The Switch: From Invention-Centered to Innovation-Centered - Simon Hill

Expert: Simon HillCurator: Sugath Warnakulasuriya

Simon Hill, CEO Wazoku the #EveryDayInnovation company. Tech evangelist, angel investor, Top 20 Global influencer in Crowdsourcing, TEDx 2016.

01 // How to move from an "invention" centered to an "innovation" centered organization?

// Summary //

Traditionally, innovation and big ideas were the territory and task of a select few within organizations.

With time we’ve realized that many of the best ideas and initiatives take root at the ground level of a company’s products, services or processes. That’s why Simon Hill believes that the ideal corporate structure should empower and actively involve 60-90 percent of its entire staff in proposing solutions and improvements.

He had a chat with Sugath Warnakulasuriya about shifting corporate paradigms and tangible ways organizations can gradually implement changes in their fundamental approach to innovation.

Rethink traditional R&D

R&D departments have long been encouraged to throw ideas at the wall and see what sticks, yet organizations struggle with translating the relationship of creativity and risk to the parts of the company closest to clients and processes. Moreover, many of the fundamental characteristics of traditional R&D need a remodel to meet today’s pace, tools and best practices.

Long-term deliverables

R&D departments working with long-term deliverables and KPIs end up dangerously far along in their development process before they’re able to decide whether an idea is effective or aligned with the corporate strategy. Newer models encourage small development sprints that allow ideas to fail fast or iterate before they’ve sucked up too many resources.

A waterfall approach

This model is known for its linear, rigid approach to developing ideas: each step must be fully completed before moving on to the next. Instead of requiring more investment and time to test a new idea – which makes organizations hesitant to kill a project – lower the barrier to entry for anyone to explore new assumptions or solutions.

Misaligned accountability

If organizations look exclusively at the number of products delivered to market or profits grossed, they’re unlikely to see the value in innovation initiatives. Instead, Simon suggests they look at how many ideas were generated by ground-level employees, how far down the development funnel the ideas have moved or how quickly failing ideas were killed.

Usher in transformation

Shifting innovation models is a gradual, iterative journey. Beyond changing mindsets, five pillar elements of the company’s structure and strategy need to align.

Tools and processes to quantify and qualify innovative ideas, collect quick feedback and drive innovation from ideation to implementation.
An accessible, explicit strategy that the entire company understands and feels is accessible.
Leadership and management who encourage and incentivize initiative, creativity and risk taking.
Culture that creates accessible space for new ideas, strategic collaboration and fast failure.
Education and expertise that helps teams develop the skills and processes they need to make the shift.

Create an innovation groundswell

While bringing R&D and innovation processes closer to the core of the organization, simultaneously encourage great ideas to bubble up from all levels of an organization’s structure.

Never forget that the customer is king. Always try to work backwards from a client’s pain points or needs.
Start at the grassroots. Implement small changes across the board to gain momentum and drive incremental impact.
Identify internal pain points. Spot opportunities for improvement and areas that need more focus.
Put out a call for ideas. This creates a social contract with your team, lets them know what you’re trying to solve and publicly establishes that you’re dedicating resources and budget to finding solutions.
Establish a speedy process. This allows you to fail fast or quickly identify powerful opportunities.

“If you think about what an idea is, it’s akin to a lead in a salesforce system, something that is early and nascent, and needs an organizational process to wrap around it to give it the greatest chance of success.”

The new suggestion box

Using Wazoku’s idea management platform, Waitrose invited all staff to submit ideas and suggestions through a digital platform. Within months of the Partners Ideas program launch, the company had saved hundreds of thousands of pounds by implementing suggestions that increased the efficiency of everything from receipts to coffee distributors and auditing mechanisms.