I’ve been thinking of the issue of process versus tools, and I thought of a good analogy. Innovation management for organisations is like fitness training for people.
How many of you have ever bought a piece of exercise equipment because you thought that having the tool would make you more motivated to exercise? I have, a few times.
The fault in the logic is this: the exercise equipment doesn’t make you fit. Having a commitment to fitness and a plan for improving your own fitness is what makes you fit. Once you have the commitment and the plan, then you can get equipment if you need it. But the thing that you discover is that once you have the commitment and the plan, you don’t really need the equipment at all. It can help, but if you’re really committed to fitness, you’ll find ways to exercise whether you have the equipment or not.
Managing innovation follows exactly the same logic. Lots of people start with the tools – brainstorming, communities of practice, stage/gate, etc. But innovation tools are just like exercise equipment. Having the tool doesn’t give you the motivation to be more innovative. You have to have the commitment to innovation first, and a plan for managing the process. Innovation tools can be really useful, and once you have the commitment and the plan, then you can pick the tools that will provide the most help in meeting your goals.
But if you have the commitment and the plan, then you might not need the tools at all. That holds true both for fitness and for innovation. Make your innovation management healthier by building commitment to innovation, and a plan for managing the process.
(image from flickr/.Rouzeh under a Creative Commons License)