We Know What Makes Innovation Work
For more than 50 years, we’ve led teams in large organizations across industries, from Fortune 500 companies to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and NASA. Our perspective on innovation is the result of thousands of engagements across sectors and industries. And it’s drawn from clients like you who have asked us to help them solve their most complex growth challenges.
We have informed opinions on what makes innovation work in large organizations. We’ve seen trendy processes come and go, and we’ve seen industry practices change the way most organizations innovate—permanently. We’re not swayed by the latest technique, nor do we believe there’s only one true way to innovate or a magic-bullet tool.
It’s important that we help clients build the skills and judgment needed to enable them to choose the right approaches to and frameworks for innovating. And that our clients apply their skills and judgment at the right time for their organizations or projects.
What We’ve Learned: The Imperatives
Every engagement with us reflects our perspective—our point of view—on what our clients need most, where they must place their emphasis, and how they should do the work. We can pare down our 50 years of innovation to these imperatives, which guide our approach.
- Your organization’s innovation or research and development function and each of its products must align with and reflect your business strategy or mission.
- Your group must be permeable to outside insights and enablers. And your teams must be able to gather these perspectives and influences, synthesize and absorb them, and help the organization act on them.
- Your team must have a learning mindset and learning cycles to innovate. The learning mindset—one of constant growth and discovery—is different from the execution mindset. And your learning cycles must be rapid, iterative, and disciplined.
- Learning cycles must be driven by market, user, and technology insights. While your organization may be strongest in or led by one insight, you need a line of sight to all three. You must also be able to communicate, coordinate, and collaborate across the internal functions that have the greatest direct exposure to the areas of insight.
- Innovation starts with people. Yes, processes, frameworks, and tools are critical. At the same time, don’t overemphasize them at the expense of building skills, mindsets, and capabilities within individuals and teams.
- Teams drive innovation, and successful teams bring together diverse stakeholders from different levels and functions in the organization. Every initiative and concept must have cross-functional input to ensure different perspectives are represented.
- You must be able to communicate up to get executive buy-in and investment. And you must communicate down to maintain fidelity in implementation.
- It is important that you and your innovation team—and not your consultants—are recognized for the value you bring to the organization. Choose partners that work in the background. These partners should help you clarify your next steps, achieve your goals, and, as a result, elevate your team.