A few years back, many companies would simply try to buy their way to innovation success by hiring more people and starting more projects as they were given more money.
Things have changed. Corporate innovation units have let go of people and they have scaled down on projects (size as well as number) because they are given less money. This raises a big question.
How can we get better innovation with less money?
Let’s have a discussion on this. I can start out with five suggestions that can help upgrade the innovation engine without spending too much money. The key is to focus on the most valuable resource available. Yes, you are right. I am talking about people.
Develop executive training programs: Contrary to what I wrote in this popular chapter from my first book, Why Top Executives Do Not Get Innovation, Much Less Open Innovation – and What to Do About It, I no longer believe that executives are lost on innovation.
They have moved on quite fast in recent years and corporate innovation units need to push further by developing training programs that help their executives better understand how corporate innovate works and bring them tools that enables them to weave innovation into the overall corporate strategy.
Provide coaching for the innovation unit: An increasing deal of my work is coaching for innovation leaders and/or innovation units. This work often focus on helping them focus on the bigger picture as it is quite easy to lose this due to the many daily tasks that keep piling up. This could also be part of an executive training program.
Build a better understanding of the people skills needed: Sometimes you can do more with fewer people. The trick is to better understand the skills needed. How we innovate is changing dramatically in these years due to the open innovation movement and thus innovation units might need to be re-assembled in order to make sure they have the skills needed.
On this, I have noticed that innovation units that understand their role is to facilitate innovation within the organization – rather than make it happen themselves – and to integrate internal and external resources tend to be quite successful.
Upgrade the people skills: This builds further on the above point. As things are changing fast, you need to upgrade people skills. Unfortunately, I see too many cases where this does not happen and often the reason is that people are too busy doing their day jobs.
Develop branding programs for corporate innovation capabilities: More than ever, corporate innovators and entrepreneurs need to build strong brands not only around their offerings, but also around their own capabilities. This is important as companies compete to build the strongest innovation ecosystems in order to get better innovation to market faster.
Ok, this one is a bit different than the others as it is not really about people, but it is still related since a key element for this is that innovation units need to build a much better understanding for the value of social media for innovation efforts.
Let me know what you think and please share your insights on an important question: How can we get better innovation with less money?
By the way, if you like this post, you should also read this one: 7 Challenges for Corporate Innovation Units