We interviewed Mike Pinder from Board on Innovation to find out how innovation can be implemented most effectively. Mike Pinder was explaining this to us based on a five-day plan, including the advantages and disadvantages of an innovation strategy.
How can incentives for innovative thinking and trade be created?
“Incentives can be created in a number of ways, such as clearly defining growth paths and career paths for those embarking on innovation-led journeys. You can also give internal innovation teams percentage equity stakes in the initiatives that they are responsible for. Another way is to give teams their own autonomous metered funding budgets to spend as they wish to support their innovation projects so that teams are operating independently like a startup with full autonomy and accountability with flat hierarchies that do not stifle innovation efforts.”
What is the most difficult part of translating an innovation theory to the tactical level?
“The most difficult parts of translating innovation theory to tactical levels relate to synthesising and simplifying a great deal of research and insights in simple terms that relate to day to day activities at the individual level. There are varying degrees of applicability of innovation theory to the tactical level because in many cases the theory is seeking to explain a very small phenomena built on other smaller theories, which are of little use separately to project teams day today. More broadly applicable theories such as lead users and disruptive innovation cover a much wider sphere of applicability and are easier to explain because they require broad definitions and overarching process to explain, which makes them more accessible and easier to digest at the innovation project level because there are many ways in which they can be applied to projects.”
What do you have to do daily to implement the innovation strategy in five days?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of implementing an innovation theory in five days?
“The advantages are that you compress a lot of traditionally drawn-out thinking around strategy into a very short space of time enabling decisions to be made and actions were taken right away without losing momentum or prioritisation. Doing it in five days sends a strong cultural message that speed and agility are happening right from the top, which is at the core of most innovation initiatives at the project tactical level. It also allows for an iterative approach to defining the actual strategy with senior leadership. In order to get the right buy-in, many perspective and inputs need to be considered quickly without the politics getting in the way and compressing the number of time forces that decision making quickly.
The disadvantages are that it requires a lot of pre-organisation and alignment to make sure the right senior executives are in the right place at the right time in the process. If someone cancels a feedback meeting it will have a serious knock-on impact that could derail the entire timeline and outcomes needed. It also requires the core team to block their agenda’s for the whole 5 days unconditionally which may be a challenge without full buy-in and support at least before the sprint.”
What risks do you see in the implementation of an innovation strategy?
“The risks of implementing an innovation strategy are primarily within the existing business logic in the minds of middle managers who are tasked and evaluated in metrics and KPI’s that can often be in contradiction to the goals and objectives of new innovation projects running under a new innovation strategy. It is a cultural issue revolving around the existing resources, processes and values which are hard to change in the minds of those impacted as the new business impact results and logic are not proven from the outset. They also need to be bought into the innovation initiatives so that they clearly see the benefits to them both intrinsically and extrinsically.”
What are the possible reasons for the failure of innovation projects?
“There are many reasons for the failure of innovation projects, but from a strategy point of view, one of the primary reasons is the creation of ‘innovation theatre’ or being seen to innovate without being responsible and accountable for new business impact outcomes. This happens when the organisational innovation archetype is simply running in ‘experimenter mode’. In this mode pockets of innovation activities like design sprints, individual innovation training etc are funded but are not linked to the corporate or business strategies. Without this important link the initiatives are not grounded in business ‘must wins’ and as a result, teams can be seen to be ‘innovating’ by using templates and post-its, but not contributing to new business outcomes. Teams then run into motivational issues and workshop fatigue shortly followed by innovation budgets being cut as they don’t deliver business impact to the core business priority areas. They key is to have a balanced portfolio of innovation initiative types that are configured to enable the higher level business strategy and can be held accountable to show in concrete metrics exactly how much value they are delivering to customers and the organisation. In this way you have a disruptive innovation engine running that can account for its existence and continued funding.”
Mike Pinder is a senior innovation consultant at Board of Innovation and helps the global fortune 500 organisations to innovate startups, from innovation strategy to design thinking, lean startup and business model innovation to create intrapreneurial troublemakers. He has more than ten years of experience in guiding executives and project teams across industries for clients such as General Electric, Logitech, ING and others.