Change management and innovation are considered to be the hottest buzz words in future-oriented parts of industry. But it’s not only medium-sized companies and start-ups that are modernising to the max – large corporations are also well-advised to take the trend seriously – even more since news have been piling up of industry giants who have overslept instead of making their own business secure for the future. Conversely, the internal company attitude on the management floor is now changing – proactive instead of reactive is now the direction to take

More and more customers are also asking us how best to bring their innovation management and the associated change process from the starting signal to the goal. Without a stable, long-term roadmap, many start with the right intentions but then fail to implement them consistently – whether in the brainstorming process, on the home stretch or at regular checkpoints in the process. Our Managing Partner, Robert Jacobi, as a member of the “opinion maker” author team, has given some thought to this issue and in his latest advice article on manager-magazin.de shows which homemade mistakes frequently occur in the process and how they can be avoided:

The strategic framework is missing

Many companies lack a strategic answer to the often very digital transition phase in which they find themselves. The management is challenged here to set the framework and anchor it in the organization. Employees can then develop ideas that fit to this and are therefore highly likely to be implemented – preferably in cross-functional teams.

The process is being abused for other homework

Instead of really developing new approaches, the innovation process is often used to address long-known, otherwise pressing issues. Examples of this are software conversions or the mere further development of a product. But real innovation is something else: it should have the potential to fundamentally rethink a business model and satisfy customer needs in new ways.

There is no overarching culture of innovation

The classic situation in innovation processes and associated brainstorming and workshop formats: The bosses like it, the employees like it – but not the level in between. Middle management fears for their own goals, especially when creative and high-performing employees are temporarily seconded. The way out is to promote a culture of innovation – with appropriate values – throughout the company, from which no one can remain untouched.

The innovators don’t involve external expertise

Anyone who dares something new always benefits from the over-the-shoulder-gaze of an experienced outsider. Former company founders fit well into innovation processes as coaches because they have an entrepreneurial mindset: Entrepreneurs develop intrapreneurs, teach methods such as “design thinking” or train agile thinking. In addition, external experts are indispensable when skills or technologies become relevant that are not yet anchored in the company. However: The ideas themselves should come from within!

The wrong people decide

Studies show that it is not the top managers, idea generators or external coaches who should decide on the implementation of innovation concepts, but colleagues on the same level. They, in particular, can judge unbiasedly and precisely whether an idea is really as good as it appears at first glance.

The success criteria do not fit

It is obvious to measure and evaluate innovations by their potential sales and earnings contribution. But that is wrong. Measurement in itself is good, but every innovation needs the success criteria that suit it. These can also be soft factors that are not directly related to profit.

The energy runs out too soon

Nothing is more frustrating than having the innovation process end before the most important stage of development. This happens often enough – for example because budgets are too tight or because idea providers are called back to the line. A good handover can alleviate the latter. Otherwise, the credibility of the effort immediately loses all ground.

Not only dinosaurs but also newcomers should introduce innovation processes

Due to the short-lived nature of state-of-the-art technologies and mechanisms due to digitalization, the following applies today: Every product, every service and every business model is in danger of disruption from birth. That’s why it’s worthwhile to continuously check even the most basic processes in a company and, if necessary, to reconsider them.

Rewarding innovation is also worthwhile at another level. After all, it’s about something that people can do better than machines and algorithms, even in times of artificial intelligence: Find creative approaches to satisfy needs or solve problems. And that’s exactly what many graduates want at the top of their career wish list. So, if people are encouraged to think differently and the typical mistakes are avoided, the reward comes not only in the race for innovation, but in the fight for the best talents as well.

This opinion maker article by Nunatak founder Robert Jacobi appeared on 20.05.19 on manager-magazin.de. Click here for the unabridged (german) original version.

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