Management of Innovation – Academic Paper

Management of Innovation

The very nature of this area of management in business lends itself to interpretation from many different standpoints. Innovation for me in its simplest form, is when creativity is converted into new tangible products or services, which will better satisfy customer needs. In other words innovation in business is when creative ideas are driven from decision making to implementation. This could mean better production methods to produce the same item more productively or at an improved level of quality. It could also mean improved product characteristics, which could help differentiate the product or service.

Creating Future Value

Innovation is also a process where existing products, processes or services are re-designed, re-developed and implemented, to create improved future value, for both the business involved in the development and the customers, who will purchase the product or service in the future.

One of the most important criterion associated with innovation in any organisation is the need for research and on-going development, to encourage continuous improvement towards commercialisation and greater financial rewards. Innovation can only emerge in any organisation when there is a commitment to combine intangible assets, like creativity, knowledge, skills and technologies for the development of improved processes, services or products.

Attributes Necessary to Promote Innovation in any organisation

  1. Innovation is always a process and never an event. It is an on-going commitment on the part of everyone within the organisation. It is a never ending process, which combines diverse inputs to produce improved value propositions.
  2. Innovation requires the input of both tangible and intangible resources. This is where sufficient physical resources need to be directed towards innovation to support the creative juices which will flow from the people involved in the innovation process.
  3. For any organisation to be successful with innovation it must be a conscious process within the organisation, in which they have innovation processes and systems in place to support innovation. Any successful innovation process requires sufficient resources, tools, technologies and knowledge of the products, services and how these fit into the market place.
  4. View all innovation spending as an investment as all the innovative ideas, which will flow from an on-going commitment to this process will result in greater value accruing to the organisation. All organisations who have a commitment to on-going innovation, will see improvements in their products, processes and services.
  5. The purpose of innovation is more often than not focused on improving the bottom line, by reducing costs, improving quality or adding new products or services which will add real value. The focus of innovation should always be on ways of improving both the internal and external customers’ experience, in the interest of improving the bottom line.
  6. Innovators must understand that for innovation to succeed, they must accept that innovation is seldom linear. It is a complex process, systematic approach, which combines many different and diverse inputs. These inputs can seldom be reduced to measurable elements and in many cases innovation may challenge the boundaries of any organisation.
  7. Any organisation must understand that there is always an element of risk present, when engaging in any level of innovative practice. All progress requires innovation and change, but not all innovation and change results in progress.
  8. The outputs or results, which will flow from any innovative practices are seldom predictable The outputs are difficult or impossible to calculate until the process is complete. Innovation is a very complex process, filled with numerous different and complex variables.
  9. Knowledge is key to innovation. Although experts can often not innovate because they quickly find solutions, based on their level of knowledge. When you are looking for lost keys. Once you locate them you do not carry on looking for them. The same is true with innovation. When teams of innovators are filled with experts, they very quickly find solutions. These solutions are based on current thinking and knowledge and are thus in certain circumstances very restrictive. I like to fill innovation teams with both subject experts and “LOOSE CANNONS” or people who do not have all the answers. People who will be prepared to explore and see things from a new perspective.

10. No innovation can occur without a real commitment from the organisation towards, research, development and then the commercialisation of the new innovation. There are four distinct phases required in the innovation process. Learning and exploration, discovery, implementation and finally commercialisation.

Innovation within Any Organisation

It is not prudent to put all your investments into one basket as, if that one investment stream experiences any challenges, you will be financially devastated. It is always wisest to have a diverse portfolio, with investments in different financial vehicles. The same is true with innovation. No organisation can have one approach to handle all types of innovation. To be successful with innovation any organisation needs several key areas of innovation – each of which will require different approaches to capture all the innovative ideas and to finally implement these.

There will obviously be a very different approach for updating an existing product or service, to the one used to create a completely new one or for finding innovative ways of improving systems or processes within the organisation. This is where a portfolio for innovation can be very useful for getting the right mix of innovation to enlist the creative input from all stakeholders.

Effective Innovation

The starting point for inviting innovation into any organisation starts with a clearly defined definition of what successful innovation looks like. This vision of innovation gives all stakeholders a very clear picture of what is expected and allows them to embrace the type of innovation needed by the organisation.

