Innovation - More than Magic - by Design
Its not my usual style (honestly!) to write a blog which shamelessly plugs and promotes a new IBM paper but...
Having worked with clients, read about, thought about and blogged before on "innovation culture" I was very interested to read the latest IBM Institute for Business Value exec report on innovation - "More than magic - How the most successful organizations innovate" and wanted to share a few thoughts.
I wasn't involved in creating the report (IBM is quite a big company and all that) but along with a small team of co-collaborators I run a class on client facing collaborative innovation in IBM - and was really pleased to see some of our thinking and own client experiences backed up by the report - especially as the report took input from a survey of 1,000+ execs and direct reports across a wide range of industries.
The report highlights that the most successful organisations "approach innovation differently" - there's a lot packed in there but I've picked out and paraphrase a few of my personal favourites -
- Innovation is now more open and increasingly occurs within and across ecosystems - more on this below
- Innovation involves teamwork and collaboration - ok this one is pretty obvious but it is the collaboration across organisations I see as key
- Innovation is designed to happen
- One key aspect is understanding what the full potential of new technologies will be - i.e. not just inventing them but seeing the value and exploiting them in an industry context
- Successful organisations align innovation activities with business objectives - and drive efforts in targeted areas - rather than trying "innovation" on everything
- Successful organisations see innovation as a critical business process, an enabler and a cultural imperative - more on this below too
The ecosystem point pulls together a couple of threads of particular interest to me. The first is that increasingly in recent years as I have worked with clients to develop approaches for ongoing and sustainable joint innovation between the client and IBM, clients have started to ask me to scale the approach and make it replicable across a range of partner organisations. This is of course the right things to do - and well done on those clients for asking!
The second thread on the ecosystem point is that I recently set up and chaired a debate at the IBM UK & Ireland Technical Consultancy Group (made up of IBM cross line of business technical leaders) on innovation relationships between enterprises and start-ups. In preparation for this debate we identified a number of technical leaders in IBM with strong points of view on the topic.
To give the session some drama we structured it as a mock pre-election party leaders debate. A very topical approach at this time in the UK. Each point of view presenter was given a rosette and made a party leader. We even had the UK "Question Time" music for the introduction. The "party leaders" were asked to give an extreme view of their position as having a level of exclusivity of the truth - and like most politicians put into this position they didn't necessarily agree with all their points but argued their positions strongly. As chair of the debate and Welsh I styled myself as a slighter version of BBC presenter Huw Edwards (one for UK blog readers there).
Get on with it, I hear you say, what happened? Well we had three points of view
- Innovation happens best in start-ups and so established enterprises who really want innovation need to partner with start-ups
- Established enterprises can learn from start-ups and create their own internal innovation culture and approach
- A final - more extreme position - that established enterprises have always driven innovation and don't need to partner or learn from start-ups
We drove the debate, had great audience questions and inputs - developed a fourth point of view around the creation of stand-alone spin-offs focused on innovation - and had a vote. I won't repeat the results here. But we concluded - as you'd expect - that there are no totally right answers here. It depends on the context of your organisation and industry as the IBV study outlines. The reality is that most,and increasingly most successful, organisations will drive innovation in an ecosystem which includes their own organisation, takes input from customers and uses established enterprise partners and sometimes start-ups. Context as well as content is king.
I work in a business that delivers long term services to clients and the other point I want to highlight is the importance of innovation culture. If ongoing innovation through the lifecycle of the relationship is to be successful, then the "innovation culture" needs to be spread across supplier and client organisations. Both, or all if more than two, must be aligned with key client goals and innovation activities need to be focused on client priorities and value. (Assuming of course that the drive for continuous service improvement and innovation at an incremental level is relentlessly continuing in parallel).
Back to the IBM paper - and a key finding from the financial analysis is that innovative organisations outperform their competitors and that the most successful innovators create new types of business value in sustainable ways. I like this finding a lot...!
The paper recommends organisations focus on three areas - with more detailed recommendations in each - they can be summarised as Organisation, Culture and Process.
I'll finish on the innovation happens by design point.
I've just moved from a role driving innovation with IBM's IT sourcing clients in the UK & Ireland to a similar role across Europe. I'm pleased to say that in my UK & Ireland role we have driven innovation for and with our clients by design and created a way of focusing on what was most important to each client.
Of course there have sometimes been challenges on the IBM side and not every client is receptive to such an approach but I am pleased to say that we have seen a significant increase in our formal client satisfaction numbers and in innovation in particular. This result has been achieved by the hard work of many of my colleagues and also by many clients and its been a great experience. My abiding feeling is that this has been achieved by "more than magic" and so the report really resonates with me - and I hope it does with you. And if this blog helps the report reach and be useful to a few people in my own ecosystem I'll be even happier.
Access the report online here! - http://www-935.ibm.com/services/us/gbs/thoughtleadership/morethanmagic/