When talking about innovation, the structure of the company and the innovation team must work together. Only with a standardized and reliable innovation process can it be repeated any time you need.
Many people misinterpret the word innovation, as if it needed a touch of disorganization and lack of structure and processes to let creativity emerge.
In practice, the opposite happens.
Creative projects and successful innovations have structured processes that reduce risk. Moreover, governance validates innovation efforts because the areas involved can understand what leadership support should be and who is responsible for the project. Besides, evaluation metrics make project success objective and measurable.
That is why I insist that the innovation process has to be rooted in the company’s structure. You must answer:
- How to distribute them for which business areas?
- How long will they last?
- Is it required to form an innovation council?
These are some relevant points for innovation to be part of the company’s day-to-day operations.
You need to visualize the design of the structure and innovation team, regardless of your company’s size. This structure can become more sophisticated as the results start appearing.
The first evaluate the focus of the innovation program and its scope.
Next, decision-makers need to decide what size the program will be, what strategic objectives it should achieve, and what financial and human resources will be available.
Decision-makers must be informed about technological trends and movements of competitors, among other essential points that, when aligned with the company’s mission and vision, should culminate in concrete strategic objectives with real earning potential for the corporation.
The second point: evaluate is the organizational structure.
Often the responsibility of innovation projects is given to people who are already busy with their current work. These people then start to establish their priorities to deliver a surreal amount of tasks.
When the innovation project has appropriate resources, a hierarchy structure, and strong leadership, each person involved can deliver their part without letting the routine stole its priority.
The third point is the relationship between innovations and other areas of the company.
All parties involved in innovation projects need to understand and agree on the demanded product and delivery.
The fourth point is to understand that all involved areas need projects.
So they can implement an innovation platform that allows an exploratory process of external innovations and sharing and collaboration tools for all company professionals.
The fifth point is performance metrics.
We will dedicate an entire article to them. But, first, I would like to point out that innovation projects are usually long-term, need activity and performance monitoring from the start to ensure that they achieved results, avoid delays, and lower leadership anxiety for quick results.
The sixth point is the leadership itself.
It is necessary to create a structure so that those involved in the project know who is responsible for each activity and contact the innovation program. It requires to have transparency in the decision-making model.
With the above points, it is necessary to form an innovation team capable of executing and evaluating the activities, integrating innovation into the company.
The structure I will suggest below can accomplish this task. It comprises an Innovation Board, the innovation leader, an innovation committee, and, finally, teams allocated for projects.
The central role of the Innovation Board is to determine how to distinguish innovation activities from the others and ensure a format that allows the integration of the results.
The board has permanent and temporary members, intending to gain the flexibility to start and stop projects. It also has the responsibility to act as a network of connections to raise resources and connect stakeholders.
It defines innovation and sets the achievements, everyone, around what the organization wants to seek. Thus, establishing how the company will transform its industry and add a radical change in value to customers.
The board also defines the risk appetite.
The biggest obstacle to innovation is the lack of risk.
The board needs to be prepared to approve strategic investments and accept failures without handing out blame to achieve business growth. While holding the CEO accountable for long-term performance goals, it also plays a crucial role in giving the permission and mandate to pursue new opportunities that introduce the culture of taking risks into the company.
The board also has a great responsibility concerning hiring innovation professionals.
Innovation in today’s turbulent world requires everyone to feel comfortable with ambiguity, tolerate different points of view, and demonstrate self-awareness. The board’s role is to distinguish technical skills from social skills and recruit candidates who match the company’s culture and focus on innovation.
The board is responsible for aligning the structure and goals of the leader and the innovation committee with strategic and organizational goals.
Without intentionally integrating innovation into the organization’s DNA, companies stagnate and run the risk of disruption. Conversely, when the board plays a leading role focusing on strategic growth, it can set a tone, create momentum and shape culture.
While councils are responsible for protecting the organization from undue risks, failing to support a culture of innovation can be the most significant risk of all.
Typically, he is an executive with leadership and influence in business areas and easy access to decision-makers.
Innovation happens both bottom-up and top-down. But these professionals are responsible for bringing the board’s vision to the rest of the company, so they are more focused on top-down.
Their experience in the company’s business and relationship, the innovation leader can easily navigate between areas and has a unique ability to recognize opportunities and expand the product offering.
In addition, people who occupy this position must be team players and understand the company’s stakeholders needed for each project.
The innovation leader is the one who decides to sequence or stop the project. It has the authority to devote resources, give legitimacy, and whose to work with the team.
Therefore, the innovation leader does not need to be the most creative or innovative person in the organization. Instead, there are many more important qualities to be a good leader in innovation.
It takes a natural curiosity to discover and learn new things, always interested in surprises, and takedown hypotheses with facts.
Finally, the job is to find elegant solutions to complex problems. The innovation leader is a permanent position.
Under the direction of the innovation leader, innovation committees get resources from the rest of the organization and form project teams to manage each opportunity raised.
Committees incorporate a minimal amount of structure and resources while maintaining maximum flexibility to handle a wide variety of innovation projects.
The innovation committee’s activities include stimulating and evaluating new ideas with:
- obtaining funding;
- providing business coaching;
- planning for adoption;
- maintenance of an innovation database;
- commissioning and training of innovation project teams.
The committee consists of several company areas, such as finance, production, R&D, and marketing, that must make joint decisions and implement projects. The multidisciplinarity of the committee reduces risk and ensures engagement.
The best composition is to have 30% of permanent members. The other 70% are rotating, changing according to the projects on the agenda, and ensuring that experts are always present.
The innovation committee is the one that manages the progress of projects and KPIs and the whole process, from the promotion of ideas to the adoption plan. It is also he who starts awards and recognition programs for innovative collaborators.
Innovation Project Teams
Innovation project teams are usually composed of the person who suggested the idea and other experts related to the concept. The assembly of these teams is explicitly to evaluate the project.
The dedicated time varies from a few hours per month to full-time. It will depend a lot on its relevance and urgency. Typically, in a project tied to a board, all steps tend to be accelerated.
In all other cases, what usually happens is the members start to have full-time dedication according to evolution. The more elaborate the project gets, the less risk it poses to the corporation and the more resources it can raise.
Typically, the part-time team becomes full-time when the project has a strong business case.
When the project reaches maturity for commercialization, the project team return to their original areas with a lot of synergies to successfully integrate the project into its structure.