“The world leaders in innovation and creativity will also be world leaders in everything else.”

Harold R McAlindon

How does a company build enough innovation capability to be the leader in its industry? That was the focus of this week’s discussion in our course, Innovation and Design Thinking. Some of our experienced participants said it best:

  • Francisco Javier Zambonino Vázquez:

“A very simple way to innovate is opening your eyes and seeing how others innovate around you. Getting insights and inspiration from others and adapting those innovations to your own world (namely, your business) is as simple as observing. The inspirations make you think about how to transfer that innovation to your particular scenario and how to provide additional value to your customers by copying, modifying and pasting it. That’s also innovation -and not mere incremental one- because you are having the opportunity to enhance your performance and better satisfy your customer by using methods and processes utilized by other businesses or industries. If done, you’re prepared to a quantum leap by releasing new services and features which none of your direct competitors is providing yet. Simple, cheap and efficient.

  • Crystaline Randazzo

“As a small business owner, it is so easy to get caught up in the logistics of the day to day. I deliver a specific product in a particular way. I look at how to expedite my systems, improve my skills, and deliver quality product on a yearly basis. But I have never built in time to innovate my business. In field like photography, photographers learn how to run their business by learning from others, making mistakes, and putting one foot in front of the other. I put a lot of time, money, and energy put into improving my technical craft. But what would change if I put as much energy, time, and money into the innovation of my business? I think the best thing a small company can do is to build time into their yearly plan to innovate specific areas of their business.

  • Francis Milbower

“One of the main things companies can do to improve their innovation and design thinking capabilities is to choose a method and actively invest into it. This would include formal training, company awareness, and support by all management and employees. Through investing in the methods and processes, the company culture begins to accept them as the norm. An additional way companies can improve their innovation and design thinking capabilities is to actively pursue potential employees to fill in the gaps or to hire SME’s to assist during difficult innovation challenges.

  • Chip Vara

“I agree with most of the prior postings and would only want to add that for innovation and design thinking to blossom within a company required dedicated innovation teams to drive the process throughout the organization. If inculcating innovation and design thinking into the organization is the goal, sufficient resources must also be allocated and a career path needs to route a pipeline of talented people through these dedicated teams.”

From our five guest practitioners:

  • Cindy: Create a business strategy that says innovation is important to our future.
  • Doug: Give teams a big audacious goal.
  • Mike: Resources!
  • Sally: Competencies are not stagnant. You must build new skills continuously.
  • Elizabeth: Practice!

To build innovation muscle, companies must include innovation in their competency models. A competency is a persistent pattern of behavior resulting from a cluster of knowledge, skills, abilities, and motivations.  Competency models formalize that behavior and make it persistent.  They prescribe the ideal patterns needed for exceptional performance.  They help diagnose and evaluate employee performance.

What does it mean to build innovation muscle?  Think of it as the number of people trained, the frequency of using an innovation method, and the percentage of internal departments that have an innovation capability.  Call it an Innovation Muscle Index:  N (number of trained employees) x F (number of formal ideation events per year using a method) x P (percent of company departments with at least one employee trained in an effective innovation method).

IMI = N x F x P