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Innovation – Innovation goals

Background
Last year I set the stage for innovation by looking at what it means and by focusing on some of the key issues and concepts of innovation.  I want to kick of this year with a discussion around setting innovation goals and planning for innovation in the organisation.  Serendipity and “a-ha” moments with regards to innovation is a myth, it is a factor and plays a role in innovation, but if you want to make innovation a core competence of your organisation, you cannot only depend on luck, you have to plan for it and set goals, just like for any other business function.
Innovation goals
If innovation is important to your organisation, then what are your innovation goals? If you have not got any goals beyond innovating for innovation’s sake, or if those goals are not clear, then your organisation has serious problems with its innovation process.  Innovating for the sake of innovating is a pointless and expensive exercise doomed to failure. This is absolutely critical to bear in mind.
Successful innovators have clear innovation goals that are firmly based on strategy. Apple, for instance, has the innovation goal of taking existing gadgets, rethinking them conceptually and building trendy, highly functional variations, of those gadgets, which capture substantial market-share and establish the firm as a technology leader. Toyota’s strategy was very much based on quality production combined with reducing manufacturing costs through improving the efficiency of the process. With this aim in mind, Toyota built an innovation process based on continuous improvement in production efficiency, delivery of parts on a “just-in-time” basis and quality improvement. This was phenomenally successful. Toyota pioneered just-in-time delivery and briefly became the world’s biggest car manufacturer. It is only recently that the company has veered into prioritising market share – and straying from their innovation goals, that the company has run into trouble.  Indeed, every successful innovative organisation has clear innovation goals which are communicated to employees, suppliers and stakeholders. You should be doing the same in your organisation.
How do you set your innovation goals?  Innovation goals are derived from strategy. If you are not clear about your organisation’s innovation goals, you need to start with strategy. If your strategy involves providing customers with the most cutting edge technology, then your innovation process needs to focus on improving the technology of your products. If your strategic focus is to have the lowest prices, innovation needs to focus on efficiency improvements that reduce your operational costs. Indeed, it is not difficult to extract one or more broad innovation goals from your strategy. What is more difficult to understand is why so few organisations have actually done this!
To give you a push in the right direction, below is listed some examples of “soft” innovation goals for corporate leaders and for personal creativity this year.
For corporate leaders: Create a culture that fosters creativity; Grant freedom to employees to take risks; Remove barriers to communication across the organisation; Reward fast failure; Reward idea generators; Give employees time to think or work on new ideas; Build innovation into your financial goals; Develop a system for measuring innovation-related metrics; Set up a fund to finance promising new ideas.
For personal creativity: Challenge the status quo; Be curious; Imagine; Become more self-motivated; Find your passion; Take risks; Pay attention to detail; Do not fear failure; Dream; Wish; Be confident; Go looking for new ideas; Feed your subconscious with fresh, new observations.
So, for 2013, I challenge you to set goals for yourself and your organisation to be more creative in your thinking and execute on your ideas, and so you will make innovation happen!
Next Time
In the following article I want to focus on the concept of planning for innovation, i.e. the roadmap to reaching your innovation goals.  I conclude with a quote from Lou Holtz: “If you’re bored with life – you don’t get up every morning with a burning desire to do things – you don’t have enough goals.”

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