What is innovation? If you ask ten people, chances are high you will get ten different answers. The good news is that it does not need to be fully defined upfront for companies to get business value out of their innovation efforts. The one thing that I hope we can all agree on though is that it is critically important for a company to carve out their valuable resources to focus on some form of innovation.
There have been multiple books and articles written about innovation phases, approaches, myths, beliefs and more. Personally, I am a big believer in the three horizons model when it comes to thinking about your innovation work and how you focus your efforts. I would encourage all of you thinking about starting your innovation journey to read the article linked here and to consider the following three elements crucial for your success with innovation.
Top 3 things to start your innovation journey
There has never been more VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) and change in the world than at present. Global challenges such as Inflation, the faster adoption of emerging technology like AI, disruption in various industries and increased customer expectation – this all makes a strong case for the need for companies to spend more time innovating. Based on our experience, I thought it would be useful to share the top three things companies should strive to have in place when they start out on their innovation journey. They are:
- Executive support from the top of the company.
- Leverage a methodology such as design thinking.
- Time for staff to experiment.
So, let’s see how each one can shape your innovation path:
1. Executive support – It is critical to have your executive team bought into your innovation focus areas and efforts, ideally with a single executive sponsor identified. The reasons for this are manifold, but some important ones are that they can provide air cover for staff when challenged. If you are innovating and looking to change how things are done inside your company, then some friction is inevitable. So, having an executive sponsor will be key to helping remove roadblocks.
In addition, the executive sponsor will have a strong understanding of what the overarching business goals or strategy of the company are over the next 3+ years, which is an important insight to have when deciding on the focus areas of your innovation efforts. Finally, any member of the executive team will have access to funding, which is always handy to have!
2. Methodology or framework – Innovating successfully can be hard, and it is often a bumpy road. In addition to focusing on your innovation efforts informed by your executive team, I firmly believe having an agreed-upon and well-understood repeatable framework is important. There are multiple innovation models out there and many recommendations of which one is best, but for me, design thinking is a great one to start with. It is very much based on human-led design principles and understanding the target audience for your innovation work, which when done right can save you much wasted effort on your innovation path. The UK design council Double Diamond is a personal favourite and well worth checking out.
3. Time – This one should hopefully come as no surprise, but you need to find ways to give time to staff to innovate. It can be through company-sponsored events, such as innovation councils, TED.com-style innovation talks or an annual executive-supported hack event, but staff need to be encouraged to get involved. To turn ideas into reality, management needs to give time to staff to learn, experiment and try out new things.
Tied to this, it is important to know that on occasion, your innovation experiments may not deliver value, but you need to embrace what you learn, celebrate failure and keep going, as, eventually, your culture of innovation will become part of the fabric of your organisation.
To complete the race, you need to start with the first step
If you are reading this and still putting off starting your innovation journey, it is critically important to simply do something this month. As the saying goes: to complete a race, you need to start with the first step. One thing that often stops companies from starting, is that they may only have the resources to deliver incremental innovation. So, is it worth the effort?
My answer to that question is a 100% yes, of course, it is worth it. There is often too much negativity about incremental or horizon 1 innovation, but it typically is the first step on your innovation journey. In closing, I will leave you with a link to a great article from Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, where he openly speaks about one part of the secret sauce of Amazon, which can catalyse other more progressive forms of innovation. Of course, if you are looking for a partner who can help with any of this, please do feel free to reach out to us in Endava or message me directly on LinkedIn.
Until next time and enjoy the journey ahead,
Head of InnovationJoe is an experienced executive in the Innovation, Software Delivery, FinTech and Business areas. In previous positions, he has held several leadership roles including Innovation Head, Interim CIO, Software Development Lead, and Technical Project Manager. His experience spreads the range between IT start-up and global corporation, which helps him support a diverse range of clients. Joe also holds degrees in UX, UI and Innovation, Innovation & Leadership, and Computer Science, and he is a certified Amazon Cloud Practitioner and Microsoft Azure Fundamentals professional. Besides being passionate about technology and innovation, Joe also enjoys volunteering, food, coaching, sports, and spending time with his wife Dervla and their two kids Ava and Joseph.
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