For me, innovation is the lifeblood of progress and growth. It allows us to transform industries, open new avenues of opportunity, and propel businesses to heights previously unimagined.
Sitting at the heart of innovation is ideation – the generation of ideas. This is sometimes positioned as something of a mystical art, achievable by just a select few. In fact, everyone can generate ideas, so what sets a truly innovative business apart is its ability to cope with the consequences (that’s right, consequences) of innovation.
When a company innovates, it brings change – real, profound change that can be in equal parts exciting, frightening, and disruptive. Employees now want their ideas to be heard and expect at least some of those ideas will be carried forward to change things for the better. However, for many organisations, managing ongoing change can be extremely challenging. Barriers to innovation quickly emerge to slow things down, hindering progress and stifling the benefits that innovation can bring.
When a company innovates, it brings change – real, profound change that can be in equal parts exciting, frightening, and disruptive.
For businesses to go beyond ‘just’ generating new ideas, they need the skills and competency to navigate and adapt to the many changes that innovation brings. This is where a systematic approach and alignment to a competency framework comes into play. Businesses need to clearly outline the specific set of skills and abilities that enable them to effectively manage innovation. A competency framework outlines the skills needed to keep the momentum going and to build the confidence to move to the next level.
So what does a systematic approach look like? In simple terms, it begins with a frank and honest assessment of where we are today, ideally comparing ourselves against industry standards and best practices. Next, we set a vision for innovation – what Jim Collins in Good to Great called a “Big Hairy Audacious Goal”. This vision will represent the desired future state, and it should be unencumbered by limitations of budget, time, or technology. Once we know where we are, and where we’re trying to get to, we can then outline the steps, initiatives, and activities needed to bridge the gap between the present and the vision.
This simple, structured approach leads thinking and acting differently in a rapidly evolving business landscape, whether the underlying need is to develop new products, improve operations, growth, or to increase stability.
Success in innovation is not a one-time event; it demands ongoing efforts to ensure that businesses can make innovation sticky and sustainable. So, as innovation takes root more people may need to be involved, and these people need training and skills development.
Business leaders need to encourage a mindset of continuous learning and personal development, empowering employees to explore new ideas and experiment with different approaches. Fundamentally the business must create supportive environment that accepts uncertainty, embraces risk, and celebrates both successes and failures as valuable learning experiences.
My advice? Business leaders need to keep a finger on the pulse of their teams if they are to manage innovation effectively. By staying connected and engaged with our teams, we can really understand the challenges they face and provide the right support in an evolving innovation landscape.
Innovation should not be viewed as a one-off, ad-hoc event, but rather as an ongoing programme of activity. By applying a competency framework, investing in training and skills development, and fostering a culture that embraces innovation, leaders can empower their teams to navigate change and seize the opportunities that innovation brings.
The structure a competency framework provides goes a long way to ensure innovation is not just another short-lived buzzword but a driving force for sustainable growth and success.