Sustaining Innovation – Achieving Near-Term and Long-Term Objectives

August 16, 2010 – 1:15 pm

There was a great article in the July 26th edition of Computerworld – IT Innovation: How to avoid being a one-hit wonder.

There is also a related article – “Innovation: Trendy Topic, Hard to Do” that I had to mention, because the headline really hits home. I think the challenges that smaller businesses have is that they want to be innovative, but lack the ongoing support and sustain it.

While the article focuses on innovation in IT, the approach applies to innovation in general.

Many people also believe that innovation just “happens” – but it doesn’t. It takes a very systematic approach to maintain innovation over the long-term.

Katrina Lane, Chief technology Officer at Harrah’s Entertainment asserts that it’s crucial to manage the innovation process; it’s not something that will happen on its own. “There have to be strong metrics, timelines and processes, such as how you get to rollout. It’s not all research and dreamy,” she says. “Innovation is a systematic process. It’s like research and development. You have to manage your pipeline.”

In particular, there was a section that I wanted to share, listed below. The one sentence summary:
“The keys to making innovation a sustainable process, they say, include understanding the business inside and out, setting up a team dedicated to trying new ideas, and not being afraid to fail.”

The Building Blocks of Innovation
Consultants say the following elements are key to building an environment that can sustain innovation:

  • Give employees the right to fail
  • Spread responsibility for innovation throughout the organization, top to bottom
  • Develop partnerships with other departments
  • Create a central repository for ideas and experiments
  • Establish processes and ownership

There has to be a good blend of providing enough time and resources for employees to innovate, but not in a vacuum so that they understand the real challenges of the business. The article also references the importance of shorter term innovations, which may be implemented with the shifting of existing resources, to future technologies that, while not applicable at the moment for a wide scale deployment, may help shape the future of the organization.

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