Monday, October 27, 2008

Innovation Perspectives

Innovation is a messy reality!.

When I ask executives to define innovation, I typically get different answers. It is not a well defined process - like Total Quality Improvement or 6 Sigma, and only 4% of major innovation programs ever succeed.

With the majority of CEO's globally reinforcing the importance of innovation to their growth objectives, it would make good sense for companies to have a clear definition of innovation that all employees understand and can rally around. Yet when you peak under the covers -- few employees can define innovation - let alone find each executive in the board room having the same mantra in harmony.

One definition that we like at Helix is innovation is the set of capabilities that allows for the continued realization of a desired future. Innovation is a transformation process, and it blossoms when it supports diversity.

A major problem holding us back in educating executives effectively is that Innovation is an integrated discipline requiring expertise in: Business, IT, Cultural Anthropology, Complexity Science, Learning and Development, Psychology and Sociology etc.

A few bright lights in play are Finland's Alto University as they have consolidated their faculties or Art & Architecture, Business and IT to help position themselves to develop innovation skills and know-how to meet future business demands. Also to watch is Shanghai's new innovation university.

For innovation to flourish, there are 3 key inputs: talent, resources, and infrastructure. Countries like Singapore have very aggressive talent attraction practices and are striving to source 25% of the world's best talent to its country,they are creating a focused talent factory and offering compensation packages and offers unprecedented and simply too hard to resists. Recently a Head of Cancer Research, and Vice Chancellor of Medicine overseeing Genomics research was lured to Singapore with a salary offer of 5x greater than his current compensation -plus a new lab, and no longer has to write research grants - the $$$ reservoir is simply there for him to tap into.

An innovation lifecycle needs to also be in clearly developed and institutionalized. The basic lifecycle includes: Strategy, Design, Develop, Prototype, Go Live and Commercialize.

The world depends on its ability to shore up innovation capacity and life is not as simple as it was after World War II where the really only global innovation game in play was the USA, where in 1946 NA producted more than 50% of the industrial output of the world. However, in 2008 - this is a very different situation.

Some alarming dynamics are in play though - as China will graduate more than 600,000 engineeers in 2008, India 200,000 and USA only 60,000 and likely Canada only 10-15,000. North America also has 1/3 of high school students that do not finish their high school education and in math and science, the USA is now ranked 23 or 24th place in competency assessments on a global basis.

For NA CEO's to develop stronger innovation capabilities, they need to stop using the rhetoric and live the cultural realities required to enable innovation to flourish. Year over year - we have declining innovation capabilities - it is about time that we realized the economic implications.

Perhaps the collapse in the financial markets will help spur a wake-up call.

In the meantime, we will do our best to help our clients get themselves positioned for innovation sustaining capacity as we march forward into 2009.

To contact Dr. Cindy Gordon, reg: this article, post your comments. We always welcome a comment or two back.

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