I recently attended my son’s winter concert band performance. As part of his introduction, the conductor advised the audience that the definition of ‘harmony’ is ‘when two notes are playing together simultaneously’. A more formal definition is ‘the study of harmony involves chords and their construction and chord progressions and the principles of connection that govern them’ (Dahlhaus, 2007).
In his groundbreaking book Brand Harmony (Yastrow, 2003), Steve Yastrow describes how organizations can achieve dynamic results by orchestrating their customers’ total experience. And, as sophisticated marketers know, managing the broad spectrum of customer touch points in a holistic and coordinated manner leads to improved customer loyalty, higher levels of brand health, and increased growth and performance. Nowadays, this is often referred to as Customer Experience Management.
Similarly, innovation harmony is about orchestrating the key levers of innovation. As most innovation experts and practitioners would agree, innovation is inherently multidisciplinary. Successful innovation requires a high degree of communication, collaboration and cooperation across functional areas, including but not limited to Research, Strategy, R&D, Technology, Product, Marketing and Sales.
If innovation is known to be multidisciplinary, how do you ensure innovation harmony across functional areas, which often tend to operate independently?
In my experience, this level of coordination does not happen by chance. There must be a firm-level commitment and plan to make it happen. A useful starting point is to do an innovation assessment, which can be done qualitatively or quantitatively. A quantitative assessment makes it easier to compare and contrast feedback and perceptions from different groups and parts of the organization. A good innovation assessment instrument will typically evaluate some eight to fifteen different levers of innovation. These may include but are not limited to leadership, employee engagement, R&D, infrastructure, external influences, research and insights, people and skills, and culture and values.
The innovation assessment can be used as a baseline to understand where the gaps and opportunities exist to improve innovation harmony. Further, by conducting the assessment on an ongoing basis, organizations can use the tool as a way to measure and manage their innovation harmony performance. Just as brand harmony and customer experience management have demonstrated, achieving higher levels of innovation harmony will deliver higher levels of growth and business performance.
Innovation harmony is about coordinating the key levers of innovation to improve growth and business performance. This notion is not magical or wishful thinking—brand harmony and customer experience management have demonstrated the business value of orchestrating disparate or independent parts of a value chain that are known to be interdependent.
Achieving innovation harmony requires a firm-level commitment and a specific plan of action. An innovation audit or assessment can be a useful vehicle for pursuing innovation harmony, especially if done at regular, ongoing intervals.
By Harun Asad
Harun Asad is currently employed with ConEdison Solutions, a leading energy services company based in New York. Previously, he was an Adjunct Professor at NYU-Poly, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer for Lodestar, a b2b consulting firm, and held a number of other corporate positions in strategy, marketing, and innovation. He holds an MBA, a BS in Marketing and is completing an MS in Information Management. He can be reached via Email at [email protected] or on Linkedin and Twitter.