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Why We Must Rethink Applied Innovation Services


by Paul Hobcraft

We can chose to simply go on in the many ways we have evolved our problem-solving techniques or methodologies, as those help the innovation and discovery process; incremental, piecemeal and experimentally. Yet we still get caught out by not resolving or addressing the essential building blocks of innovation (culture, environment, climate, governance, alignment). Yet, we have never ‘cracked’ the full innovation management system. We must try harder today.

Many of those innovation tools that have been emerging in recent years have now built up a powerful body of validation, and they become necessary to know and practice yet often miss the basic building block needs of innovation. We need to do better, we need to design a completely new innovation process that takes into account all that has evolved in our understanding and experiment in recent years.

A new cycle of innovation

We need to adapt our system thinking to the challenge identified, not the other way round.

In some ways, we are at a point of completing a full circle for much within innovation and its management and this is becoming far more based on Applied Innovation, with that need to take a greater hold of all these promising and emerging tools and methodologies to achieve selected jobs. Also alongside these grow the theoretical underpinning of innovation management in more ‘collective’ and uniquely ‘combined’ ways, so as to establish innovation more formally, in formalized and structured ways, as a distinctive process, designed to the business needs and mission, not ‘lifted’ from copying best practices of others or adopting generic processes.

But for me, the really radical way forward is to have all these solution parts constantly available and adaptable to the situation. We relate to the problem on hand and set out in designing the process needed in frames, tools, process designs. We go and simply ‘grab them’ to fit the innovation we are working upon. We design the innovation system we need after we know what we are trying to achieve in the challenge or idea. We “pull down” what is needed. Can we design a totally ‘adaptive’ innovation process to fit the specific need? Why not?

Today innovation is more complex, we must be highly adaptive

We need to increasingly rely on problem-solving techniques. So as we seek out greater applied science knowledge we will use it to support and develop practical applications based on technology and innovation. Utilitarian in its principles, seeking real-world use and implementation through a more creative, collaborative environment, leading to more discoveries that distinctly ‘blend’ the lab application with the customer discovery of unmet need.

We are encouraging a more abstract thinking as we are increasingly focused on “engineering” our business in new or different ways and this becomes the unique requirement of applied innovation to meet specific needs.

We have seen a consistent change over the years to move towards a more inventive engineering and discovery mindset within our innovation approaches. We started in manufacturing, continued in logistics and supply chain and have seen an evolution of our labs and thinking to keep advancing our processes, thinking, and growth inside our organizations.

Now we are looking far more outside, connecting more specifically with the customer’s needs, the jobs they want to complete in better, more effective ways. These evolutionary steps need to rethink how we look and management innovation. We actually need to re-engineer our processes as they have become “not fit for purpose”.

We have been steadily learning to adapt what we knew inside an organization with what we should increasingly listen to outside it. There has been an increasing emphasis on linking concepts in new and novel products and services, increasingly closer to these customer needs and desires.

We have moved from the inside looking out of organizations to focusing on the outside coming in, working more in ecosystems and far more closely with the customer in growing collaborations. To support this ongoing journey we have been evolving our problem-solving methods.

We need to consider how big data and analytics, technology and a far more creative thinking needs to be applied collectively. Each of these mentioned will begin to have a change in everything we have in place today, their ‘productive’ lifecycle and their growing legacy problems in the coming years as we re-evaluate them, integrate the design to adapt to a very different future, constantly adapting and evolving them into a more structured innovation process.

Innovation management itself must become “fluid” in design, in adaptation so the right approach is to be constantly ‘adaptive’ and put together what is needed to tackle the challenge that needs resolution. We need a constant redesign to meet the circumstances.

Create a fluid, adaptive, agile innovation system – unique each time

Can we find ways to be highly adaptable, agile and fluid in grabbing and taking the parts of the innovation system and constructing them into that design and process that works for that specific challenge? Becoming adaptive in organizations that are often highly rigid and standardized is so conflicting, so different, you must separate the two that many are arguing even stronger today than ever, a dual innovation process or organization design.

We do have more tools, processes and theoretical understanding of innovation and its management to make each design that more of a specific applied innovation service, we have the capability to construct this. Can we go that route in our organization design? We need to apply what we need to get the “job” done and this becomes specific to the challenge and its complexity and engagement needs.

The emerging principles of Applied Innovation Services

To get the best out of any idea or innovation concept we need to design the process around the idea or the challenge, not try and force these through the wrong standardized process we try to “work” innovation through today. Often innovation outcomes end up totally different from the original intent or vision and become highly compromised in their value and impact.

  • We do need to think very differently in designing the process to the job /challenge on hand to give it the best chance of getting from as ‘great’ idea to a great commercial success.
  • We do need to think very differently in designing the process to the job /challenge on hand to give it the best chance of getting from as ‘great’ idea to an even greater commercial success.
  • I believe we need a radical redesign of how we manage innovation.

For this to happen we need to radically redesign how we manage innovation and that is through highly adaptive applications that are selected to do the job on hand. We seek out and pull down, connecting them up for that specific job. We reject those that are simply superfluous to this specific need or make sure those operating in the background are not dragging down our performance. What needs to be clearly recognized, to take each innovation concept through its design will require not the current approach of ‘one-size fits all’ process that we have today.

We need a consistently adaptive innovation design process. We must step away from the present process that destroys much creative thought and innovative thinking and slows down the eventual outcome.

We need to be highly adaptive in what innovation applications, processes, tools, and frameworks can be grabbed, perhaps from the innovation cloud and formed into the individually designed innovation process that looks capable of delivering the challenge or idea or can be adjusted as we learn and go.

That’s where we should be going in our thinking of our innovation (process). Just my Friday afternoon contribution, even before the “happy hour.”As Steve Blank often says “It’s a big idea.”

image credit: bigstockphoto.com

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