The key to innovation in most organisations revolves around new revenue or cost savings within the organisation. The vision of innovation must also consider the softer side of innovation, things like customer retention etc. Innovation can only be sustainable in any organisation, if there are regular benefits flowing to the organisation as a result of the innovation.

Scope of Innovation.

It is crucial that organisations not only focus on the major innovations, which stand out. They must take never dismiss the small innovations, which are not sexy. These small innovations can and often do, result in major improvements, which end up saving the organisation a huge amount of money. Smaller ideas are great ways to start developing a culture of innovation within any organisation.

Innovation must be a Daily Commitment

Innovation seldom, if ever happens in a day. It must be a daily commitment, involving as many people within the organisation as possible. People have been programmed since childhood to focus and no longer be creative. It is for this reason that all great leaders, who are interested in fostering innovation in their organisations, must encourage people to practice their creative side as often as possible. This whole process can be supported through timely mentoring and constructive feedback on their creative ideas. This will help any leader to create a brain trust, which is always searching for new ideas.

Foster a Culture of Innovation.

An organisation should always try to foster a culture of innovation to encourage all stakeholders to express and share their innovative ideas when they happen. The sooner creative ideas are shared the greater the chances these ideas actually being converted into innovation. Truly innovative organisations need to actually live innovation and it needs to be ingrained into the culture of the organisation at every level. It must be part of how the organisation works and not something, which is scheduled once a year. Innovation is not switch, which can be turned on and off. It must be a way of being for everyone in the organisation.

Approaches to Innovation

There are as many approaches to innovation as there are innovative ideas out there. Committing to too few approaches to innovation can be counterproductive as this is very limiting. It is equally true when any organisation does a mediocre job, using too many different approaches.

Spinn Innovation

The premise behind this approach to innovation, is that there will be an acceleration of the pace of scientific and technological advancement. Spinn innovation is ostensibly a framework within an organisation where a culture of creativity and innovation are fostered and promoted to help deliver new crucial innovative production outputs. For any organisation to succeed with this approach to innovation it is critical that they continually deliver innovative new service offerings to both their current and future clients, which add value to them, but with a minimal effect on the bottom-line. This type of innovation can deliver exponential returns on the eco-centric innovation investment within the organisation.

Any organisation who wants to promote this culture within their organisation must commit to an on-going investment into learning and organisational rejuvenation. There must be an active approach to encourage the direct participation of all stakeholders in the innovation process. For this process to succeed there must be a modality of innovation based multi-dialogue in which all stakeholders are allowed the freedom they need to express their creative minds.

There can never be any absolute authority during this process, as this will affect the flow of creative ideation and suppress the creative spirit within the organisation. Innovation, creativity and diversity, must be valued as critical strategic drivers within the organisation and this culture must permeate throughout the business. For spin innovation to work within any organisation, it is critical that there is a culture shift, away from traditional hierarchical structure towards an appreciation of organisational reasoning to allow people to express their creativity.

There must be an on-going commitment towards continuous innovation cantered learning as a strategic capability. This will allow the organisation and all stakeholders to initiate new innovative value adding creating opportunities for increased profits. To enhance the learning process, this learning must be facilitated simultaneously in work based contexts and be available centrally to all stakeholders. This approach to on-going innovation education will see the innovation intelligence become imbedded into the individual stakeholder. These knowledge workers, with the imbedded knowledge, will drive the innovative process.

Spinn innovation promotes an environment which supports the development of a culture of idea management, which will allow innovation to mutate from incremental innovation into radical and open innovation matrixes. This culture of open innovation promotes cross –organisational to promote creativity to promote on-going innovation within the organisation.

Simultaneous Evaluation

Organisations who introduce a culture, where they commit to work within a framework of spinn innovation have a tool, which allows them to instantaneously evaluate ideas and assess their viability. Diverse business views are assessed simultaneously by using an overall idea matrix. This matrix includes business, product, technology and the overall viability of the product, by providing a visual platform to assist the evaluation process.

This culture of innovation is focused on continually mining the innovative minds of all knowledge workers. The commitment to on-going learning promotes the development of human capital, moving them towards autonomy and specialisation. The competitive advantage flows to the organisation because of this commitment to on-going learning and by promoting a culture of sharing innovative ideas. Knowledge workers are essential to make this process of spin innovation workable within any organisation. Knowledge workers should be placed strategically throughout the organisation to promote innovative thinking.

