Tools for innovation management

Tools Overview

We[1] provide a number of tools[2] or tips to help you through the process of improving innovation. The tools are listed according to each of six steps. A brief introduction is provided on this page and further elaboration is accessed via the link noted or under the tab.

[1] Co-authored by Richard Blayden and Paul White – see bios under About Us.

[2] Tools is defined as ‘something regarded as needed for carrying out an occupation or profession’ – only one of several definitions that could apply here.

Step One: Diagnosing the Situation

Understanding the current environment for change and innovation is perhaps the most important of the six steps in the process of innovation improvement. Why? By knowing more about peoples’ attitudes towards change, top management can be better prepared to make the appropriate decisions.

More importantly, if current performance levels and improvement trends are not satisfactory then it is critically important to understand why.  If there are hidden “barriers” embedded in the culture or capability of the organization then these must be identified, understood and addressed effectively if sustainable change is to be achieved.

You know you have an innovation problem if; there are few good new ideas forthcoming from the organization, if the ideas, once identified stall or disappear from the backlog of potential ideas, or when implementation is inefficient and failures outnumber successes. Read more…

Step Two: Bench marking

Two sources of problems motivate management to make changes; poor financial performance and competitor activity.

It is very useful to compare one’s own organization with other competing organizations or, sometimes even better, in this case, to study the policies and practices of high-performing, highly-innovative companies. Compare how your corporation’s practices stand up against the best – i.e. the ‘Best of the Breed’. Read more….

Step Three: Identifying and Prioritizing Opportunities

Whilst the improvement imperative might be driven at a high level by cost pressures and competitor performance, the first step in any “rubber on the road” improvement process is to recognize that specific improvement opportunities (or ideas for improving innovation) exist that can be worked on and resolved.

It is reasonable to expect that a number of valid improvement ideas can be generated through brainstorming sessions and suggestion schemes and these can make a valid contribution to energizing the improvement process.

However, most focused (and therefore successful) improvement opportunities are identified through a process of measurement of losses.  Read more…

Step Four: Planning Implementation

Planning for implementation starts with a clear vision of what is to be accomplished, a clear definition of the scope of work, how to manage the process and an effective means to measure progress. Clearly stating the objectives for innovation can motivate the organization.

Management needs to provide vision, encourage idea generation, manage search process, empower champions, commit resources, nurture projects, sustain and reward innovators, all of which are part of the process. But how is this to be accomplished? Which initiatives come first? How does one set priorities? Are there some immediate problems – raised during diagnosis – that can and should be addressed immediately? These are the questions to be addressed in the planning step. Read more…

Step Five: Implementing Change

Engagement at all levels in the organization is the key to effective implementation. Whether this is at the Board level; senior management, and staff, all should be involved in the innovative process. Sometimes implementation can be spurred on by the setting up of an outside advisory group, a special Board-level committee, or even the appointment of an innovation czar. The process needs well thought out guidance and energy to sustain itself. Read more…

Step Six: Measuring and Sustaining Innovation

It would have made no sense at the beginning of this 5-step process not to have considered how to measure progress. Without specific measures in place the organization, the Board, senior management, and staff would have no idea as to whether the innovation situation – which, after all drove the initiation of the 6 steps – is getting better, remaining flat or deteriorating. Measuring is the key to keeping innovation alive! Read more….

We don’t pretend to provide all the answers to improving innovation. We hope that these ‘thought starters’ will provide the reader with additional insight into and help in addressing major issues.

[1] Tools is defined as ‘something regarded as needed for carrying out an occupation or profession’ – only one of several definitions that could apply here.