Making Room for Innovation to Flourish

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9 various ‘spaces’ are needed for organizations to succeed.

Innovators face several challenges in established organizations, cultural challenges are one of them.  This often leads to the establishment of a physical innovation lab, because people need a space to innovate away from organizational interference. Having the right space is an understandable desire and traditionally innovators have negotiated for physical space, but that is increasingly giving way to a more ‘virtual’ approach. Below are some rules that will help drive innovation:  

1. Create a workspace for innovation: Physical spaces are useful, but when this is not possible, it is important to look at how remote employees can work together to innovate. From collaboration tools (such as Microsoft Teams or Google Workspace) to virtual workspaces (such as Citrix Workspace), carefully consider the tools that innovators will be given to simplify how they work together. These tools could even include immersive experiences such as virtual or augmented reality.

2. Space to innovate: This involves working with leadership to make innovation an explicit part of corporate strategy. It is important to work with organizational leaders to help them think about the future and how the organization should use innovation to react to challenges. Leaders can then make clear decisions about what to focus on. Including Innovation as a part of corporate strategy is essential for success of the organization, a clear innovation strategy makes it easier for employees to choose to work on projects that matter most to their department.

3. Portfolio space: Make sure that there is a space for innovation within the organization’s portfolio of products and services. It is relatively easy for leaders to invest in incremental improvements to their current products, but transformational innovation (where organizations make new products for new markets) is much more difficult to accomplish. Because of this, innovators need to help leaders define their innovation ambitions. This involves deciding on the right portfolio balance that they want to achieve. By making the innovation ambitions explicit, it is possible to create portfolio space for new products. Then employees can figure out how to track progress and ensure they deliver on the organization’s ambitions.

4. Financial space: Even with a clear strategy for innovation, leaders often fail to protect their innovation investments from budget cuts. These budget cuts often hit innovation. Without a protected budget, there is no financial space for innovation which might hamper the sustained success of innovation projects. To succeed in the long term, leaders should create financial space by protecting investments in innovation from budget cuts.

5. Management space: Innovation represents a different way of working. Contemporary intrapreneurs use lean start-up methods that involve experimentation and iterative product development. This new way of working cannot be managed using the same processes and tools we use for managing an organization’s core products. Instead, organization’s need to create management space for innovation. This is done by using a different set of tools for managing early-stage product development. These tools should help leaders ask the right questions at the right time and help teams make decisions about what to do next.

6. Time space: It is difficult to sustain innovation given the limited amount of time innovators have to work on new ideas. This can be one of the benefits of having a separate innovation environment where people can work on projects for a sustained period. But just as leaders need to protect investments in innovation, they also need to allot and protect time for innovators to focus on developing new products and services.

7. Learning space: Innovation usually requires employees to learn new skills. There is no point obtaining resources if employees don’t know how to use them. Most employees in established organizations are used to working in traditional ways. As such, it is necessary to create modern digital spaces for learning. Innovators need to train their colleagues across different functions on the new ways of working and learning.

8. Space to fail: Innovation is about trying out new ideas and sometimes product ideas fail. Failures of new ideas are steppingstones to find what works best so innovators need space to fail and learn. For innovation to flourish, leadership must embrace and celebrate this failure. It is easier for leaders to accept and learn from failures if they make small incremental bets in new ideas, track progress and only double down on those ideas that have the most traction.

9. Space to scale: Imagine the scenario where innovators have developed a really good product with a great business model, but the organization is unwilling to take it to scale - this leads to disappointment. Sometimes this challenge arises due to a lack of strategic alignment. The challenge can also arise if the new product cannibalises a currently successful core product. What is needed is an explicit commitment from key stakeholders that if we find a great business model, they will invest in bringing it to scale.

The nine spaces highlighted above are fundamental to a sustained success for innovation. Achieving the space for innovation can be a difficult task because it ultimately involves leadership embracing innovation and engaging in stakeholder management. Allowing the requisite space for innovation to succeed sets the organization on the right path.

About the Author

Gary Taylor is a workspace offering manager and architect for Capgemini, responsible for developing end user transformation services for the company’s Connected Workspace offerings globally. Capgemini is a global leader in consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. A multicultural company of 265,000 people in nearly 50 countries, Capgemini’s purpose is to unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17 billion. Contact gary.taylor@capgemini.com; Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/gary-taylor-3779ba11/

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