Spinn innovation is a very effective tool to promote innovative ideas, which add value to customers and helps to integrate innovation with other management practices. This is done by integrating innovation into the vision and strategy going forward. Spinn innovation is all about promoting innovation optimisation, by integrating different business functions, thereby promoting the synergies, which exist, between these functions. The purpose of the whole innovative process is to position the organisation within its market, with the objective of sustaining and creating a competitive advantage.

Spinn Framework

Spinn frameworks differ from other learning paradigms in that they are not prescriptive, with expectations around the allocation of who is running the process. Spinn innovation introduces the concept of open learning, which places the knowledge worker in control and allows for on-going growth and expansion. This approach will allow organisations to commit to a philosophy of cooperative intelligence, which has become a prerequisite if any business wants to survive and thrive going forward. Businesses, which want to survive, must utilise creative intelligence to transform their current innovation process into a more co-operative approach. This will allow them to obtain a competitive difference and advantage.

Strategic Innovation

The new certainty in business is that of constant change. This dynamic environment, which is filled with complexities is continually evolving and presents organisations with an interesting challenge when it comes to promoting a culture of innovation within their business.

Pheunamic Framework

This framework allows organisations to optimise the use of resources, by conceptualising innovation management initiatives. This framework encourages organisational guidership and operates within the premise of action learning and free knowledge exchange between stakeholders. This encourages open innovation networks within the organisation to stimulate creativity and idea creation. This approach will increase the flow of innovative ideas and innovation capital. This frame work will stimulate ecological and sustainable on-going innovation, which will promote improved rapport between all stakeholders and help with concurrent referencing.

This framework encourages and supports cooperation between all stakeholders, to help them to create value and promote organisational rejuvenation and long term resilience. This rapport is crucial to promote the transfer of critical knowledge between all stakeholders and encourage effective communication at all levels to promote the culture of innovation within the workplace.

The unified acceptance and application of the innovation vision for all stakeholders, results in a common understanding of this vision and a unified approach towards the future development of innovative ideation. This common and unified approach amongst all stakeholders results in improved relationships amongst all stakeholders and knowledge workers, inspiring them to move away from apathy and conflict towards drive and enthusiasm. This frame work fosters co-operative innovation by encouraging dialogue and continuous knowledge transference.

The Pheunamic Innovation Framework Making it Work

This frame work can only function effectively, when knowledge workers operate within communities within the organisation and base learning on real time work related challenges. Knowledge workers need to operate in n environment of open innovation, which is driven through the socialisation of knowledge. This open process of innovation must be encouraged by promoting a unified and holistic approach towards innovation within the organisation.

Pneunamic innovation will encourage all stakeholders to facilitate a forum for innovation learning, to deal with the dynamic nature of the complexity and diversity surrounding innovation. A culture of cooperation, open communication and innovation sharing must be stimulated and promoted throughout the organisation. This framework is opportunity driven and aligns innovation resources through knowledge socialisation, which is driven by information technology and facilitated by all stakeholders and knowledge workers through multiple layers.

Creativity Myths

It is a well-researched fact that Innovation resides in the cognitive capacity of the knowledge workers within the organisation. Where this actually resides with each knowledge worker is unknown. Even an MRI scan conducted during the creative process, does not reveal any answers to this very complex question. Creativity is not reserved for the select few “CREATIVE” people within the organisation, it is something we can grow within anyone or should I rather say re-awaken within people, who are willing to explore their own level of creativity. Creativity is not a talent it is something we all possess to varying degrees. Eberyone within the organisation should be encouraged to support the culture of innovation and support and contribute to the innovative spirit within the organisation.

Creativity is not spontaneous inspiration, it is can be elicited within any organisation, by encouraging a culture of open innovation and workplace active learning and participation. Creativity is mostly conscious hard work on the part of anyone, who wants to promote the creation of new ideas, which can evolve into innovation. Innovation teams must be guided by an innovation vision and through co-operation, good communication, mutual support and hard work, new innovative ideas will emerge.

Creativity is not the same as originality and in the context of the workplace. It is not necessarily new or original ideas, which deserve attention. Original ideas do create a level of excitement within any organisation, but for me the most important characteristic is not originality, but quality wins the day every time. Remove the need for originality in the workplace and rather search for innovation, which wil deliver value and improved bottom-line results.

