Business

Talk is fine, but who’s taking ownership?

Published: 4:02 AM, September 18, 2013
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Who owns innovation in your company? Who do you call when you want to talk about innovation strategy and capability building? How often have you come across departments, not just for Brands, R&D or Product Development, but departments that are focused on what I call organisational innovation — building the capacities, skills and structures to help a whole company innovate?

It’s a question that usually receives a blank response. Yet, pick up any business magazine and you will invariably find multiple articles on the strategic importance of innovation for a company’s growth.

I have mulled over the question for a number of years, ever since I started the Entheo Network in 2006. Before that, I was an Innovation Director in a large research company responsible for working with big brands like Coca-Cola, American Express and Nokia to develop concepts for new products and services.

The lack of creative ideas and solutions was often not the problem. It was the lack of internal processes and culture that supported innovation that was missing.

It seemed obvious to me that the world of “what” an organisation creates — its products and services — and “how” it innovates — its skills, processes and capabilities — should be natural bedfellows.

If 72 per cent of CEOs are stating innovation as one of their top three priorities, then how come it is often such a random activity that everyone thinks it is owned by someone else?

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Organisations that really want to drive innovation tackle this challenge differently. Sometimes, you will find an Innovation Department — an “incubator” style model — which is often largely tasked with generating new ideas separate from the larger organisational structure.

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