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Innovate: Ideas or strategy?

It is a fairly general fact to believe that innovation begins with “ideas”. According to this hypothesis, ideas are first generated and then, once filtered and selected, they become innovation projects. Therefore, it is assumed that a structured innovation process begins with the generation of ideas.

The belief must come from tradition and from considering that research, scientific or technological, was based on “discoveries”, in a certain way random and also on genius.

We can agree, however, that neither in one case nor in the other are we describing reality. Perhaps we would be confusing innovation with creativity

Practical work in innovation processes shows us that we could spend years and years generating and selecting ideas, turning some into projects and developing these projects until some result is obtained. But it would be a precious consumption of time and resources. It should not be forgotten that innovation consists of obtaining useful results. In reality, we would obtain very insufficient results in relation to the means and resources used.

Unless, among the ideas there was some great one, which can also happen, and it is not uncommon to find examples. But cool exceptions included, this would not be the way to develop innovation, nor can we say that it is an effective guide to how it should be managed.

Experience also shows us that the most successful and innovative companies tend to be those that start the process of innovating from a strategic perspective. In other words, identifying first and in accordance with its own vision and strategic objectives, its future opportunities. And this based on the analysis of the key trends in society, the engines of change in their environment, and in technological development.

They assess their possibilities, follow detailed benefit/risk models, and within the uncertainty of innovative development and the future, they concentrate on those areas where they can best achieve the strategic objectives.

Which means foreseeing “possible areas of innovation” that are already a line to follow on what kind of ideas we should work on and promoting possible investments in innovation.

In other words, innovation would really start with the strategic ability to anticipate changes, opportunities and develop “specific areas” where ideas or solutions can be generated. More than in a pure and simple generation of ideas.

Permanent or eventual innovation

At this point, I would also like to distinguish between sporadic or eventual innovation and permanent innovation.

The company that practices sporadic or eventual innovation could not be classified as “innovative”. Surely you work from an idea, intuition or opportunity and take advantage of it to start an innovative project. It will be a success story or not.

In many cases, a new business model also originates from an initial idea or intuition. When we talk about a ‘startup’ or a new company, the beginnings can be for a generation of ideas, selection and filtering or for a more strategic analysis of the future based on trends and foreseen or imagined scenarios.

Permanent innovation is a continuous process of strategic management of innovation, a matter of method, habit and culture. Organizations that embrace innovation as a core value, practice innovation with a proven methodology, and produce innovations with consistent results.

It is in large companies, in many cases leaders in their segment, where permanent innovation is most necessary, in order to maintain their leadership, innovating continuously and, what is more difficult, successfully.

Permanent innovation is, therefore, a human and strategic process, beyond the purely technological, and excellence is achieved through the adequate repetition of the correct methods and the creation of an ‘innovative culture’.

The latter generally transcends the scope of a single company or organization and is grouped into specific regions or areas, where several collaboration factors, alliances and shared projects come together, among which companies, universities, administration policies are usually involved. and other entities.

The concept of permanent innovation can be surprising at first, or even seem like a contradiction. Doing something continually and methodically implies stability and a certain absence of change, while the concept of innovation is associated with change and novelty. Combining the two, however, produces an important synthesis:

In the practice of innovation, not as an occasional event, but as a culture, a repeated activity, a process of creating value and organizational adaptation, there is previously a strategic decision on the field, model or area of ​​application on which it is applied. aspires to influence

Possible strategies

However, exploring the future and studying different scenarios that are most likely to occur, as well as our optimal response to change, is not easy and requires resources.

The alternative is usually to opt for a strategy of agility in adapting to changes in the environment, and being prepared to act quickly in the face of them.

See:

Testing innovation process

On this website, we provide a basic evaluation tool to measure innovation management and the capacity to innovate of companies and organizations.

The results are presented in 6 or 12 areas that we have considered important for the success of the innovation process and the creation of an innovative culture.

It consists of a questionnaire with 50 questions, presented in 5 tables. Each with 10 questions related to 5 areas. The results of the test can guide us to better understand our organization and the type of improvements to be applied in the area of ​​innovation.

Author

Francesc Guell is the owner of this site. He was CEO and director of international companies in specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The last 12 years was associated with international consulting groups, providing advice and support to businesses on topics such as innovation and agile innovation processes, operational excellence, knowledge management, change management, strategy and integrated business management. Currently creates and presents courses and workshops on these topics. He graduated as a chemical engineer, postgraduate from ESADE Business School in Business Administration and Master in Knowledge Management. He participated in numerous programs, seminars and ESADE, IESE, EADA, APD and MCE (Management Centre Europe). He is author of articles, presentations and courses on innovation in strategic management, integrated business models, knowledge management, performance measurement, change management and excellence in business processes. See more in: Professional Profile