There is no shortage of books and consultancies purporting to help companies be more innovative, but I have found a great deal of the focus is on generating ideas. There still seems to be unmet demand for help selecting ideas, turning those ideas into a portfolio of strategically aligned projects, and managing that portfolio of projects overtime – particularly as it relates to incorporating new learnings back into the portfolio, reallocating resources across the portfolio when appropriate, and understanding when and how to scale good ideas to transform the business.
I find this “job-to-be-done” particularly interesting because (relatively) recent research from Jim Collins suggests that being innovative, while important, is not the most important factor to the overall competitiveness and success of a company. As PARC Chief Business Officer Tamara St. Claire put it in an MIT Technology Review article, “You learn early on that execution is often the hard part—execution and timing . . . You almost have to be as innovative in the commercialization—especially when you have game-changing technologies—as on the technology side.”
A number of technology solutions have emerged to help manage the innovation process, such as Spigit and Brightidea, and other social enterprise solutions are sure to add more innovation management feature sets (indeed Jive already has). These software companies are also staffing consulting teams to drive adoption within client teams and teach clients how to get the most value from their solutions because the technology, in essence, has outpaced the development of people and processes to use it.
Letting technology drive the development of people and processes reverses the normal order. I firmly believe whenever possible technology should be fit to behavior and not the other way around; otherwise, disappointing adoption could completely undermine the value of the new tool.
That’s why relying on captive consulting teams at software providers to develop your innovation management capabilities is so misguided. Firms need a more objective third party to drive the necessary changes in people and processes first, then recommend the technology solution that fits best.
It seems to me this would be an excellent opportunity for management consultancies to partner with design and innovation consultancies to combine their complementary domain expertise and go after this market opportunity. What if Six Sigma frameworks could be re-purposed to help companies understand not where they need to improve quality but where to innovate? How might the PMI body of knowledge look different when applied specifically to innovation projects, valuing validated learnings over vanity metrics and immediate financial return?