Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Keeping innovation fresh – 8: connecting the two halves to the organization together with mutual buy-in

Posted in strategy and planning by Timothy Platt on March 5, 2012

This is my eighth installment in a series on innovation, and more specifically on serial innovation and the development of ongoing new sources of unique value propositions within an organization (see Business Strategy and Operations – 2, postings 243, 246 and 248-252 for parts 1-7.) In Part 7 I outlined some of the core requirements for building and running a transition committee for moving new and high-potential innovations from a research and innovation center into the main business with its finished product develop, production, marketing and sales. Much of Part 7 was a discussion of the core committee charter that would define, prioritize and manage this effort.

At the end of Part 7 I said that I would delve into some of the core issues involved in more effectively connecting together those two sides of the organization, there assuming that a transition committee is in place. Let’s assume that an organization has a creative, productive research and innovation center that has the capability of bringing new sources of value to the overall organization. Let’s further assume that a transition committee has been set up with a charter goal of bridging the gap between research and concept innovation, and marketable product development, production and sales. This installment is about connecting the transition committee on the one side to the innovation center, and on the other to the main product and service producing organization to in effect, connect everything together into a seamless whole.

I start this part of the larger discussion of innovation with committee membership: an issue already touched upon in the context of developing and implementing a transition committee charter. I have stated in earlier installments that it is crucially important that all of the relevant stakeholder groups on the two sides be represented, and both as sources of insight and expertise and to gain buy-in and active support and participation. A lot of this is in speaking the same language, and knowing and really understanding the mindset of the people in those stakeholder groups – and on both sides.

• Communications skills are important in this – and within the transition committee that means a willingness and ability to translate from jargon and specialty-speak to standard conversational language.
• And that means an ability to consciously and articulately express and explain the mental framework and assumptions of involved stakeholders to each other, and especially where unexamined assumptions could derail committee effectiveness in identifying, evaluating and passing on specific innovations that are available as potential sources of business value. Blind assumptions can and will kill you in this, and if not every time at least with depressing consistency.

But this posting is mostly about the larger organizations on both sides of the transition committee that it has to connect with, communicate with and work with. And in that I begin with a villain that I have raised the specter of many times: silos and other internal-to-the-organization barriers.

• Ultimately, a transition committee can only succeed in bridging the gap between innovation and production if the organization as a whole is effectively connected and communicating.
• In this regard, innovation centers are challenges to the larger organizations that they would feed creative New into. By definition, they defy business as usual, so standard and even sclerotic patterns of connections between business units and lines on the table of organization cannot suffice – as they might, more or less, in a heavily silo-walled organization that simply seeks to manage their past market capabilities into the present and future.

This brings me to an area of discussion that I have delved into in some detail and in this regard I cite my series on Virtualizing and Outsourcing Infrastructure for its discussion of lean and agile organizations (see Business Strategy and Operations, postings 127 and loosely following.) I further note that much of what I write about in that directory page and its continuation: Business Strategy and Operations – 2 connects into and supports this too. But the real issue for this is innovation, the capacity to innovate and the willingness to accept and accommodate change.

• Disruptively innovative New challenges the marketplace. It also challenges the organization that would produce and offer it. That is why it is startups, with less legacy and established at stake – less seemingly to loose, that tend to be the successful innovators and openers of those new blue ocean strategy market spaces.
• An organization that is willing to take the risk of New and innovative has to be both open and connected within its organizational and operational systems and between its people, and open to accommodating change within those organizational and operational systems and in its workforce and leadership.
• Put slightly differently, adamant adherence to standard, tried and true at any one essential step in bringing this new innovative potential to the market can derail the entire effort. The overall organization has to be ready for change and willing and able to adjust to it with change of its own.

I am going to turn outward from the organization towards the marketplace in my next series installment, and consider crowd sourcing and the origins, pace and direction of innovation. I am also going to look into the changing nature of the marketplace’s demand for innovative change and the need for every organization to be innovative. And as previously noted in earlier series installments, I will look into the issues of patent and trade secret approaches for safeguarding exclusivity too. Meanwhile, you can find this and related postings at Business Strategy and Operations – 2 (and also see Business Strategy and Operations.)

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