“Everything changes and nothing remains still … and … you cannot step twice into the same stream.”
Heraclitus, 6th-5th century BC in Plato’s Cratylus.
The Panta rhei (“everything flows”) aphorism reminds us that change – in life and in business – is the only constant. In the context of innovation management it would also suggest that, when companies look for ways to increase their innovation capabilities, they cannot expect the environment in which they operate ever remains the same.
What is the practical consequence of that? Innovation management is a capability that needs to be constantly renewed, adapted, and enriched based on new learning and maturing skills.
In my previous blog posts (“Innovation Networks Do Matter!” and “Innovating along the Business Pyramid”) I discussed how networks and pyramids can be considered as patterns at the basis of key perspectives on innovation management. Today I’d like to speak about iterative cycles and their role in establishing an organizational learning approach for innovation management for established companies in a constantly changing business environment. That means, for example, learning how to identify and apply new innovation methods (e.g. Design Thinking), new ways to connect with stakeholders, new approaches to measure innovation, etc. Is such organizational learning easy to be achieved? Not really, and mainly for two reasons:
- Uncertainty is inherently part of innovation initiatives.
- Multiple enterprise components need to be coordinated (e.g., organization, technologies, processes, etc.).
If you look at your organization like at a living entity, then you could think of it as a learning being: to adapt, it will need to plan, act and learn. But how can a company establish such a learning cycle as part of its management system?
Organizations can benefit from structured frameworks, which are logical structures to organize knowledge, thinking and activities around a certain domain. In the domain of innovation management, the Innovation Management Framework, for example, can be the foundation to analyze and prioritize the most relevant practices for the current level of the organization’s maturity, to design and conduct projects and experiments, and most importantly to learn from them. Each iteration of this organizational learning cycle will help to enrich and refine innovation management capabilities.
As far as you can design innovation practices, you can establish such and an iterative approach and learn how to adapt it to your company-specific context. This is what I would define as an iterative executional model for an innovation management framework.
Eventually two key questions become prominent:
- What are the critical factors to implement innovation management frameworks? And
- Where do I start?
As for the critical factors, I think that in large organizations communication is a very critical factor. In fact the level of coordination, mind-sharing and collaboration that is necessary to move from concepts to practice requires a deep alignment across the different teams and organizational units, and an open, collaborative innovation culture shared by all the employees. As for the starting point, if you intend to use the Innovation Management Framework by SAP Services Innovation, you can start with downloading the related free app for iPad and just run a maturity assessment; it can be the beginning of an organizational learning cycle.
It is now time to go, but before that a question: what’s your view on how an organization can progressively learn and institutionalize how to manage innovation better?