Mastering the Art of Innovation

You can hardly scan the Internet or pick up a business magazine without seeing references to innovation. Companies everywhere are emerging from decades of cost reductions and are now focusing on efficiency, while looking for the next breakthrough idea… the next Post-It Note, the Frappucino or even the new Internet.

Today, many companies measure innovation by their research and development (R&D) investments. Private industry finances the majority of R&D spending in the U.S. and other countries. No matter how passionate company leaders are about making long-term bets on innovation, selecting the right ideas to invest in can be a challenge.

Having an innovation framework to support the development of new ideas provides companies with a strategic
approach to innovation from the inside out.

Having an innovation framework to support the development of new ideas provides companies with a strategic approach to innovation from the inside out – and it helps guide the right R&D investments. It can positively impact organizational cultures, increase employee engagement in the innovation process and generate a constant stream of ideas that have measurable business impact. But how easy is it for companies to accomplish this?

Figure 1: The innovation pipeline needs to connect innovators to business and technology champions to define and elevate great ideas – and bank others for future inspirations.

Managing Ideas

Formalized idea management has taken hold for many companies. By leveraging internal social media collaboration tools and portals, or even their own intranets, companies are providing a widespread, ongoing platform for employees to exchange ideas. Since inspiration can just as easily be found in a coffee shop as in a conference room, the development of an online space created exclusively for sharing content and ideas 24/7 can have a similar impact and encourage collaboration and communication among regionally dispersed teams. Employees can easily build on each other’s ideas through comments. Whether through an online voting process or just monitoring which ideas are creating particularly active conversations, companies can decide what projects to take on and move forward.

Companies should focus on ideas that either solve specific, real-world problems and customer needs or drive an industry trend forward.

Although all ideas are welcome, companies should focus on the ones that either solve specific, real-world problems and customer needs or drive an industry trend forward. To ensure that employees focus on the right areas and increase the probability of an innovative concept being adopted, executives should challenge employees to solve specific problems or business issues. These problem statements can then be translated into calls for ideas with further background and context which setup the right scope. However, the goal should not always be to come up with the “next big thing”. Efforts that focus on incremental innovation or improvements to existing solutions, products and features can be equally important.

For example, the battery life of a device can be of critical importance in certain industries. While running out of power on a phone or PC can be inconvenient for a business traveler, it can be life threatening to a police officer in an emergency. This is why Motorola Solutions is doing significant research on new innovative ways to lengthen battery life and extend radio talk time. Our efforts in this area generated several new, innovative ideas to optimize smart energy management resources – one of which is currently going through a proof of concept trial with customers. We expect this new feature to provide operational improvements, new revenue generation opportunities and enhanced energy management for enterprise and government customers.

Organizations that bring new capabilities to market before anyone else sees the need or benefit are the most successful ones.

Ultimately the goal is for innovation programs to evolve over time to address cross-business, technology-driven challenges to spur more disruptive thinking and ideas. Given that true innovation occurs when new technology or thinking solves a problem customers didn’t know they had and in a way they never thought possible, organizations that bring new capabilities to market before anyone else sees the need or benefit are the most successful ones.

Leveraging the Ecosystem

While every company wants to be the first to develop something new to trump competitors’ contributions to the marketplace, sometimes joining forces can be an effective way to introduce a new idea. Whether it’s sitting at the table together or leveraging another company’s technology,companies can yield a greater outcome by working together rather than independently. Some of the world’s greatest contributions come from the unlikely or unexpected pairings of people and companies’ efforts.

Encouraging Passionate Innovators

People are the real secret to the success of an innovation framework. All advancements start with people through the sharing of ideas, thus it is paramount to assemble the right team of collaborators. Members can come from different business backgrounds and levels of experience. This hub-and-spoke model can be ideal for large, globally decentralized companies looking to scale the process and gain ideas from casting a wider net. In addition, it is important to designate innovation champions or advocates within the company. They will be the ideal candidates to evaluate, challenge and decide whether to bank or pursue ideas. This close coupling of resources is essential to the success and sustainability of an innovation program.

But no matter the skill set and level of experience, one intrinsic characteristic must be shared between all members: passion and the willingness to bring change. A successful group of collaborators are evangelists who utilize every accessible tool to ensure an idea eventually comes to fruition.

Generating business results and making an impact

Every business requires structure at all levels, and the management of ideas should be approached with the same care and consideration as every other department and/or team within an organization. The support of senior management inspires employees from all levels and areas of expertise to actively think of and share ideas. The creation of an innovation framework allows some to step back so that others can come forward, and this view from a different angle adds the fresh perspective most companies need to innovate.

The future belongs to the company that not only produces innovative products but also creates a culture of innovation.

Having an active model for innovation is key to the continued development of all industries, whether they are solving an existing problem or creating something new. All companies need to create products that appeal to customers because at the end of the day, they must generate revenue. But the future belongs to the company that not only produces innovative products but also creates a culture of innovation. A company’s culture and philosophy makes the real difference between those companies that are here today and those that will be here tomorrow, and the difference between having a great quarter and building and maintaining status as an industry leader and innovator for years to come. Consistency and sustainability is what drives companies and innovation forward. Without it, you’ll just have a collection of untapped ideas.

By Heidi Hattendorf

About the Author

Heidi Hattendorf is director of Innovation Development at Motorola Solutions. She brings more than 20 years of experience in telecoms from public safety and two-way radio, to consumer mobile phones and network solutions on 3G/4G.She heads up an Innovation team focused on identifying and creating new opportunities in adjacent markets and technologies to drive growth. Learn more about innovation at Motorola Solutions.

Photo: writing innovation concept from shutterstock.com

  • RENEBOY2013

    HI Heidi,

    This is great!…”The future belongs to the company that not only produces innovative products but also creates a culture of innovation.”

    More power!

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