Agile innovation Evaluation: measures & KPI's Change & innovation Evaluation: measures & KPI's Agile innovation Change & innovation Vision & strategy

Seven key features of the innovative company

The experience as an executive and as a consultant, working on innovation and strategy has allowed me to identify common features in companies that are classified as “innovators” and who have managed to create an “innovation culture” in their organization.

I mean some Spanish companies, which could be the exception in their immediate environment, generally little or nothing favourable to innovation. (See: Barriers to innovation[1]). Overall, I am also referring to European and American companies with whom I have had the opportunity and experience to collaborate.

Create innovative culture means accumulating experiences from structuring and perfecting a process of innovation. Moreover, with many learnings of successes and errors in projects and innovation programs.

This may enable companies and managers who want to move on this direction, to formulate themselves some questions and above all, the right questions.

To do this, the company must be willing to consider innovation as its key strategic focus and seek to implement in their organization an innovative culture. In addition, be ready to find their own answers to these questions, because each organization develops its own model.

These traits or characteristics are formulated without an order of priority, or in a certain sequence, simply grouping concepts that the observed companies keep as priorities.

  1. Image1Create knowledge. Generate ideas. Innovative companies continuously create knowledge and generate ideas. They do that about new products or services, about their position in the market, about brand and also about its internal processes. Knowledge is understood as “capacity to act”[2]. Knowledge is created in organizations through processes that described by Nonaka and Takeuchi [3]. Idea generation can be facilitated by removing barriers and creating a suitable environment [4]. 
  2. Image2Another feature is the grouping of three concepts: Being a learning organisation, opening up and customer orientation. Innovative companies continuously learn, especially from their mistakes, (the error is not penalized), but also from all their experiences and projects. This learning is structured and used in the future.
    The characteristics of learning organizations have been defined by Peter Senge.[5]. On the other hand, the concept of open innovation is essential[6] and involves the opening up and customer orientation. We have also learned to use appropriate techniques and tools and to listen to “the voice of customer”. (See: Integrating voice of the customer)[7] 
  3. Image3Innovation is a process and therefore innovative companies have a defined innovation process. It is a process linked to the strategy and has been structured and enhanced with their own experience. It has been built from the very organization in their own way and not from a “standard” or copy of another model. His innovation management is an agile way of how this process itself is managed.[8] 
  4. Image4Innovation is a change. Are we willing and accustomed to change? In all innovations, some paradigms must change. If the company has no experience in incorporating and managing change, this will be a barrier to innovation. How do we manage change?[9] . (See: Incorporating the change for innovation[10]). Innovative companies have also considered how to deal with external crisis and change. [11] 
  5. Here there is another feature that brings together four concepts. Management of projects and Image5programs. Innovative companies work in projects and programs. In some cases, the organization has evolved from departmental, matrix or processes organization, to be organized by project. In all cases, they have designed a consistent set of measures and indicators[12] to ensure results. The responsibility for the projects lies in multifunctional teams. All projects are reviewed in phases through a process of ‘stage and gates’. The same process eliminates in time projects that their probability of success is no longer acceptable. 
  6. Image7 Innovation often generates new businesses and startups. The concept of “Agile or Lean Startup” looks for a model of repeatable and scalable business instead of running a business model. Innovative companies have incorporated this concept and consolidated with that of ‘agility’. Agility is to introduce the concept of value and flow in all processes, freeing up resources for the innovation process. (See: The agile enterprise [13] and ‘A model for innovation management’[14].  Moreover, we use tools to run activities simultaneously instead of chained processes, development cycles and cycles of learning, iterating cycles, persevere or ‘pivoting’, and create a business model from the minimum valid (MVP). (See: Eric Ries[15]). 
  7. Image7Create value through differentiation, design and brands. Innovative companies seek to generate value, realize and capture the first benefits in each project. Review and learn. They seek differentiation through segmentation, through design applied to the user, to the process and to manufacturing. They look for customer experience and brand management.[16]
    All completed projects, successfully or not, are analysed and the learning experience is kept for future use. 

Innovation culture. Image8

As stated at the beginning, the innovative culture is created with the accumulated learning of structuring and refining the innovation process and with many experiences of successes and failures in their innovation projects and programs.

At the same time, when the above features are reinforced and persist in a company or organization, we can say that innovative culture is created. This allows them to differentiate and to assume leadership positions.

The innovation process (See: ‘A model of innovation management’[17]), which is schematically represented in the following figure, when applied and perfected with the singularities of each organization, strengthens the features described and therefore facilitates the creation of their “innovation culture”.Innovation process 2 en

[1] Barriers to Innovation.
[2] See: Karl E. Sveiby.
[3] See: Ikujiro Nonaka, Hirotaka Takeuchi.
[4] See : Steven Johnson. Where good ideas come from.
[5] See: Peter Senge, The learning Organization.
[6] See: Henry W. Chesbrough, Open innovation & Services open innovation
[7] Integrating voice of the customer.
[8] A model for innovation management.
[9] See: Michael Doyle y  John P. Kotter
[10] Incorporating the change for innovation.
[11] See: Change, crisis… innovation.
[12] Performance measures today.
[13] The agile enterprise:
[14] A model for innovation management:
[15] Eric Ries. The lean startup methodology
[16] Ver: Design Thinking. Integrating innovation, customer experience, and brand value. Edited by Thomas Lockwood
[17] A model for innovation management:


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