Creativity Roles within the Organisation

Creativity has been the focus of many different academic fields for many years now, ranging from anthropology to neuroscience and has intrigued management scholars too. There is a massive accumulation of work available for anyone willing to step back from their role in business and to explore. The rapid rate of change in our world has seen this curiosity, change to urgent concern on the part of many business executives. Life cycles of products is growing shorter and shorter and business success now depends on the ability of business to generate a large number of innovative ideas, not just to thrive, but to just survive.

Invest in the Right People

It is crucial in this ever changing environment to ensure that organisations employ the right people at the right time, to form collaborative teams designed specifically for collaborative innovation, through mutual support and consistent knowledge transfer. A top down strategy where leaders roll up their sleeves and try to enforce innovation will never work. There must be a commitment towards a collective culture of collective imagination and collaboration. Leaders must not feel like they must be the originator of ideas and innovation. They must establish an open environment, where the right people can be supported to create new ideas and innovation.

Tap Ideas from all Ranks

There is an eye opening story from Google where the founders tracked ideas that had received the full support of management, vs. ideas which originated and evolved without any interference from above. They identified a far greater level of innovation and success amongst the ideas, which were generated and left to develop amongst the people in the trenches. The greater the autonomy given to creative teams, the greater will be the success and scope of the innovation.

Research conducted by Israel Drori, a professor at the college of management in Israel, and Benson Honig, a professor at Wilfrid university in Canada, showed that it was extremely counter-productive for any organisation to try to promote innovation or creativity, in a restrictive environment. They showed that to succeed with creative innovation, it was crucial that innovation responsibility be spread throughout the organisation. Creative responsibilities must be spread across different line functions within any organisation to be successful.

All individuals are creative within their own preferences and perceptive background. All stakeholders must be autonomous and feel like they are part of the whole. They must be encouraged and supported to make contributions and show creative intent.

Innovation Archetypes

Internal Consultant – This is not an advisable strategy for encouraging innovation as it relies on individuals to drive innovation. The responsibility, ownership and implementation is vested in the hands of a single person.

Specialist – This archetype is someone with highly specialised skills, who brings these skills to the organisation. This approach can be successful if the specialist is integrated into an innovation team to offer support and knowledge transfer.

Coach – This approach to innovation where an individual operates as a facilitator and one that is focused on the encouraging innovation within different business units. Coaches do not develop the strategy themselves they act as advisors and supporters to the innovation team. This is an archetype, which encourages knowledge transfer, good communication and co-operation between individuals and as such is tan approach I feel will be a good fit for encouraging innovation within any organisation.

Change Agent – Change agents act as facilitators, however they also play an active role in execution. They are an enabler, bringing people together. They invest time to ensure new ideas are implemented. This archetype can also be effective in organisations, who want to drive innovation and encourage creativity.

Knowledge worker Roles

If you want to create a business, which will survive and thrive into the future, in a sustainable fashion, then it is critical to create a culture of learning within the business. The more the knowledge workers within the organisation are vested in continual growth; the better will be the innovative propensity of the organisation. As important as it is to create a culture of learning with any organisation, this is a very difficult concept to quantify in terms of creativity, conversation, judgement teaching and the learning experience.

Knowledge Enabling – This is a process where knowledge workers are encouraged and supported to improve and grow knowledge. The leadership allows autonomy and does not control the process at all. This is a very effective process and one that will encourage the development of the right knowledge to support innovation. This process also includes facilitating relationships between the right people to help drive innovation success to align this with the innovation vision of the organisation.

A perfect example of this Helmut Volkmann, a senior director of corporate research at Siemens in Germany. His whole approach to innovation is exemplified by his office, which is a mix of multimedia exhibition, control desk and post-modern dining room. His office is filled with coloured chairs, slide projectors, a dozen computer terminals and pictures on the walls, stating “Departure to the Continent of Solutions” Beyond the incredible picture his office creates is the man behind all this. He is a boundary breaker, a futurist and thought maker. He is an extreme example of the kind of person or people needed to drive innovation within any organisation.

Knowledge workers involved in innovation need to have a broad social and intellectual vision for the future as well as a deep understanding of the nitty gritty of business operations. They must be able to connect internal and external knowledge initiatives and mobilise people throughout the organisation to support and assit the innovative process.

