A couple of weeks back, I went to London to visit with some customers and I was fortunate to also attend an event and mingle with a number of impressive innovation leaders at the Chief Innovation Officer summit. This event draws participation from global enterprises who come together to share insights and learnings about how enterprises approach innovation today. A focus of the event this year was around the topic of innovation across the entire organization and not just the focus of the core innovation team whether centrally located or globally distributed.
I sat in on some interesting sessions which covered a number of topics but the one that peaked my interest was around how multiple functions across an enterprise can get behind a culture of innovation and what roles each can play.
Enterprise Innovation teams are tasked with thinking beyond incremental innovation. They need to consider “What could put us out of business?” and at the same time “What could separate us from the crowd and drive competitive advantage?” These teams are doing the ‘covert’ work while the rest of the organization keeps the lights on with business as usual.
Innovation teams typically don’t look like the rest of the corporation and often have their own mission and vision. Their size, makeup and mandate gives these teams the necessary flexibility and structure to focus on finding innovation from the outside as well as fostering it from the inside. When it comes to rolling out new programs and models, innovation sourced externally can lead to concern from employees about the impact on their role.
One idea discussed at the conference was to have participation from HR within cross-functional innovation teams. Adoption of new ideas or innovation sourced from the outside is dependent on how it ultimately gets rolled out. Building the foundation for rollout early in the process is now becoming a best practice. To complement the rollout activities, organizations are adopting highly engaged employee communities to create internal mechanisms and processes to educate and explain new technologies more deeply, and socialize desired outcomes.
Anything disruptive in nature is undoubtedly challenging but if the processes and culture support mechanisms are put in place, change can happen iteratively and will have a greater chance of success. When multi-functional teams all work towards the same end goal, it definitely helps to streamline and keep everyone on the same page.
In closing — innovation is no longer confined to one function inside an enterprise. Whether the goal is to find new technologies to augment existing product lines, find new revenue streams or fundamentally change how business is done — it requires company-wide focus and a culture that addresses the impact. This in turn helps employees to accept change, adapt and succeed in their role as the pace of change continues to accelerate.