10 best practices for cross-border innovation: Analysing number 3

Photo: Jay Mantri@pexels.com

What sometimes is less obvious when launching your innovation programme across borders, is the need for a constituency inside your company to provide needed support throughout different phases of the process. Still, forget about employing a huge army of innovation musketeers. That’s not going to happen.

Since you’ve not been given an army of trained consultants to fight the innovation war, you need to find creative ways to build a constituency. Ongoing training programmes that ‘produce’ innovation practitioners is one way to go.

Over time, you’ll build up a constituency ready to support you in your efforts – especially if you have this contribution codified into each individual’s performance evaluation targets.

For instance, you’ll need internal backing for communication: to reach out to employees and stakeholders in far-flung parts of the company, to give a little boost when necessary to a particular idea or venture and so on.

Learn also how to spread your advocates strategically across branches, with different levels of innovation proficiency and sharing a commitment to this cause. They are the foundations of your governance model.

How can you actually take your initiative to this next level?

At Exago, we asked that question of ourselves when a client commissioned us to design a programme to build an internal army of innovation practitioners. Together, we defined a set of outcomes to increase the success of initiatives by improving content quality, accelerating throughput and de-risking opportunities. We named the programme ‘Innovation Sigma’ and based it on efficiency focused Six Sigma principles:

  • Definition of four different levels of innovation proficiency;
  • Curricula (tools and courseware) that qualify participants at each proficiency level;
  • No full-time allocation (tapping into pivotal resources inside the organisation);
  • Guidelines describing how individuals can progress from one proficiency level to the next.

Whatever the programme you adopt, what’s important is that you create a homogeneous system, throughout your organisation: with a portfolio of offline tools, methods and processes that allow trained individuals to push innovation further. Build your own army of innovation practitioners to enhance innovation proficiency and deliver differentiation continuously.

There is no substitute to minds working together in a room ideating, elaborating upon an idea, and accelerating a venture. You need to structure these events in a way to assure they achieve the desired outcomes.

This means designing the right set of tools, processes and facilitation for each session. Ideally, you should have a catalogue of offline programmes that you can easily draw from whenever you need to unstick an idea or a stalled opportunity.

Remember then to:
# Build your constituency, across countries
# Create offline processes to push innovation forward

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder
pcc@exago.com

CONTINUE READING:
Number 4 sets the beginning and the end

FROM THE START:
Innovation programme across borders: 10 best practices to make it work

You need masters, as well as idea management practitioners

We’ve seen that you need a constituency inside your company to provide needed support throughout different phases of the innovation process. Together with one of our clients, we worked to design and develop a solution that promotes a cadre of innovation pivots. We called it ‘Innovation Sigma‘.

This programme focuses on increasing the success of idea management initiatives by improving content quality, accelerating throughput and de-risking opportunities. It is based on main ‘Six Sigma’ principles:

  • Definition of four different levels of innovation proficiency
  • Curricula (tools and courseware) that qualify participants at each proficiency level
  • No full-time allocation (tapping into pivotal resources inside the organisation)
  • Guidelines describing how individuals can progress from one proficiency level to the next

‘Innovation Sigma’ is thus a portfolio of offline tools, methods and processes that allow trained individuals to push idea management further. This mechanism describes when and how your company can embed these tools and methods throughout your organisation. To incorporate this into your company, you need to provide:

a) A FRAMEWORK to support the innovation process throughout the organisation:
The framework consists of innovation tools and methods to generate and implement solutions addressing a given goal. It has five main phases, each one with the aim of generating specific content that develops a sequential flow in the process:

Innovation Sigma - process

b) A complete innovation TOOLKIT that covers each of the framework’s phases:
For each phase of the ‘Innovation Sigma’ framework mentioned above, we designed a set of tools to generate specific content that strengthens the innovation process.

We perfected a total of 43 tools: from ‘External Obstacles and Opportunities’ through to ‘Inverting Paradigms’, including, among others, ‘Technology Empowerment’, ‘Insight-Based Idea Generation’, ‘Idea Refinement’, ‘Concept Elevator Pitch’, ‘Experimentation Plan’, ‘Decision Journey’, ‘Project Builder’ and ‘After Project Star’.

c) Different LEVELS of innovation proficiency to support the entire process:
To ensure that the collaborators involved become proficient and use a common innovation language throughout the organisation, we developed a specific model of skill acquisition and performance. It differentiates collaborators on a four-level scale, specifically:

    • Practitioner
    • Advanced
    • Expert
    • Master

This model involves all organisation’s members in the process, allowing them to develop innovation skills progressively before advancing to the next level. Each level has a specific curriculum with a hands-on approach of ‘learn by doing’. Trainees can apply concepts and tools to resolve real business problems and challenges, according to their level, as this picture shows:

piramide-sigma

To complete the programme and support an innovation culture, you have to create a homogeneous process all over your company. You need to build an army of idea management practitioners to enhance innovation proficiency and deliver differentiation continuously.

Transformation from within
Today, more than ever, cumulative, continuous differentiators allow businesses to increase performance, streamline processes and cost, surprise their customers with outstanding service and adjust their products and services to satisfy more demanding clients. This is not a onetime event. It’s all about everyday improvements.

So, the biggest challenge companies face today is how to build an organisation where collaboration is sustainably enabled by technology, processes, capabilities and behaviours. Where collective intelligence becomes the ‘muscle’ behind innovation. And where people, individually and as teams, work beyond their job description, and everyone and anyone can make a difference.

This is where the logic of ‘Innovation Sigma’ and of our transformation services step in – to better prepare your people to take on key roles as you develop your company’s future together.

Innovation has to be a daily exercise, practiced by all. Deep down, we all are potential professional forerunners. Adequate training and endurance will create the upcoming heroes.

FROM THE START:
Beyond tech and elusive genius – the everyday innovation heroes

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder / pcc@exago.com