Everybody in the organization is a potential Innovator. Having innovative ideas is nobody’s prerogative. There are, however, three distinct categories of ideas can arise:
- Solutions to existing problems
- Countermeasures against existing or expected threats
- Initiatives to seize opportunities created by market or technological developments.
If the existing influx of new ideas in the organization is not sufficient to maintain a continuous and sustainable innovation flow, or if the ideas are not aligned with the organization’s Strategic Drivers, Innovation Coaches may perform Idea Generation activities to stimulate entrepreneurial behavior and new ideas among employees. There are many ways to boost Idea Generation within a company and Innovation Coaches can utilize many different tools.
Innovation is frequently driven by very tangible problems or annoyances. Some of the key drivers for innovation are internal problems or inefficiencies that have no obvious solution. In search of potential solutions, Innovation Coaches may organize a number of activities to inspire solutions to named problems. To name a few:
- ‘Gemba Walks’; team visits to the company’s working environment
- External company visits or exchanges
Employees may spot innovation opportunities by tracking tech drivers, market trends and threats or even assessing disruptions that are solving particular problems.
Innovation is not only about finding solutions to existing problems. Forward-thinking organizations are continuously on the lookout for more novel and disruptive ideas; developments that might form a future threat, and/or that can potentially open up a new market or revolutionize the existing ones. To accommodate such forward thinking, Innovation Coaches should frequently initiate activities to elicit new ideas and opportunities:
- Ideation sessions and Design Thinking workshops,
- Organize internal innovation competitions
- Ideation or development sprints, such as the Google Design Sprint,
- Structured ideation programs, such as the Kickbox program
- Accelerator programs to foster cooperation with start-ups and third parties
There is no finite list of activities that Innovation Coaches may initiate, but their aim should be to stimulate and facilitate the organization as a whole to pro-actively research and try new ideas and concepts.
Innovation Coaches are also responsible for developing an ‘innovation radar’ or ‘early warning system’, through which market and technological developments can be spotted early and consistently so that the organization can sense and respond quickly and decisively. The exact setup of such an early warning system is dependent on the industry dynamics and the existing external sensoring of the organization. Activities to detect technology drivers, opportunities and threats early on include:
- Active networking within the industry and adjacent industries, including regular visits to tradeshows, demonstrations, network meetings etc. This networking includes internal knowledge transfer and discussions about the findings
- Joint ventures with start-ups and third parties in the existing and adjacent industries and markets
- Close monitoring of technological developments through active knowledge exchange in technology communities, such as meetups and networking events.
It is a best practice in Continuous Innovation to present the findings from the Innovation Rader during Innovation Day. In this way, knowledge and awareness are shared among a larger group of engaged employees, who in turn will add their perspectives and ideas and in turn link the findings to their perceived problems, threats, and opportunities.