Making Innovation Real

Much is written about innovation and I guess this post just adds to the pile.   It seems people and organisations are always looking for the next big ‘thing’, the ‘thing’ to save them, to get ahead of the pack.  It’s a fair ambition however what are the keys factors to consider to put in place to increase the odds of success.

Fortunately many people have reviewed this, for instance in IBM’s recent innovation study, ‘More than magic’ downloadable here

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.36.45 the authors create a list of considerations.


1/ Align innovation with business goals

2/ Structure ‘open’ forms of innovation

3/ Create specialized teams


4/ Lead with an innovation focus

5/ Encourage innovative behaviors

6/ Sustain innovation momentum


7/ Source new ideas

8/ Fund innovation

9/ Measure innovation

Outperforming teams and corporations thrive where all nine domains come together with the appropriate balance.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.38.26

Whilst all of these are vital considerations, I’d encourage the reader to focus on Culture, Intrapreneurship and the Funding Model first.

Culture comprises many things and all have to be considered at the same time : Teamwork, Individual Motivation, Collaboration, Focus on Performance, Openness, Knowledge Sharing, Agility and Flexibility, Mistake Tolerance/Fast Fail Approaches, Personal and Corporate Empowerment, Personal and Corporate Risk Taking and Leadership for example.

I’d also assert from my experience that it takes enormous energy, passion, a personal sense of purpose to push through change, as change is at the heart of innovation.   Someone needs a vision, that vision needs to be communicated (repeatedly) to encourage confidence.   Also it seems that a few key individuals make innovation happen and I firmly believe in the concept of an intrapreneur – because innovation is very different in a big corporate to a FinTech firm or startup for example.

From a funding viewpoint, there is no easy solution here – innovation costs time, money and resources.   Whether it is funded through ‘saves’, e.g. turning things off or through central pools, or from large transactions that can tolerate a few percent being re-invested in the business of innovation, the funding has to be considered up front.   Going forward this should be business as usual as the world will move faster and faster.  Large  firms already set aside large R&D budgets to tackle this but I’d assert that all the money and the approach is not always well spent.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.07.22

Another key driver is a ‘pain’, a ‘problem’ – a form of burning need to do something.   Someone once told me “Businesses buy because either a problem or opportunity” and it holds true.   Problems come in all shapes and sizes, from regulatory, compliance, cost, competition etc.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 16.25.02

Innovators tend to come up with wild ideas, occasionally huge ideas – ‘moonshots’.  They have their place, but realistically things need to be SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.   The picture of the grounded dreamer above sums it up to me.   The innovator must balance the ambitious vision with pragmatism, which is where experience comes to play.

My final thought, told by Lord Coe recently at an IBM event in London was ‘Consider every day for 30 seconds why you are doing what you doing’.  It resonated with me, as the personal energy, drive and passion you have has to placed on the right bets every day as without these things in place someone else will do a better job of it elsewhere.



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