What can an organization do to encourage innovation?


Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower - Steve Jobs.

Transition is the law of nature. Things which work well at a time are no longer effective in future. Though everyone is hit by the buzz that innovation can yield success, it seems intangible and capricious. A million dollar question for the company is how can one come up with innovation in the services and products?

A popular story which was goes about is that of drunker who was trying to find his lost keys under the lamppost, explaining his friends that he did so as there was more light there underneath. Analogously, several companies follow the same strategy to describe their innovation process. They are more concerned in improvising upon what they are already doing and they fail to break the ice. They usually fail to come across new business ideas. It is process improvisation which is being mistaken for innovation. For being innovative in a true sense, companies need to adopt a novel strategy and change the frame of reference. A novel thought process is needed- in simple sense they need to look away from the lamppost.

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An innovation may be defined as an idea, practice or object that is perceived as new by an individual or other unit of adoption (Rogers, 1983: 11).

Organizational innovation is a concept that broadly is to understand the introduction of something new, whether a new product, service or a new process. The process of organizational innovation is often described as encompassing idea generation, development and implementation (Sundbo,1996). This definition emphasizes that something new is developed and not least that the implementation, and thus the usefulness, is important.


Innovation is the art of discovering new ways to create value. Innovation may serve as the difference between success and failure of organizations whose survival and growth depends on developing new technology, products and services. An organization that wishes to incorporate organization innovation needs to be open in its policies.

Creativity must be enhanced, the employees should be motivated to muster courage and come up with new ideas and communicate them effectively. It must be made sure that any one of the employees in the company can think of an innovation and should come up with that idea to the top management.An idea can contribute for its success.

It must be preached that not everyone can be an inventor, but everyone can be innovative.

Innovation should not be regarded as setting aside a research and development (R&D) budget. It must be regarded as a commitment amongst the employees to create something new. To attain success a company need to look out of the box from their mainstream business and revitalize themselves to be set up for the reaching out to next big opportunities before their rivals do it. This is quite applied to rampantly changing global scenario where birth of advanced technologies and cut throat competition has the proclivity to upset the current scenario.

A company should stress upon innovation in the products, pricing, place (distribution) and promotions and should be ready for open innovation.

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow - William Pollard.

Create novel scenarios

A company must focus on the building up new futuristic market scenarios. This can be done by imagining the various opportunities and intimidation for the organization from the competition. A sugar factory bio-waste may turn out to be a rich source of raw material for paper or biogas industry and much more if a company allows its management to think innovatively.

Communicate Challenges Effectively

An effective specialized system for innovative ideas e.g. a website etc. can help them to reach out to the ideas in the grey matter of their employees as well as experts outside the organization. InnoCentive.com is a website that allows companies to post business challenges and reward options to people who can solve them. The site started as an in-house website at Eli Lilly.

Brainstorming and Deep Diving

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Every day were saying, 'How can we keep this customer happy?' How can we get ahead in innovation by doing this, because if we don't, somebody else will. - Bill Gates

Consumer needs must be focussed upon. Brainstorming and Deep diving may serve as anthropological tools to help researchers imbibe themselves in the lives of the target audience/consumers. They can think like a customer thinks and make a note of all ideas they could come up with to serve the requirements. During this they may strike upon some untapped markets and come across vital clues and new directions to search for innovative ideas.

I keep six honest serving-men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who.

Rudyard Kipling (1902)

Here is a simple way to go about brainstorming to design innovative strategies as suggested on the website Innovationinpractice.com :


Determine the business lines, products and services which are supposed to be innovated.

Establish a portfolio model that compares innovation output from one business line to another.

Rank order business lines based on the strength of their innovation portfolio pipelines.


Determine how much innovation is needed.  Use a tool like Map-the-Gap.

Tie innovation to a strategy framework such as The Big Picture. 

Focus innovation exercises to link directly to the strategy framework. 

Use the framework to identify market adjacencies.


Schedule innovation workshops at the front end of the business cycle to help determine what projects will get funding in the next budget cycle.

Schedule innovation workshops after the planning cycle to jump-start new initiatives for the upcoming year.


Choose specific methods of innovation to be used based on efficacy and results.

Combine different methods to leverage the strengths of each.

Integrate the methods by using the output of one as inputs for the others.


Set aside space with the specific purpose of conducting innovation workshops.


Form innovation "dream teams" to maximize the success of innovation efforts.

Schedule training on how to use innovation methods.

Examine the company's innovation culture to diagnose where it is weak.

Establish an innovation competency model.

Designate and empower commercial leaders to drive innovation efforts."

Source: Innovationinpractice.com

Establish lead users

These are fellows whose ideas and insights can be the starting point for new markets, products and services. They are innovators themselves. They tend to be people working in or using products in a specific market who are frustrated by the tools, goods or services currently available and yearn for something better, for example, surgeons can provide innovative designs for several medical devices

Five roles in the management of innovation

"The strategic agent

The manager focuses on the general conditions and works on the

long term aim to create the optimal frames for innovation.

The developer of culture

The manager works on the long term aims with the internal innovation

culture by acting as a role model and by stimulating specific

activities supporting the culture.

The team builder

The manager recruits innovative employees and combines employees

which in an interplay with others contribute to increase innovation.

The distributor of tasks

The manager deals with the coordination of tasks and activities whereby innovation becomes a natural ingredient, securing for example a proper amount of challenging tasks combined with activities in networks where the new solutions are spread and experiences interchanged, and given the possibility of improving chosen solutions.

The coach

The manager is personally involved and close to the activities. He is the challenger, asking questions and the creator of ideas which improve the efforts to innovate."

Source: Digmann (2006).

Probe and learn

Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. ---Steve Jobs

These strategies involve studying the opportunities in segments of markets the company isn't active or strong in. It involves deep diving by actively experimentation with ideas put into the market context. The experimentation may fail, but they provide priceless insight about the current and futuristic markets trends.

Breed diversity

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Long-term relationships with the same customers, partners or suppliers for innovation ideas-can lead to stale ideas. To change the frame of reference, companies can try to seek innovation partners whom they normally don't work with, for example Doctors at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children in London, consulted pit-stop crew members at Italy's Ferrari Formula One motor-racing team to discover the ways of improving the movement of children into and out of the intensive care after a heart surgery.

To summarize, to innovate:

An organization must widen its vision by involving employees, customers and suppliers to discuss about futuristic opportunities and challenges.

Allow strategic innovation to effervesce up inside your company by encouraging people to think and effectively communicate. Give them time and space.

Recruit new people; make new partners from diverse backgrounds to light up the bulbs of ideas.

Think new, think big and

Management should motivate and take initiative to step into different roles for the employees and involve them into the innovative processes.


Digmann A., H.W. Bendix, J.P. Jensen and K. Jensen (2006), Offentlig innovation - I balancen mellem idé og systematik, Copenhagen: Børsens Forlag.

Parsons, W. (1995), Public Policy: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of

Policy Analysis, Aldershot, UK and Brookfield, VT, US: Edward Elgar.

Rogers, E. (1995), Diffusion of Innovations, New York: Free Press.

Sundbo, J. (1996), "The balancing of empowerment. A strategic resource based model of organizing innovation activities in service and low-tech firms", Technovation, 16 (8), 397-409.

Kanter R. (1985), Journal of Business Venturing Volume 1, Issue 1, Winter, Pages 47-60

Pinto J.(2010), Eight innovative ideas to help drive automation companies, Automation World. Website: http://www.jimpinto.com/writings/innovationideas.html,accessed on 16 April 2011.

Innovationinpractice.com,accessed on 16 April 2011.