Knowledge is justified in true belief – Individuals justify their belief based on observation of the world. These observations depend on their personal sensibility and perceptive background and individual experience.

Knowledge explicit and Tacit – Portions of the knowledge are able to be captured on paper, whilst other parts of the knowledge are not concrete and depend on perception, rules of thumb or intuition.

Innovation starts when the knowledge workers meet to discuss ideas and share knowledge. The information which is shared her is tacit in nature and includes insights into customer needs, information about technologies and the skills required etc. This tacit information is used to create a new concept for exploration. At this stage the concept may just be an idea, algorithm or a specification of functionality.

Next the concept is justified using various techniques and then the knowledge workers explore options, share ideas and knowledge and discover various options to innovate and improve or create a new product, service or process, which will add value to the business.

Quantum Thinking and the Future of Innovation

Quantum thinking dispels the need for understanding our reality in terms of what is actually real and what appears to be real in our experience. Quantum thinking describes the connections between reality and our observations.  The quantum field is an ever evolving universe which is interacting with human consciousness. The reality as observed by the person observing their perspective of reality, is reinforced by their conceptual perspective and created by the quantum field seen by the observer.

It is important to note that when working within the realm of quantum theory and thinking. It is believed that the observer can and will influence the outcome. This means that from a quantum thinking perspective, innovation becomes limitless and the scope and scale of innovation is limited only by the belief of the observer. Once we embrace quantum thinking and utilise this as a driver of innovation, we open Pandora’s Box of possibility. The limits, which currently exist, will be replaced with opportunities for innovation we can only dream about.

Funnelling Process

The funnelling process is characterised within five dimensions of creativity. These five dimensions include fluency, originality, highlighting the essence, elaboration and resistance to premature closure. These dimensions drive the creative experience, which turn into innovation.

Managing the Innovation Funnelling Process

I own a manufacturing business, which operates from a factory in Benoni. As you can imagine, we are constantly under pressure from cheaper imports from both India and China. He only way we have managed to stay ahead of the game and remain competitive is by following a consistent process of innovation. We have developed a culture of innovation within the business, where everyone, no matter at what level they work at in the organisation is encouraged to contribute to the innovative process.

We hold weekly forums, where we encourage all stakeholders to offer input towards innovative solutions, with the objective of improving manufacturing processes, product design and on-going product quality improvement. These sessions are the culmination of an on-going drive every day, to encourage consistent knowledge transfer and contribution between all stakeholders in the business.

Our commitment to knowledge growth and transfer between all stakeholders is massive. We understand that the effectiveness of al learning within our business is dependent on the creation, distribution and application of knowledge. This commitment to knowledge development, distribution and application is a crucial part of our strategy to help drive innovation in the organisation.

We have a library of audio books available in both CD and MP 3 format. The workers who use public transport or Mini bus Taxis are provided with MP3 players and relevant training material to listen to on earphones during their commute to and from work. They are continually reminded about the importance of growing their knowledge base, distributing this knowledge with fellow workers and then utilising this to drive their creative juices and find better ways of doing things in their environments.

We also have a culture where we ask our team to read for a minimum of 10 minutes a day. Free books on innovation, inspiration and specific knowledge resources are provided for all team members and their families. We offer an incentive scheme, where we pay each team member R 20 per audio book they listen to, R 50 per book they read. We have extended this to their family members too and offer each family member who reads a book or listens to one of the audio books the same incentives. This is an honour system and no one checks up to see whether they have read the book or listened to the audio book, before paying out any incentives. We have observed a huge improvement in the knowledge capital in our business since we have introduced this new incentive system. There is a wonderful culture of learning within the business.

We have posters throughout the factory and offices with these two simple questions on it “What have you learned today – Now share it with someone” and “How can this knowledge help you to improve personally or help you to find better ways of doing things?” We constantly advise our team to ask better quality questions about themselves and ways to make things better. This extends to include working conditions, remuneration, time off, team building activities and workplace safety.

Idea Generation

 

We have established a physical space and time; we hold a weekly forum where ideas are tabled by all stakeholders, regarding any areas they feel will help improve any element of their environment This weekly process allows all stakeholders to share ideas openly, which translates into open innovation and renewed collective strategic intent. I have seen on many occasions how new innovation contexts have been revealed and with consistent effort and commitment, these have been converted into real and tangible solutions.

