The Innovation Matrix Explained: Innovation Commitment | The Discipline of Innovation

The Innovation Matrix Explained: Innovation Commitment

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

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

About Tim Kastelle

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.

17 Responses to The Innovation Matrix Explained: Innovation Commitment

  1. Patrick Stähler 3 April 2012 at 7:43 pm #

    Hoi Tim, as always a great article. The innovation matrix looks so convincing but the first problem with innovation is, that it is such a strange beast.

    What is innovation? Nokia was the most innovative company in the world until 2007. It outinnovated in the classical measurements (new products) all competitors and was world market leader with 40% market share. Alone in Germany, 118 different devices could be ordered from Nokia. But then came Apple along with just one device they replace every year or so. So what was this?
    My main criticism of most innovation literature is that they miss the point of positioning. If everybody brings new fresh products to the market, it is not innovation if you do the same even when you bring even more “innovation” to the market. We should add to innovation the question of uniqueness. And we should think who we cover the distinction between sustaining vs disruptive innovations.
    Nokia and Kodak were world class innovators but then times changed and what was considered innovation before, fell dull to somebody who broke the rules of engagement. That is innovation as well. Breaking the accepted rules and that can be bringing less products to the market as Apple does.

    • Tim 3 April 2012 at 9:24 pm #

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment Patrick!

      I think that your points are very important. This will end up being a 10-15 part series (a very complex argument to make on a blog!), and one of the things that I plan to address at the end is the issue of dynamics. I’m going to do a couple of case studies to try to look at how firms evolve through the different categories. Nokia and Kodal would both make interesting cases to look at.

      • Patrick Stähler 4 April 2012 at 6:25 pm #

        Looking forward to your series on the dynamics of innovation. I am still a big fan of the book by Utterback with the same title. Most consultants tell their clients that a dual strategy is possible but I am very skeptical, since we underestimate the unlearning needed and the power of the current customers. I do not consider IBM as a master of dual strategy with their move from hardware to services. As Christensen says, the difficulties lie not with new products or services but with the customer base. And in the case of IBM, the customer base are still large corporations. In the past they sold hardware to big customers, now they sell services. Same customers, not a disruption in the definition of Christensen.
        Disruption lies within the customer base, not products or your offer.

        • Tim 4 April 2012 at 9:35 pm #

          Whatever I write won’t measure up to Utterback’s work! But I’ll do my best.

          • Patrick Stähler 5 April 2012 at 12:25 am #

            Just bringing attention back to Utterback and the Dynamics of Innovation is totally sufficient ;-) We just love to find the next big thing and forget what is done before. The typical innovation bias.

  2. Kevin McFarthing 4 April 2012 at 1:15 am #

    Hi Tim – this is a good series of blogs to write as the matrix is a great format; stimulates discussion and further thought; and can be used to challenge existing practices. I’d like to add a blog I wrote on metrics, mentioned above, which are fundamental to innovation, but can so often be misdirected and used badly. Here it is –

    • Tim 4 April 2012 at 5:47 am #

      Thanks for the feedback Kevin. That’s a nice post too – I appreciate the link.


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