Innovation is more essential than ever before. However, many companies struggle to truly achieve it. That’s largely because of innovation’s multifaceted complexity and the fact that success hinges on smooth interactions and synergies between various areas and elements of the enterprise. The solution to this problem is formalized innovation practices and processes. But those are difficult to establish in light of the vast number of innovation theories that abound. Distilling all of them into a workable model is frankly overwhelming.
This – along with SAP’s interactions with customers pursuing innovation – is precisely what prompted Marco Cigaina to write the book Innovation Management Framework: Enabling and Fostering Innovation in Your Company. The book outlines an Innovation Management Framework (IMF) that presents innovation management as a structured and consistent set of concepts and practices companies can apply to enable and foster innovation.
Why a Framework was Needed
Cigaina’s inspiration for the book came from his experience as a program manager in service innovation, a global function of SAP Services. The mission of service innovation is to study game-changing innovation drivers plus emerging technologies and trends, and help customers find ways to harness them. In 2010, the organization was exploring disconnected innovation practices such as idea management, design thinking and other creative techniques for its own application.
As Cigaina puts it, “Even we, as the service innovation team, lacked a unified approach to innovation.” At the same time, surveys of SAP customers pursuing innovation yielded another key insight: that customers associate innovation with their business models and processes, and not just the products they offer or technologies they adopt. Increasingly, these enterprises were seeking guidance from their technology partners on how to address these issues.
Those realizations prompted Cigaina to conduct deeper research into innovation theories and practices and their application. He concluded that a consistent, complete framework providing guidance on a structured approach to innovation was needed.
Applying the Taxonomy of Innovation
The IMF is a broadly applicable foundational knowledge base for innovation management and collaborative innovation, complemented by an overarching execution model. As a flexible frame of reference, IMF can be applied to a single group, a set of business units, or the entire enterprise, taking either a top-down or bottom-up approach. It can be used to achieve either centralized or distributed innovation for the short or long term in the areas of solutions, process and organization, and business model, using either a design or experimental approach. The framework and book provide guidance on how to best adopt and apply IMF to suit an enterprise’s particular needs and objectives. In fact, the overall framework is underpinned by a combination of design thinking, idea management, other creative techniques, and research that helps innovation managers secure buy-in with key stakeholders and design concrete innovation practices.
Pursuing Innovation in the Real World
One company that has benefited from IMF is a global leader in the perfume and flavor business. While this company has long established itself as a creative organization, it was seeking ways to maintain its competitive advantage. To that end, the company was focusing its efforts in three areas:
- 1) Offer services to customers, in addition to products
- 2) Better understand consumer preferences
- 3) Involve more employees in the innovation process
The company hoped to achieve these goals by finding creative use cases for emerging technology. Hand in hand with this, the company’s chief information officer wanted to evolve into the chief innovation officer. He was interested in implementing a program to transform his role and make the entire company more creative. However, design thinking and idea management were new concepts to him. He knew he needed a comprehensive model so he could create a master plan for his company, and saw SAP as an important partner in helping execute this cultural transformation.
In our next post, we’ll share more details about this company’s experience with the IMF. Meantime, we’d love to hear about your challenges and insights when it comes to making innovation a workable, repeatable process. Let us know in the comments below.