These meetings are facilitated by an external coach, who has a very clear understanding of our innovation vision and mission. These sessions are always initiated with a reminder of what our innovation vision and mission is and what is expected from each stakeholder. Our innovation mission and vision statements are posted throughout the factory and offices. These constant reminders are there to act as a constant call to show the importance of on-going innovation is. It is our consistent commitment towards on-going education and by making innovation an integral part of our culture that we have managed to remain competitive in a very competitive environment, where new competitors spring up all the time.

We begin the session by inviting ideas from the floor. The ideas are first collected without any discussion around the viability of the ideas at all. Everyone is encouraged to only contribute their ideas and not offer any input at this point. No idea is ridiculed or judged at all. Feasibility of the ideas tabled is only interpreted later. The ideas are just collected and recorded.

The kind of ideas we encourage to be tabled at these meetings, are ideas to improve or speed up production processes, improve product quality, streamline administration and delivery. There have been a number of very creative ideas tabled to improve quality, without incurring massive increases in cost. This added value is passed on to our clients at no extra cost, as our commitment to on-going improvement and innovation.

Idea generation is an on-going commitment on the part of all stakeholders. Everyone is supported and offered access to learning and mentors, to guide and support them with any new ideas. This culture of encouragement has resulted in a never ending stream of very creative ideas flowing from every member of staff.

Originality

We encourage openness towards innovation within our business and encourage the continued success of every stakeholder. There is a willingness to acknowledge each person’s contribution towards challenges and a commitment on the part of everyone to find innovative solutions to solve or mitigate these challenges. There is a culture of personal accountability and everyone sees their role in contributing toward the bigger picture.

Everyone understands that innovation is not always about the big things or the creation of new products or services, but that it can be something as small as a better way of lifting steel more efficiently. There is a huge element of trust, which exists between all stakeholders and everyone is made to feel comfortable to share ideas during our weekly innovation forums for possible inclusion in the innovation process. NO ideas are dismissed, until we have had a chance to explore the possibility of using them to drive our innovation success.

We encourage creative potential and have a strong aversion to conformity. Yes we have rules and guidelines, but we encourage people to not only think out of the box, but to actually find a completely new box altogether to facilitate open and creative thinking. Conformity within our innovation culture is discouraged as we have thrived over the past 12 years not because we have conformed, but rather because our commitment to innovation has allowed us to be completely transformed. We encourage people to upset the apple cart and to challenge the status quo.

Highlighting the Essence

We are committed to producing high quality ideas, which we can then put into our innovation funnel to allow us to develop new value propositions, manufacturing processes or innovative service or delivery solutions. This process is executed to allow the mind to flow freely and allows our knowledge workers to trigger their inner imagination and even explore fantasy. Our objective is to never dispel an idea, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, until we have allowed our team to explore each one fully.

For example: one of our team members suggested that we package our vices in bubble wrap to reduce paint damage during transport. This crazy idea was modified and a new packing process was introduced, using our existing shrink wrap machine. Our returns due to paint damage, dropped to almost zero after this innovation was introduced.

We thus do not dismiss any idea, until we have encourages participation from all the knowledge workers involved. Every idea is explored and expanded, until the feasibility is completely disproved. Some ideas which we have dismissed as impossible at some point have also been revisited and although they have been extensively adapted they have helped us create new innovative solutions that have really worked.

Example: It was proposed that we eliminate the need for preheating our plates, before bending, as this was costing us a fortune in electricity. We explored this and no matter how our team applied their mind, there was not an affordable or simple solution to this challenge. A few years later one of our team proposed that we build a massive press to allow us to do bend the plates without heat. The cost of the press needed was so high it was not viable. One of our frontline staff, then came forward and offered to build the press from materials we had available at the factory. As this was an affordable option we built the press and have since saved hundreds of thousands on our electricity bill.

These weekly forums, the on-going commitment to constantly learn and expand and the culture of innovation we have fostered within our business, means that there is no shortage of new ideas for us to explore and assess for inclusion in our innovation process. After discussion at the weekly innovation forum, a team is created to assess all the ideas which are tabled. These ideas are assessed and the team first tries to combine as many ideas together as possible. This process seeks to explore all the new ideas tabled and see if there are not combined solutions, utilising all the ideas simultaneously.

