Have you ever been told “no” by a member of your staff? Have you ever been really upset that things aren’t being done the right way? Have you fixed those problems? Well, if so, you just killed the two key factors of innovation – Openness and Freedom. Elements like these affect what we call “the environment” and it is the most overlooked area by executives. What we find is that most executives rarely look at improvement in more than one or two of the three areas necessary to manage an innovative organization: People, Process and Environment.
The Valen Group has worked in growth and innovation serving clients who are leaders in innovation for more than a decade. That experience and sole focus shapes our philosophy and comprehensive view in what organizational factors are important in innovation. We have assembled and use a set of proven survey instruments and best practices in our assessment model that meld the best from academia and practice from the fields of creativity, problem-solving, research and product development.
- Right People
- Right Process
- Right Environment
We utilize a survey instrument, like the Myers-Briggs approach of innovative thinking which maps the preferred problem-solving thinking style of each person involved in innovation in context of the basic innovation process – Ideation, Conceptualization, Optimization and Execution. When project leaders and team members become aware of their own thinking style, which style is most appropriate at which stage in a project, and how they might change that style to better serve the innovation process, the project moves forward more productively and with better results. Unhealthy tension and unproductive discussions are redirected to discussions on which innovation stage the project is within (e.g. ideation or conceptualization) and what method should be used to progress. It is a quick and effective way to kick-off your next project or improve productivity within existing work teams through a common understanding in problem solving styles.
Most processes are glaringly too rigid (e.g. driven by one tool or method) versus a framework with options and breadth in how to proceed. We find these flawed processes are driven by a leader’s comfort with a given method, even qualitative or quantitative research preferences, but this is wrong. An innovation process should provide a clear line of sight of a project beginning, middle and end right from the start. It must allow for iteration and flexibility to follow inviting leads and changes due to insight. If it’s too general it will lack needed definition of support tools such as the framing of unmet needs, benefits sorts; research method options defined by stage; competitive positioning analysis and tools like decision criteria and the business case. Getting this right is harder said than done and most process models fail some simple tests like these. When we assess an innovation process, we want people to be able to focus on content (ideas, facts, judgment, decisions) not the basics of running a project from beginning to end. Revisit your process to ensure it’s optimized and understood.
The factors that influence how people interact and make decisions are the most overlooked and can create significant improvement by including this area in the assessment. Human nature can be a barrier or an asset. We utilize a survey instrument that measures the key factors of an innovative company environment. We compare results against the results validated to fit norms of innovative and stagnant companies for each attribute (such as risk-taking and freedom) where ideal scores are not always highest. We can develop with confidence a plan for improvement while maintaining actions that support innovation through a change management and training program. In addition, the organization can be surveyed again six months or a year later to actually measure progress, learn which changes work and which do not, to optimize the innovation environment.
Innovation isn’t easy, but by assessing objectively and with good benchmarks the people, process and environment within your organization, you can increase the probability of success in realizing a step-change increase in innovation performance. Don’t skip a key step to success.