Over the last 15 years, innovation as an activity has become broader, more complex and increasingly collaborative. No longer is R&D spending the only proxy for success – innovation strategy and innovation culture have too climbed high on the agenda. Similarly, the realization that innovation is not as unpredictable of an occurrence as initially thought (i.e. product of a “spontaneous combustion”), brings new implications for top management. Finally, dwelling confusion about clear and consistent models for repeated success and constant growth have left even highly regarded innovators wondering: what exactly can be done to streamline innovation?
In an attempt to address these concerns (i.e. close the knowledge gap), Europe has set the wheels of (productive) debate into motion. Here innovation powerhouses and other important stakeholders are willingly joining forces with the public sector in sharing their joint expectations vis-a-vis systematic innovation – the Who needs a standard for Innovation Management? Workshop at the Innovation in Action Symposium 2012 being one notable instance as such.
This high-level event, led by Magnus Karlsson, Director New Business Development & Innovation at Ericsson Headquarters in Stockholm and Chairman of the SIS Technical Committee TK 532 on Innovation Management, and Stefan Tangen, expert and Project Leader at SIS (Swedish Standards Institute), not only brought a select group of multi-national companies such as IKEA, Ericsson, TetraPak, Volvo and AstraZeneca around the table, but also successfully managed to capture their varied opinions on a number is key issues. For example, the participants were asked to define and discuss systematic innovation¹ – an exercise that ultimately made the case, and nuanced the context for the creation of an innovation management standard.
In brief, the key insights arguing in favour of a systematic approach to innovation included:
The historical view on innovation as an enclosed, product/R&D centric, internally oriented process where most of the research is done in costly laboratories financed by mature economies. In the last decades though, change has come about. From fully bounded to market and insight-driven, innovation is undergoing a major shift. It can now start in emerging markets and not only in mature ones; it has become open, and collaborative allowing more and more areas of the organization to be involved.
Paradoxically, broader involvement is not entirely good news. More participants in the innovation process mean more complex decision-making – a genuine burden when there is little guidance available.
In order to thrive, organizations need to have the relevant cultural component in place and this component involves securing the right attitude towards innovation. As confirmed by numerous reports, for example Strategy&’s Global Innovation 1000 study, it is not how much companies spend on research and development that determines success — what really matters is how those R&D funds are invested in talent, process, and tools. Hence, companies need to ensure the correct and continuous integration of innovation in the overall company strategy.
Once dwelling in doubt, practitioners are slowly beginning to agree: luck does not suffice when it comes to innovation. In fact, recent corporate realities paint an entirely different picture: with customer demand and competitive pressures increasing and operation excellence making entities leaner and leaner, the odds of innovation happening by chance have decreased. Evidence points towards a more proactive approach to developing new products, services and business models.
The final insight to consider is the puzzlement among entities – especially regarding what innovation is, what it can do and why it should be formally managed. Even companies at the forefront of new product or service development struggle to maintain a robust model that sustains innovation. In addition, organizations agree that they need to innovate more and also acknowledge the existence of a knowledge gap in terms of a systematic approach to their innovation processes.
Summing up, as systematic innovation becomes a necessity in a fast-paced, hyper-competitive world, the worth of a management standard addressing the process of innovation finds justification.
In other words, to render desired results (i.e. value creation) innovation needs to be methodical and organized– at least to a certain extent. Therefore, the worth of a management standard addressing innovation will rest in its ability to provide clear guidance on the different ways of achieving sustained success through new product, service or business model development.
Next in this dedicated article series, we will explore The Promise of Innovation Management Standardization further and talk about the key drivers for the adoption of innovation management standards as well as the active debate in Europe on the matter.
By Oana-Maria Pop
Oana-Maria is a marketing and branding professional with special interest in growth through innovation, the lean start-up methodology, online learning, and futures studies.
She is the former VP of Marketing at InnovationManagemet.se. Her track record of collaborations includes organizations in the innovation management service industry, both from Europe and the US such as Apollo Group Ltd., FutureThink, HYPE Innovation Gmbh, Ninesigma, Planview and Stanford Education.
Oana is currently based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“Innovation is the implementation of a new or significantly improved product (good or service), or process, a new marketing method, or a new organizational method in business practices, workplace organization or external relations” [Oslo Manual, OECD 2005].
CEN/TC 389 “Innovation Management” was started in November 2008. The project was initiated by Spanish entity AENOR. Most active countries include Spain, Germany, the Nordics, Portugal, Ireland, UK and France.
The voluntary process of developing technical specifications based on consensus among all interested parties (industry including SMEs, consumers, trade unions, public authorities, etc). Standardization is carried out by independent standards bodies, acting at national, European and international level.
As evidence suggests, innovation – both as a field of study and as a practical discipline – has gained considerable traction over the past 15 years. As organizations become broader and more complex, the need for a systematic approach to new product, service or business development techniques strengthens accordingly. And this is merely the tip of the iceberg – there are multiple insights on why communities can benefit from an organized approach to innovation – a process at the heart of our everyday (business) lives. As of today, this approach is becoming a reality and work slowly progresses towards the creation of a unified Innovation Management Standard. Why the delay? Plainly because relating innovation to standardization² is something most practitioners still find counter-intuitive. Their main belief: the terms clash and collide.
In Europe, such persistent and biased views obstruct dialogue and impede the creation of a common framework greatly. But stakeholders and supranational bodies such as AENOR in Spain and SIS in Sweden are stepping up to overcome this obstacle. Backed by research, both qualitative and quantitative, as well their own need for a consistent set of guidelines, these entities argue that the adoption of innovation management standards is imminent. Moreover, given the gap of knowledge in the field, voluntary rules stand a high chance of following the adoption curves of those in manufacturing, safety, education and even quality management.
In an attempt to shed some light on the matter, lessen the struggle for corporations and disseminate the key learnings aggregated so far, IM has invited experts Magnus Karlsson, Chairman of the SIS Technical Committee TK 532 on Innovation Management, and Stefan Tangen, expert and Project Leader at SIS (Swedish Standards Institute), to join the dialogue. The result: a dedicated series of in-depth articles focusing on various aspects of the Innovation Management Standardization efforts in Europe as well as their implications for practitioners everywhere.
1. When asked to define what ”Systematic Innovation” is, the participants provided the following associations: Systematic Innovation = Regularity, Creating preconditions i.e. time, money, space , Funnel framework for Innovation Process, Tangible steps + Catch + manage ideas + Intuitive & simple
2. (the) activity of establishing, with regard to actual or potential problems, provisions for common and repeated use, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context. (source: EC)