In an earlier blog post, Cory Hixson referenced an interesting book on executing innovation entitled Beyond the Idea, which discusses different types of innovation projects within larger organizations. While the book provides a good macro perspective on how innovation works in a larger company, implementation of an innovation effort of any reasonable size within a matrixed organization typically involves a combination of all three types of projects: small, repeatable and custom across the various functional activities.
The challenge is typically not that an innovation effort crosses project types, but rather gaining agreement within the organization as to what type(s) of innovation project the initiative falls into. The typical approach within a company is to oversimplify expectations in an effort to create an expectation the project can be done faster and at less cost. Following the terminology in Beyond the Idea, projects that may require a Custom approach are portrayed as Repeatable. Projects that are Repeatable get classified as Small, and Small projects simply get smaller.
While misclassifying Repeatable projects as Small may not impact the ultimate realization of the innovation effort, it will most certainly delay success well beyond the target date and if the innovation was time-sensitive the effort will be deemed a failure. When this misclassification extends to viewing a Custom project as Repeatable, the consequences can be devastating and certainly result in failure. This type of misclassification, along with insufficient understanding of the value proposition, are the most likely organizational contributors to failure of innovation efforts.
What Are the Keys to Achieving Successful Innovation?
Within a matrixed organization there are many competing priorities across functional groups. Successful innovation requires a full understanding of the organization dynamics, acknowledgement that these dynamics often create a barrier to innovation and most importantly, that the organization is actually incented to ensure consistency where many innovation efforts demand change.
A number of companies pursue innovation by seeking to behave entrepreneurially, thinking that a mindset shift is all that is necessary to overcome organizational inertia.
Executing on innovation in a matrixed organization is vastly more complicated than simply asking people to think and behave in a different way.
Successful innovation demands an introspective view of the organization’s true capability and a collective commitment that changes from normal operation will be supported and allowed where those changes are necessary to fully realize the desired value proposition.
If you find yourself leading an innovation effort, do you consider organizational dynamics and competing priorities? Does your organization do more than employ the “think differently” approach when confronted with challenging innovation initiatives?