Through their pioneering work around innovation maturity, Beswick, Toma and Vargas have concluded that when clustering the many ecosystem elements, you typically end up with five core pillars: strategy, leadership, management, culture and processes. Understanding if any of the components of these pillars is hindering the progress and outcome of the ecosystem becomes paramount when it comes to making improvements or changes.
Successful innovation requires more than just process transformation; it calls for the entire ecosystem to have an innovative ethos and be equipped to tackle the challenges of today and the unfolding opportunities of tomorrow. This includes the need to have an appropriate HR strategy, a proper structure, demonstrable executive-level support, and a culture built around the pursuit of innovation. All this also built around a core purpose and a deep-rooted desire to pursue better. Action to improve any ecosystem shouldnt be taken until the current situation is fully understood. So, analysis of the ecosystem needs to have the full support of the executive team if it is to uncover the ecosystem blockers preventing the company from achieving its growth goals.
In short, developing your innovation ecosystem cannot be done by observing another companys innovation strategy, capability or culture. Assessing your ecosystem should be the first step before any improvement measures are taken as they need to be specific to your ecosystem and your ecosystem alone.
An innovation ecosystem consists of many elements, all of which need to work in sync for growth to happen.
The main inputs and contributions are:
- Unless you are clear on your current starting point, then your roadmap to developing the organisations innovation ecosystem and thus maturity will at best be packed with assumptions, and at worst will actively prevent further development.
- Imagine an ecosystem where individual intrapreneurs are too afraid to propose a new idea for fear of being punished by senior leaders. The result is a direct limit to the number of ideas submitted, which will impact the companys growth in the years to come. This is a clear cultural blocker that needs addressing before making any further investment.
- If the C-level cant agree on a clear strategy, the investments are likely to be random. This strategy blocker will also have direct implications for the companys future. Creating a corporate venture capital fund before developing a clear innovation strategy wont yield expected results as investments will not be deliberate acts or strategically aligned.
- Another critical aspect to understand is that just doubling down on something thats already working will not increase outcomes and, in certain situations, may even result in something to the contrary happening. Hence all elements of the ecosystem need to be not just in sync, but equally mature. For example, merely increasing the R&D budget wont pay off if another factor holds this variable back.
- The maturity of an ecosystem can be divided into many levels, but from their experience, theyve found that four levels work best. A specific leadership culture is needed to achieve the highest level of innovation maturity. This is where efforts to build innovation ecosystems break down and fail to deliver on the innovation investment promise.
- Innovation is still primarily viewed as a technical accomplishment that requires leaders with strong technical skills but it is not enough on its own to deliver on the final vision. Effective leadership today requires an expert-level grasp of both hard and soft leadership skills.
- Leading for innovation is about demonstrating a full range of skills that could be captured under the broad label of emotional intelligence (EI). Two of the main skills are empathy and compassion.
- In a nutshell if one wants to improve an existing ecosystem, a continuous improvement process is made up of the following five steps: (1) Assess the current state of the ecosystem, (2)Understand the limiting factors or blockers of the ecosystem – the things that hinder the ecosystems level of maturity and its outcomes, (3) Tackle the blockers with appropriate actions (e.g. leadership development, process improvement initiatives, cultural transformation), (4) Re-measure the ecosystem once the steps have been deployed to evaluate the level of expected change and (5) Re-do the loop every time the ecosystem needs improvement.
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