This process allows the team to shift mental gears and look at the issues simultaneously, which very often reveals novel ideas which may have remained hidden, had they not explored the options together. The main purpose of this process is to try to identify the best value proposition in terms of the available resources, financial, operational and human capital.

Elaboration

All the ideas are analysed by the innovation team. The knowledge workers then seek workable solutions through careful observation. The knowledge workers explore all the ideas and keeping the wider environment in mind they explore the best options by eliminating the non-important information. The ideas that emerge are continuously formed and reformed until a fully-fledged product emerges. The driving force behind this entire process is one of improving the bottom line and adding value to the business and customers. This is a continuous process of idea forming and reforming, until the best value proposition is uncovered.

Example: A number of ideas were tabled at one of our meetings which included ideas for improving the commitment to learning, better utilisation of time and use of technology as a means of improving production efficiency. These ideas were assessed and after deliberation, a completely new and really innovative process was developed, where technology was introduced in the form of MP 3 players, which would allow team members, who commuted via mini bus taxis, to better utilise their commuting time, for learning and growth.

Resistance to Premature Closure

All the ideas generated during our weekly innovation forum are carefully assessed to ensure that ideas are not eliminated due to personal judgement. The innovation is driven by mind storming and brain storming sessions, where all team members are challenged to only table reasons why an idea will work. They are encouraged to not contribute any reasons why any ideas could fail. This time where we suspend any negative input allows us to get some really incredible and innovative solutions to challenges.

Example: When we were searching for a solution to the challenge with heating plates prior to bending. It was this very process, which highlighted the fact that one of our team members could design and build a hydraulic press to eliminate the need for heating the plates prior to bending. Had we not allowed the process to continue we would never have discovered a really innovative solution, which has saved the business hundreds of thousands of rand’s in electricity savings.

Innovation Culture

The culture of innovation which permeates through our business at every level is one of the major reasons why we have managed to remain competitive in a market, which is filling up with new alternatives and substitutes for our manufactured vices. Although we have not created a new and original innovation over the past 12 years, we have constantly identified and applied new creative ideas, even very small ones, which have translated into cost savings, improved product quality and consistent improvements to our bottom line.

Scenario Planning – We operate in a very competitive environment, with new competitors arriving almost daily. Uncertainty is not a new challenge. It is one we have faced for a number of years now and managed to mitigate, through innovation and education.

To place scenario planning in context for our organisation it is crucial that we assess the various paradigms of strategy as put forward by (van der Heijden 1997, 2005b). These philosophies are crucial when attempting to understand the context of the planning process within our organisation. The three views we consider are the rationalist, evolutionary and processual.

Rationalist – This scenario assumes that there is just one best solution. We do not often follow this scenario. The simultaneous exploration of various ideas has in many cases allowed us to develop even better, more suitable solutions to challenges. There are however rare occasions where simplistic ideas are easily converted into solutions using this process as a solution tool.

Evolutionary School – This scenario concept assumes that a solution can only be articulated in retrospect (Mintxberg, 1990). Innovation is a process of random experimentation and filtering out of the unsuccessful ideas. This scenario is often used, with great success in the innovation process. It is a simple, yet effective process to quickly eliminate options and reach a solution quickly.

Processual School – This scenario assumes that it is not possible to deliver optimal strategies through rational thinking alone; it is possible to develop more adaptive, whole solutions, capable of learning from mistakes of the past. This system incorporates elements of change management, which help to influence the process. This is the process most commonly used in our business to create innovative solutions.

Conclusion

Innovation is crucial for the survival of all enterprises and leaders within these organisations need to support knowledge creation rather than control it. Knowledge is the foundation, which will drive and inspire creativity within any organisation. Knowledge creation must be carefully encouraged and supported by a number of activities, which will enable the learning process despite any obstacles which may surface.

Innovation is a doing word and when a culture of innovation is encouraged within any organisation. It becomes the way things are done, rather than an event, which occurs only occasionally. Innovation starts with educations, which helps drive and encourages learning, thinking and innovative attitudes. This process must be supported by great communication and a commitment to mutual support within the organisation.

When all the elements of education, communication, innovative attitude and mutual support are combined, great ideas are generated by all stakeholders, which can be placed in the innovation funnel and worked until they are converted into great new innovations. Innovation is not the job of any one person or department in an organisation, but the collective responsibility of every stakeholder within the organisation.

References

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