So your innovation program is backsliding a little bit? This is normal and to be expected. Sustaining and increasing innovation momentum can be very challenging in the best of times, let alone in the crazy current working environment we find ourselves in.
The pandemic, working from home, reduced budgets, competing work priorities and fatigue in general has seen many teams and programs backslide in the corporate environment.
Backsliding is when we return to non-strategic innovation ideas, processes, ways of working and previously comfortable methods on place of the more difficult and challenging options. This shows up as the gradual decline in the quality of the ideas, delivery and final implementation of ideas.
Working with our corporate clients we see innovation occurring for a number of reasons, with the following being the most common:
Innovation program derailed and replaced with the opportunity to roll out MS Teams, laptops or any other digital ways of working
Focus on replication of ideas already well established in the market
Siloed working which sees ideas go into a virtual abyss and not come out again
Poor relationship with risk resulting in a portfolio that is not adept at understanding the requirement of a degree of failure to pursue innovation.
Whilst there are many more reasons why corporate innovation programs can go through a backsliding process, it is critical to arrest it as early as possible. Backsliding puts the innovation program into reverse, and it is impossible to accelerate while going backwards.
The habits, ways of working and mechanisms employees use to get their work done are formed and reinforced by the actions of the organisations. If an organisation says it is driving innovation but the systems, processes and/or people are behaving in a way that is incongruous with this, it weakens the essential components for establishing and delivering innovation at an enterprise level.
If you’re trying to accelerate a corporate innovation strategy but you find yourself going backwards in the process the change journey is going to be even harder.
What happens when we observe innovation backsliding in the corporate environment?
When we identify innovation backsliding we use the following framework to put the brakes on the backwards movement, assess the situation and develop a clear plan to restart forward momentum.
Innovation is a human process. It takes intention to manage employee behaviours. To ensure the defined ways of working and processes that are being implemented for innovation stay and thrive, it is crucial that you follow this three step process.
1. Stop and take a breath
The purpose of this step is to take a look at how the overall innovation program is working right now. Step back and reflect on your desired position you want to be in your innovation strategy and assess this against what is actually occurring in innovation delivery. Have a good hard look at what is being delivered in your innovation teams, and what is coming through the pipeline. The gap between your strategy and what is been delivered will inform you on the quantum of work that needs to be assessed.
To understand the work that needs to be assessed a very simple process can be followed, not that dissimilar to a retro, to understand:
What is working?
What needs to be reviewed?
What you need to do differently?
Are there any old ways of working that we need to revert to?
The purpose of this is to give a way to plan.
2. Assess and Define
The purpose of this stage is to make a decision on which way you want to move with innovation and develop a plan and roadmap to move forward.
To form a plan we support innovation leaders by working through the following questions:
What direction do you want to go with your innovation program?
Do you have the frameworks, systems, processes and skills to deliver your innovation visions?
Do you know what it will take to move forward?
What do you need to do differently to get the results that you want?
What is going to take for us to be successful at innovation?
How will you define success?
3. Educate and Communicate
A challenge for innovation is that it often means different things to different people. Once there is a clear understanding of the organisations definition of innovation it becomes an opportunity to educate and communicate the entire organisation. A clear understanding of the plan to move forward and its alignment with strategy inevitably sparks excitement and a flurry of new ideas.
This is the opportunity to teach the organisation what is expected of innovation through providing:
Systems – provide a system that make it easier for a portfolio innovation methodology that supports cross-functional work teams.
Process – A standardisded processes to ensure a unified innovation workflow and governance process across the organisation.
Practices – human practices being put in place to self-reinforce and enhance innovation ways of working.
This is a relatively simple three-step process that we employ but it wildly successful in arresting any backsliding and providing focus to reinvigorate corporate innovation programs.
The pace for innovation is not slowing down. It will continue to rapidly accelerate. With innovation there is a role to play for everyone in the organisation. If you feel you are backsliding, put the brakes in as quick as possible so you can turn it around and tap into the incredible, diverse talent inside your organisation.