As innovation emerges as a new organizational competency, the path it is following is similar in many ways to the one followed by the field of quality many years ago.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, Quality Circles, Total Quality Management, and ‘Quality is Job One’ were the themes and slogans of the day for the field of quality. The field was viewed by some as just the latest fad, but it has endured to become a critical organizational competency for all organizations.
Several similarities exist between the path to organizational competency followed by quality and the path that innovation is currently on. Both fields have or will have evolved through stages of development influenced by thought leaders, by studying best practices of experts, and by developing tools and methodologies. Tools to inspire innovation have recently been developed including the Business Model Canvas or Innovation Canvas, but an accepted guiding principle and unifying framework for innovation have not yet emerged.
A Guiding Principle and Unifying Framework for Innovation
In quality, we can point to ‘reducing variation’ from Deming as a guiding principle and Six Sigma has become the unifying framework. If a guiding principle and unifying framework for innovation are yet to come, what might they look like?
Innovation is all about creating something new that is implemented and has value. A guiding principle for innovation must therefore be centered on ‘providing value’ to both external customers and internal stakeholders.
The unifying framework will have to be broad and comprehensive like Six Sigma. It will have to consider management, culture, people, processes, and tools. It must also be configurable to adapt to different industries and to all areas of the enterprise from development to operations. Most important, it will have to include quantitative measures of value. How will we measure value provided and the resulting benefits of innovation? This may be the real opportunity and work to be done to further establish innovation as an organizational priority.