If you have “innovation” in your job title (Part 2)

In a previous post I argued that corporate innovators must excel at breaking things, just as much as they love building them. The reason for that is that the journey of corporate innovators is blocked by walls and other constraints that corporate organizations have by design. These walls and constraints are there to help organizations conduct as performance engines, but they also tend to kill innovation in the process.  

The three things I suggested breaking are (1) your professional echo chamber, (2) the boundaries that separate you from your ecosystem and (3) the organizational rhythm. This time I’d like to discuss two additional items on my “to break list”: misconceptions and leaner decision making processes.    

 

1. Break misconceptions about innovation

I’ve seen many organizations experience a perception gap around innovation, meaning they truly believe and actively promote the concept of innovation. But at the same time, the concept at its core is foreign to them. This inherent gap manifests itself in misconceptions that are designed to sustain “ongoing operations” and stifle innovation. For example:  

• “Innovation is extremely important. Let someone else do it. We have our deadline.”

• “Innovation should be evaluated and measured like any other project.”

• “Innovation should be based on a long term business plan and proven ROI.”

• “Innovation is that fun activity you should experience before getting back to your real work.”

These misconceptions are worth breaking sooner than later. Some innovators try to dodge these misconceptions by developing their initiatives in “black ops” mode meaning innovating at the edge of the organization, “under the radar. This strategy can work in the short term, but it can’t work forever. Eventually innovators need the right management support and organizational resources to validate, develop and eventually scale their innovation. You’ll need to break numerous misconceptions along your path, so it’s better start sooner rather than later.  

 

2. Break linear decision making processes

Decision making processes in organizations are designed to handle situations with a relatively high level of certainty — plan once, implement and evaluate periodically (annually/quarterly). Since innovation is an exploration journey with a high level of uncertainty, conventional decision making will not do. This is not a path you can just walk; instead you must discover, charting your map one step at a time.    

Rita McGrath and Ian MacMillan coined the term discovery driven process to describe this journey, where much is assumed and little is known. This journey is paved with extensive learning, constant evaluation of the direction you’re walking in, and many decisions along the way.    

To break the linear decision making processes, replace them with a series of well-designed gateways of decision making. These gateways should engage the right people (content experts and managers) to provide the right feedback, enabling you to raise additional seed money for the next learning and validation steps (much like a corporate startup).    

 

Corporate innovation – an art of building and breaking  

Corporate innovators should be passionate about building new things, adding more value to our world. If you are a corporate innovator, most likely this comes naturally to you. But the more innovative your initiative, the more you will need to break things along the way. So step out of the lines. Re-imagine structures and boundaries. Disregard rules that were not written for you. Break the walls that stifle true potential.  – It might just uncover a view of the future.    

Shachaf Snir has 9 years of experience in leading Innovation management and organizational consulting. Holds the position of Global Innovation Business Lead at the innovation program at Amdocs. Creating the innovation center of excellence methodologies and best practices, and working with business units across Amdocs in tackling their business challenges through the practice of innovation, including: Development of product, service and business model innovation. Formulation of organizational processes and best practice that supports innovation execution. Working with Amdocs customers in tackling their business challenges, building relationships and collaboration in the process.

A retired professional chef and a proud father of 2 amazing little girls.