-centric.
The six P’s are namely; Purpose, People, Process, Place, Projects, and Proliferation. Yes, it’s that simple! Let take them one by one
It’s important to define what does innovation mean to your organization? Based on the focus of your organization, you should elaborate the objective of innovation for your organization. For product companies, it could simply be ‘making your products and solutions more innovative, competitive, efficient, and delightful’. For a company offering services, it could be, improving the efficiency, delight of your offering, or finding new avenues of business, or increase more revenue.
The purpose may vary based on present state of your organization, picking up the top business challenges, of your organization at present, or in near future is the best way to start.
Here are some examples of objective statements for innovation initiatives:
- Nurture Culture of innovation across all of the work-force.
- Transforming the culture of ‘Workers’ to culture of ‘Thinkers’
- A holistic approach to solving customer problems than product or feature focused thinking.
- Creating, improving ‘Complete customer experience’ for target customers, and users.
- Finding adjacent opportunities for new offerings or product lines.
- Disrupting an altogether new way of doing things, processes, offerings, business models and so on.
The purpose should be strictly in line with the vision of the executive leadership of your organization. Just one reminder, the objective could even change, over time.
The next step is to make a list of appropriate stakeholders for the initiative. Innovation is a collaborative and cross-functional affair, make sure you have a fair representation of all relevant functions. Having an executive buy-in a good way to start. You should not invest immediately in dedicated manpower for the innovation initiative, instead, let the team grow organically as and when required. Having a dedicated small team assigned to a task of the initiative is very important.
- A dedicated lean team owning the Innovation initiative is a must. The role of the dedicated team should be like a catalyst or an enabler. Innovation enablers bring in their own tools or methods (Maybe design thinking) on the table, and other members jump in and out for projects; would be the best model to start with.
- Select members from appropriate functions could be fully or partially assigned to this function. Try and go beyond the R&D for sure.
- Involving customers in the initiative, as required is important. Forming customer advisory councils, where trusted customer representatives come in for product research or design validation.
- Do not assume you have all the possible skills within your organization. Some external talent in specific areas could add a lot of value. Make sure to have a process in place to invite external talent. professionals, academicians from reputed institutes. Having a steady flow of student interns, is also a good idea, as they bring in a fresh approach.
The process here refers to the protocols, systems you could establish to empower the initiative. I have seen companies investing in expensive idea management tools. Tools alone are not enough, there should be an organizational process and series of events to ensure participation of all stakeholders.
Innovation days, Ideas showcase, Customer experience centers, are a few popular processes companies have explored in the past.
A dedicated ‘Innovation Lab‘ offering Innovation as a service, or ‘Ideas on Demand’ within the organization might work in most scenarios. Innovation lab should be a small team of design thinkers, and a dedicated innovation lab infrastructure where teams could come in, work like a startup for a short duration and ideate, design, prototype, and test creative solutions.
Many famous companies were incubated in a modest garage-like office. Does innovation need a different kind of place, decor? Most startups are a small group of friends working in a single room, with one common goal, where you could just talk to each other, discuss, ideate, build your ideas, with whatever tools you have. That friendly environment of openness, trust, and fun are essentials of creativity.
The space you work in has an impact on how you work, collaborate and work together. The work tables and other furniture could be specially designed, or at-least selected, to induces creativity. Having a dedicated infrastructure for your Innovation Lab is a great idea. The innovation lab should be a simple open, playful space where you are happy to create, share and collaborate.
Depending on budgets you could build an innovation center in the midst of nature, spending millions of dollars. You could even start small, and have a dedicated conference room, which has sufficient whiteboards around and creates a friendly, playful environment there.
Define types of projects those the Innovation Lab should take up is important. Projects closer to the ‘Purpose’, and having maximum impact on company objectives are the best to tackle. To start with, small steps make sense. There is some possibility of projects failures.
Innovation enablers need a lot of practice. These tools are very easy to explain but could be difficult to put into practice. Practitioners should repeatedly experiment with tools, methods on some simpler tasks, before you attack a real big problem. Some example practice projects
- How to reduce food waste in the cafeteria?
- Can we reduce the carbon footprint of our office?
- Is there a way to improve the parking layout?
The practice projects will hone your methodology, and you could modify, improve, to get ready for the real problems.
Projects which involve more than one department working together is a good catch. Cross-functional teams from different departments attempting to solve a problem, collaboratively have its own charm, of getting to know new people, their problems, and working style.
Selecting a precise, and the well-defined problem is mandatory. Clearly defined goals, process, and a brutally strict timeline are ingredients of a successful innovation project.
Scaling the initiative: After a few successful projects, the Innovation Labs should create modules or template for types of projects, which are bundles of documents, tools.
‘Innovation is too precious to be owned only by a small group of thinkers.’ For creating a creative culture across the organization, design sensitivity should proliferate to each and every employee of the organization.
There are many initiatives I have seen across organizations, like Design talks, Invited Speakers, TED talks, weekly innovation meetups, and so on.
Some regular ongoing events planned at a defined cadence, (Yearly monthly, or even weekly) keeps the innovation initiative ‘alive’ Events could simply be some case study presentations, reports published in monthly newsletters, or talks, or hands-on workshops.
The outcomes of the innovation Lab should be showcased well in a nicely exhibited area, which becomes a quick reference to employees, as well as a great showcase for customers. Very often I have seen the innovation centers and the Customer experience centers sharing infrastructure. Serves dual purpose of a showcase of futuristic offerings to customers, as well as involving the customers in the innovation process itself.
How to use the 6 P’s
These 6 Parameters of Innovation could be used to establish the innovation initiative in your organization, planning activities, and investments around the initiative, and even measure the success of the initiative over the time.
I dream of creating a metric around these 6 Parameters, to measure the maturity of Innovation initiative within an organization.