I’m attending an ‘innovation workshop’ today.  I’m looking forward to it but it also feels a little bit dirty.  Innovation is important – but I’m not sure it can be managed directly.  Management of anything politicises it; but with vague notions like ‘innovation’ it’s hard to establish the accountability required to balance the politics.

The session today will interesting.  I’m sure we will have the inevitable ‘what is innovation?’  discussion.  But I’m sure the normal process of people wondering how this might help their career will interfere with that.  Also, participants come from multiple vendor and client organisations so this will limit the sorts of ideas that can be discussed.

I’m not lamenting this dynamic –  it’s a natural part of work life.  But the trick will be to quickly convert this forum into a set of processes that ensure value is directed towards the sponsoring organisation.  I believe breaking up ‘innovation’ into a number of separate processes for which accountabilities can be established is the answer to this.

My first cut of the breakdown is as follows:

  1. Idea management process (capture, rate, sponsor, formally reject, and reward/recognition)
  2. Scanning (internal and external scanning of practices, technologies, and trends)
  3. A formal approach to analysing the organisation
  4. Initiative delivery process (to manage sponsored initiatives)
  5. Slack for brainstorming and black-market idea generation

Some of these, such as scanning, may have separate accountabilities for each organisation (to create competitive tension).  The idea management process may be owned by the sponsoring organisation (to ensure transparency to the sponsoring organisation).  Items 3 and 4 are likely to be tendered.  Item 5 may be measured by the innovation forum but be considered an accountability of business units.