Ready, set, innovate?

In the face of growing shareholder demands and business school case studies, how do you know if your organisation is even ready to innovate? It’s true that precious few companies seem to have a coherent innovation strategy, letalone one closely aligned to the business’ direction. It’s even rarer to find the Holy Grail: a genuine innovation culture. As Tim Kastelle and John Steen note in their excellent Innovation Matrix series, not every organisation needs to jump on the innovation juggernaut just for the sake of it. Yet the rapid pace of technological change and shifting consumer demands mean that no organisation, big or small, can afford to stay static for long. To assess readiness – and avoid the all-too-common ad hoc mess some management teams unintentionally create in the name of innovation – most practitioners advocate a basic audit of strategy, systems, processes and culture. Stefan Lindegaard, a leading open innovation expert, suggests a series of practical questions based around the ‘big’picture’, the organisation, external stakeholders and considerations such as intellectual property and IT infrastructure. One of his more interesting questions gets right to the heart of what kills innovation stone-dead in many organisations: “Are top executives really ready for this journey?” Paul Sloane, writing for the British Quality Foundation, has similar commonsense advice. “A good impartial audit will identify key areas for improvement in corporate culture and in innovation processes,” Sloane says. “It will help you to prioritise the issues that need to be addressed.” Both innovation commitment and competence are required to create a successful foundation for future growth, argues Tim Kastelle. “Unfortunately, having a high level of commitment (alone) doesn’t guarantee success,” he says. “I’ve encountered firms that have very high levels of commitment, but they are still lousy at actually executing ideas. That is the other part of innovation success.”


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