In order to see sustained growth over a length of time, organizations must be innovative. The question is, what does that really mean? How do you specifically define innovation for your company? To understand how innovation fits into your organization’s business model, you need to evaluate two key areas: your culture of innovation, and your innovation capabilities. Let’s begin by defining innovation in business.

Defining Business Innovation

What is business innovation? For business purposes, innovation is the process of conceptualizing and implementing new ideas, processes or products. Business innovation can also include re-imagining existing ideas, processes, or products to be used in unique and new ways. Innovation comes in many forms, and the approach can vary based on the organization’s industry, size, and resources.

Here, we’ll discuss:

  1. Evaluating your organization’s innovation culture internally and externally
  2. Evaluating your organization’s innovation capabilities

Evaluating Your Organization’s Innovation Culture Internally and Externally

Understanding the Culture of Innovation Inside Your Organization

Whether you’re just getting your feet wet in the world of innovation or are on the path to being seen as industry experts and trend setters, you have to first put all the pieces in place. Taking stock of your organization’s innovation style and means will allow you to take on appropriately ambitious projects and increase chances of success. By taking a realistic approach that embraces the capabilities and resources available, you can avoid wasting time on projects that lack the buy-in and/or resources to make an impact.

You can ascertain your company’s innovation style by thinking through a few critical points.

  1. Discover how stakeholders in your company view and measure innovation.
    Begin by thinking about whether new ideas are welcomed and explored with an open-minded enthusiasm for the potential they offer, met with hesitant excitement, or only accepted within the confines of the current business model. It is not unusual to witness all of these perspectives, however, one view typically outweighs the other. The idea is to generalize which innovation style fits best with your organization’s status quo.
  2. How is innovation measured?
    Next, consider how the success of innovation is measured. If the project merits it, is there a long-term view that allows time to realize the value of the initiative, or are initiatives abandoned fairly quickly if immediate results aren’t realized? Some may gauge success based on a comparison with other companies, or if milestones are met. Take note of differences in how various types of innovations are measured.
  3. Research how much innovation takes place within your organization and the ease of implementation.
    Is your company always or infrequently innovating? Research if projects are completed on time and as promised. Also, determine if your organization’s innovation efforts meet with competitors’, or if your company sets the bar in the marketplace.
  4. Now focus on innovation efforts that have been successful.
    The goal here is to identify what went right and what could be improved. Think about things like:

    • Was the project completed on time?
    • Did it result in a quality product?
    • Was it adopted well by the team?

Now that you have discovered and defined the dynamics of organizational innovation, shift your focus to external sources.

How Do Outside Entities View Your Organization’s Culture of Innovative?

  1. How do clients, investors, and partners define your approach to innovation?
    In order to collect this data, you must ask, survey, and/or run reports. There are many ways to receive feedback or evaluation. How you are perceived by your clientele and stakeholders is important to how your brand and services are translating. It is valuable information that can help reveal whether or not a new approach to innovation is needed.
  2. What expectations do investors have for your organization?
    If your organization has a track record of successfully innovating, investors will likely be accepting of the risk innovation introduces. It’s important to note however, that without that history of success, some investors may be wary of innovative efforts, and others may not be interested in a great amount of risk overall. As relationships and trust are built through proven success and data, expectation may evolve and allow for more opportunities to take on those risks.
  3. Does Your Approach to Innovation Align with Competitors?
    Describe your relationship with competitors in relation to innovation. Do they commonly surprise you, or do you run the competition? Frankly, it can be tricky to do an honest comparison with competitors. It’s highly recommended you consider and utilize real business intelligence to facilitate a realistic outlook. This is the time to resource quantifiable data of your position compared to where competitors rank or perform.

Evaluating Your Organization’s Innovation Capabilities

To be successful innovators, companies need resources in the form of people, technology, funding, and time, at the very least. The more difficult the innovation, the more resources you are likely to need. Thus, before undertaking any innovation strategies, it is important to take stock of the resources you have on tap.

Requirements of Successful Business Innovation

Here are a few thought-provoking questions to help you think through what you have versus what you need to enable disruptive innovation:

      1. How are innovative opportunities discovered?
        • Internal ideas
        • Keeping an eye on competitors
        • Listening to customers or clients
        • Other ways
      2. Do employees stay rigidly within the parameters of their role, or do they regularly branch out and offer new ideas?
        • How do members within departmental teams interact?
        • How do teams interact cross-departmentally?
      3. Is innovation rewarded and are risks acceptable and failures seen as learning opportunities, or is the reverse true?
        • How are innovative ideas received by leadership?
        • What is the response when an initiative doesn’t hit defined goals?
      4. How much funding is your organization willing/able to invest in innovation?
        • Ensuring resources are available before launching into developing an innovative idea is critical to ensure the project doesn’t come to a premature end, causing frustration for team members.
      5. Does your organization have the bandwidth to devote the time and attention needed as well as the expertise for the innovation being considered?
        • Time and expertise are essential but are often commodities that are in short supply. InfoWorks is able to free up your time by providing expert consultants who can lead your team to a successful project completion. We offer total business solutions in the areas of management consulting, data and analytics, and technology solutions, with a focus on delivering solutions for today that your team can succeed with well into the future.

      Your Organization and Innovation

      Now, it is time to pull all of the data together and form a realistic view of the innovative mindset within your organization. Companies with the most conservative approach to innovation see it as making small changes that have a positive impact. Those that are more risk tolerant want their innovations to be ground-breaking for the company and disruptive for the marketplace. Most companies probably fall somewhere in-between these two extremes. They may adopt an environment where more pronounced, incremental improvements from within are embraced. Or, they are a source of new developments that reach outside the confines of the company.

      It is possible to have multiple innovation styles occurring within your organization. For instance, you may lead the marketplace in one area and only make small innovative improvements in another discipline. The market, competitors, and investor expectations all affect how you innovate and strategize. This understanding of your organization’s vision and history of organizational innovation should give you insights into where improvements could be made.

About Phil Hartman

Mr. Hartman is an InfoWorks Director with deep experience solving complex business problems in healthcare, application and data integration, analytics, business-to-business (B2B) connectivity, order management, billing, supply chain, and customer service. He has significant expertise in databases, schema design, secure cloud hosting, data analytics tools, machine learning, data visualization, APIs, application requirements, software architecture, software testing, legacy and ERP integration, high availability, and project planning/estimating. He is also an AWS Certified Solutions Architect-Associate and Databricks Certified Data Engineer Associate. ​

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