This checklist was developed by participants in a workshop – Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts – at the LSIS Embracing Technology for Success conference held in Birmingham on 2 February 2011.
Comments are welcome.
[Innovation = change for the better that helps solve a problem that need solving and which is capable of being solved.]
Innovation within an organisation tends to be successful when ……
- there is buy-in from users and when those who have to change their practices are doing so willingly rather than by diktat (willingness and diktat are extreme ends of the spectrum, and willingness can be developed through advocacy by people in positions of influence);
- there are clear objectives – kept in mind at all times – with all the main people involved able to answer clearly the questions “what are we doing?” and “why are we doing it?”
- it is capable of being done at a large enough scale for financial savings or effectiveness improvements to accrue;
- people are given time to do it – thus resource controllers need to be sufficiently convinced of the benefits to provide time for implementation (time might be planning time, implementation time, professional development time, and last by not least, testing time);
- those leading and/or promoting innovation need to be savvy about true costs and benefits – otherwise changes will be made that are unsustainable;
- there is a clear business case (but this does also run counter to the other truth that some valuable inventions can arise when there is no business need whatever);
- risk, recognition, and reward are part of the local climate (if there is fear of occasional failure then people will tend not to take risks – but do not forget that the banks failed partly because they rewarded risk-taking……..);
- innovation is seen as a key part of an organisation’s strategy (but this is not a sufficient condition: plenty of organisations that do not innovate have “we innovate” writ large in their strategy);
- it is monitored and evaluated (with appropriate evaluation criteria that are not applied inflexibly), and when things that do not work are killed off – but not too quickly – rather than being left to fester;
- resource controllers are able to spot “fantasy business plans”, and have their eyes open for those who are too personally or politically invested in a particular innovation (but remember: many innovations happen precisely because someone is personally invested!)
- there is a continuous process of prioritising and re-prioritising – this is especially important when an innovation concerns a complex and possibly changing mix of issues – and appraisal should not stop when a product or service is launched);
- you keep the horse (the innovation) in front of cart (the problem that it is designed to solve) at all times, and ensure that the innovation has a strong focus on clients/users/consumers;
- every project needs a communication channel, successes and failures should be honestly and routinely communicated (negative news sticks and travels further and faster than good news).
a. There is no point expecting technically dependent innovation to be successful if the technical infrastructure is not reliable.
b. One problem solved may create others. (This links to 11 above).
c. The checklist relates mainly to “incremental or diffusive innovation” rather than to “disruptive innovation”. It should not be assumed that the former is a more important form of innovation than the latter.