Top 10 Keys to Innovation Success the Best Companies Use

Top 10 Keys to Innovation Success the Best Companies Use

Kevin Fallon / Thursday, August 4, 2016 / Strategy Management
We’ve mentioned previously that the top 25% of innovators outperform the bottom 25% by 12 times. That means, on average for every dollar invested in R&D, a top innovator delivers $39 of new revenue where a bottom innovator delivers only $3.30.

What’s driving this disparity?

We studied thousands of pages of material from the most important innovation books, experts and publications. We participated in innovation conferences and listened to over 100 presentations from Fortune 500 chief innovation officers and other experts. And we researched the science of innovation to see if our research supported what we read and heard.  

Know what we discovered?

There are ten keys to innovation that the most innovative companies use to systematically drive their successful innovation performance, causing the 12 times gap in performance results.  These are aspects or dimensions of the business executive teams focus on and either manage differently or with excellence.

Strategically and systematically implementing the suggestions in the following 10 key areas will have a huge impact on the innovation output at your organization:   
  1. Governance Innovation governance sets the strategic direction that executive management creates and organizes for innovation mobilization. It’s a holistic directional framework for inspiring, steering and sustaining innovation. The executive team defines policies and values, prioritizes processes, allocates executive resources, and assigns roles, responsibilities and decision-making authority to key players. Most companies don’t have any innovation governance at all. The top innovators do.

  2. Strategy -  Innovation strategy refers to the formation of innovation objectives and development of innovation initiatives required to realize the strategic goals of the company. A clearly defined strategy that is also innovative empowers the organization to obtain the purpose through the mission. Strategic plans from great companies are distinctly different from the rest. 

  3. Organization - An innovative organization should be structured to rapidly and flexibly develop and execute innovation opportunities while supporting dynamic innovation teams irrespective of functions. 3M’s policy is a great example of this: “We assume that technologies and technological capabilities have no boundaries or barriers.  Any product or manufacturing technology is available to any business in any industry in any geography around the world.”

  4. Resources - Resources comprise all of the assets, including people, cash, and property that are required to advance innovation efforts. For innovation, the focus needs to be on people resources and how to innovate from within through learning.  Top innovators know how to empower and engage their employees effectively.

  5. Ideas - Ideas refer to a systems approach to idea generation, synthesis, decision support, and design advancement.  By systems approach, we mean that top companies use a superior scientific methodology to transform ideas into value.

  6. Initiatives - Initiatives are actionable tasks or projects that may be accomplished to promote progress towards the attainment of innovation objectives. An innovation objective may take years to attain, whereas an initiative may take days, weeks or months, and drives progress on the innovation objective. Top innovators manage and drive multiple initiatives to advance performance on each innovation objective.

  7. Methods - Methods are techniques that empower team members to accomplish work with higher value, quality and speed. A company that is driving to better understand customer needs will invoke any one of a number of methods to better understand the customer environment. For example, they may leverage contextual interviewing, jobs-to-be-done or ethnography to gain better customer insight.  

  8. Collaboration - Innovation is most successful with wide scale collaboration working within and across teams, across the entire organization, and with external resources, to enhance innovation.  Samsung’s mission is “Open, global innovation. We invite visionary entrepreneurs and innovators to join with us to accelerate innovation." With that said, great innovators balance collaboration with the ability to spend time in deep thinking and research.

  9. Learning - Learning refers to education, knowledge development and mastery that supports innovation activities for individuals and the organization. Great innovators invest the time and resources necessary to ingrain education in the natural innovation process, thus producing a learning organization.

  10. Performance - Using key business intelligence measurements and performance visibility linked to innovation objectives and strategy increases the likelihood of successful innovation results. Running innovation performance management on a cadence similar to financial review rhythms significantly changes the game.

Profitable innovation is next to impossible without the majority of these key aspects in place.  By systematizing innovation and running innovation using a disciplined approach, top companies are outpacing the competition.  If you employ a haphazard approach to innovation and are waiting for that “eureka” breakthrough moment for your next big product or service, sadly, you will be disappointed with the results.

Do you agree with our top 10 keys to innovation?  Are there other keys you feel are missing from this list?  Let us know in the comments section.



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