The reasons for this shift are varied, but include:
Up to this point, innovative ideas were often sourced from employees, but are developed by teams of “experts” separated from the core organization and given the ability to experiment and act autonomously. While this is often a suitable development model (especially for the most disruptive ideas), it limits the ability to scale capacity to develop new thinking. It fails to build a culture of innovation and doesn’t set the right “innovation ownership” message for employees in the core organization.
Further, separating these innovation skills on the edge of the organization sends a terrible message for employees who remain in the core, where they are given little chance to experiment, or drive the development of new ideas (often their own). This builds resistance to supporting new ideas if / when they need to integrate with the core organization’s resources.
In response, innovation leaders are working with functional Business Unit and Corporate leadership to implement actions that broadly support and encourage experimentation (and often parallel approaches around autonomy) as a defined skill for all levels of an organization. Some examples include:
There are a range of established organizations following this approach. Nike has an integrated training / channel / reward / recognition approach to supporting employee experimentation in day-to-day roles. Innovative activity is mandated for all employees and rewarded by leadership, even in (qualified) failure situations. Interestingly, Adidas have a similar approach.
For several years Pfizer has been supporting a team of innovation champions who are highly skilled in a proprietary Design Thinking methodology called “Dare to Try.” These individuals retain regular jobs, but are encouraged to apply a DT approach to issues in their relevant business units. Ideas generated from these efforts are then tracked / promoted through a centralized reporting function, justifying the program investment.
While experimentation and autonomy efforts at some organizations are already well established, others are just starting on this journey. The reality is that every corporate innovation leader should be working to build more experimental, ownership culture. As we head further into a radically disrupted economy, there is no other choice.
Let me know if you agree / disagree with any of the above points, or would like to discuss your efforts.
By Anthony Ferrier
Anthony Ferrier is a well-regarded executive, advisor and thought leader on corporate innovation, with a focus on employee engagement and training. He advises companies on how to thrive in an exponential world, by developing appropriate strategic frameworks to guide organizational change and build cultures that encourage the development of new ideas. Anthony is a widely-read author, speaker and advisor to organizations such as Bristol-Myers Squibb, Fidelity Investments, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, ADP and USAA. He previously led The BNY Mellon innovation program and has a Master of Commerce (University of Sydney) and Bachelor of Economics (University of Newcastle).