Note: This is part of a series of posts explaining the individual parts of The Innovation Matrix. See this post for a description of the full model and what can be done with it.
Innovation Commitment is one of the axes of the innovation matrix.
One of the key insights from The Innovation Matrix is that Innovation Commitment and Innovation Competence do not increase together in lockstep. It is possible for firms to improve along one dimension without seeing any difference in the other.
Innovation Commitment reflects that structures that are put in place to support the innovation process. It generally comes from management – so it is more of a top-down approach to generating innovation.
Elements of Innovation Commitment
We don’t have a scorecard to quantify Innovation Commitment yet, but here are some of the questions to ask to assess it in your firm:
- Is innovation one of our core values? It can be formally stated, or informal, but one way or another having a conscious dedication to innovation is important.
- What systems do we have in place to support the innovation process? This can include things like: formal processes for capturing ideas, like structured brainstorming; systems for generating and selecting ideas, like innovation jams; a new product development process like Stage-Gate; or an informal process that includes specific steps for generating, selecting and executing ideas.
- How many resources do you devote to innovation? The resources can be financial, like spending on a formal Research & Development program. Or they can be less formal, like officially earmarking time for innovation – as Google and 3M do by allocating 20% of their engineers’ time for working on new projects. In either case, devoting more resources to innovation signals an increasing commitment to it.
- Do you track innovation metrics? We’re generally pretty bad at developing innovation metrics. Scott Anthony recommends developing a suite of metrics that include inputs (things like Google’s 20% rule – all the programmers have 20% of their time to put into projects), process measures (such as innovation portfolio balance), and outputs (as 3M does with their target of generating 25% of their revenue from products introduced within the past 3 years). Stefan Lindegaard has also written a very good post on this subject, with examples from Johnson & Johnson and Intel.
- Is top management involved in the innovation process? Higher levels of management involvement in innovation indicates higher commitment. Why do we talk about Apple and Google as prime examples of innovative firms? In large part, it is because Steve Jobs, Tim Cook, Sergey Brin and Larry Page have taken strong roles in making innovation decisions. Innovation is clearly on the radar in these firms.
- Do you use Innovation Technologies to support innovation? This is a concept that our colleagues Mark Dodson, David Gann and Ammon Salter developed in their book Think, Play, Do (this short article is an excellent introduction). Innovation technologies are those that support the innovation process – things like: visualisation tools, collaborative platforms, and virtual reality. All of these tools support the innovation process, but all require knowledge and resources to use effectively.
- Is innovation integrated into your strategy? One of the best ways to embed and support innovation is to explicitly tie it into your strategy. Doing so is one of the key indications of a commitment to innovation.
Some of these are yes/no questions, and some occur along a spectrum. By looking at your answers, it will give you a bit of an idea of the level of commitment to innovation within your firm. Those that are high on the scale will have all of these processes and structures in place to support innovation.
Unfortunately, having a high level of commitment to innovation doesn’t guarantee success. I’ve encountered firms that have very high levels of commitment to innovation, but they are still lousy at actually executing ideas. That is the other part of innovation success, and we’ll look at some ways to measure Innovation Competence next.