As specialists in creative processes and innovation, we have worked with many of the largest Scandinavian companies over the last ten years, giving us many years of real experience in creating innovations and actually implementing them on the market. And, after talking to thousands of managers in Nordic businesses, the situation is clear to us:
They follow the modern mantra of ‘differentiate and create value’ and to achieve this, everyone wants to be more innovative
Most everyone strongly feels a need to continuously renew their commercial offering and working methods to keep competitive in the market. They follow the modern mantra of ‘differentiate and create value’ and to achieve this, everyone wants to be more innovative.
But very few translate this talk into action
Indeed they all like to talk the creativity and innovation talk. Most managers agree that innovation is the Nordic region’s last stronghold for competing in a global economy. Moreover, they are interested and fascinated by the thought of working systematically with innovation in order to gain a breakthrough to create growth and profitability for their organisations.
We all agree about all this… intellectually. But very few translate this talk into action.
Senior business managers spend much time on creating their business visions, objectives and strategies. These strategies get implemented through a process of taking these important goals for areas like R&D, HR, IT, QA, finance, and production and breaking them down into operative objectives that are delegated, measured and tracked.
Most often innovation stays as a fuzzy formulation contained in business or strategy planning. Often these same formulations are then communicated to the market.
But the gap between cheering and actually doing is just too broad
Sure, everyone wants to be seen as innovative and pioneering! Obviously, many understand the importance of being able to adapt, innovate and renew. But the gap between cheering and actually doing is just too broad!
That’s the issue – Why so much talk and so little action?
There are exceptions. Electrolux has set up an ‘Innovation Office’ to develop the company’s innovation capability in order to create new commercial opportunities. But again, this is an exception.
If you’re interested, you can do a quick survey yourself: Pick 10 Nordic companies who advertise themselves as innovative or creative. Do this the easy way and look at their market communication and their annual reports. Call up to their headquarters’ receptionist and ask to talk to their innovation manager.
Very few have a specific person in a role that actively addresses innovation issues
You can be sure that few will be able to find someone directly responsible for innovation. They might try sending you to someone at product development, business development or marketing. Very few have a specific person in a role that actively addresses innovation issues throughout the corporation.
Why then, is there such a gap between clear intellectual acceptance of how important innovation really is and actually proactively and systematically working for innovation?
Our experience is that this comes from the basic structures and business cultures in our society.
Just look at some of the major obstacles to innovation:
If you are the proactive, hard worker who wants to create innovation, what can you do?
However, if you are the kind of leader with the insight that innovation is important and you also do not accept that relying on chance or unpredictable events are valid leadership qualities; if you are the proactive, hard worker who wants to create innovation, what can you do?
Here’s a suggestion for a good start:
These points are just the beginning, but beginnings are important. Make sure your senior management leads these activities.
Managers who want to invest in innovation … also need support
Managers who want to invest in innovation and work to overcome structural and cultural obstacles in the organisation also need support. That’s why it’s important that initiatives like the ‘Nordic Innovation Leaders’ and ‘Innovation for Growth’ get encouraged to grow and strengthen.
For example, the industry-wide Nordic Innovation Leaders(N I L) was initiated two years ago, and is already the largest Nordic network of managers who lead innovation. Its vision is for Scandinavia to become a global leader in innovation. It is an action-oriented forum for sharing and developing practical knowledge and experiences.
The Innovation for Growth program was just announced in the Dagens Industri, the Swedish daily business newspaper, on September 10. This program brings together industry, academics and other institutions such as IVA.
The most important result these initiatives can bring is immediately providing concrete support to managers who want to work with innovation. And they should be prevented from becoming simply another institutional talking forum that leads nowhere.
Do you walk the talk?
Consider carefully, is renewal and innovation important for your organisation? Do you regularly discuss the importance of innovation, and is it integrated in your business strategy? Does your organisation just hope for innovation to happen, or do you work proactively and systematically to bring innovation about, as you do with other mission-critical activities in your business? Do you walk the talk?