torsdag den 10. oktober 2013

The discipline of Innovation

By Thomas Klem Andersen, published on october 10th 2013

Managing Innovation
Last week I was so lucky to be offered participation in and innovation management course hosted by 1st Mile as part of their certification as trainers in a program called Managing InnovationTM developed by Barnes & Conti Associates in association with the University of Brighton, Center for Research in Innovation Management.

Transforming opportunities into value
In the perspective of the program, innovation is about transforming opportunities into value -extracting the value of creativity so to speak. Thus it emphasizes that there is an intimate connection between innovation and exploitation, where exploitation has to do with seeing opportunities and making the very most of them.

Innovation is a journey that can be managed
The program considers an innovation process as a journey which requires certain specific skillsets and mindsets. Even though the program stresses that an innovation journey is never linear, certain phases are necessary to go through at some point along the way. These phases can both be consciously recognized and planned for in the project design or lived through as a habituated way of doing things that has proven itself to work well. It makes a lot of sense however to break these phases down and treat them analytically on an abstract level to raise ones awareness of which kinds of attitudes and skills are conducive for each phase.  Doing that will make it possible to design a project plan accordingly, systematically train the skills needed to move through these phases and repeat the processes that proves to be successful. This is exactly what the program of Managing Innovation aims to do.

1st Mile introducing the Innovation Management Meta-model

The characteristics of innovative organizations and the phases of innovation
The program suggests that the shared characteristics of organizations that travel successfully through the phases of an innovation journey are: Focused leadership, deep competency, facilitative culture, active learning, enabling structures and processes and intelligent decision making.

The five distinct but interdependent phases that an innovation journey essentially can be divided into according to the program are: Searching, exploring, deciding, realising and optimizing. Distinguishing between these phases does not mean that one phase calls for creative thinking and the others do not. Rather it’s a matter of which kind of creativity is called for in each specific phase, and which kinds of objectives to invest ones creative thinking in.

One of the many exercises during the course

The discipline of innovation
The course taught by 1st Mile did a good job highlighting the different kinds of skills and attitudes that are needed to successfully manage an innovation journey. But the essential lesson that I felt it taught me - largely due to the high exercise density of the course - was that these skills and attitudes can be acquired, learned and cultivated.

Setting out on an innovation journey is not just a matter of setting loose the chaotic and creative energies that sometimes seem to be the cause and cradle of new ideas. Raising your awareness of the skills needed in different phases of such a journey, you can benefit from applying a certain discipline to the way you travel through them. With such an increased awareness you do not have to let the success or failure of innovation initiatives be completely up to chance. Instead you can manage the process in a skillful way. As David Francis emphasized towards the end of the course: “Innovation is a result of a marriage between creativity and discipline”. In fact innovation is not just a result of chaos and should not be – a certain discipline is required.

At Scion DTU we are now lucky to have 1st Mile certified to teach us the basics of such a discipline and evaluate our innovation skills according to the standards of Managing InnovationTM.

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