Have You Defined Your Brand of Innovation?
Every organization is different. Therefore, each organization should develop an innovation strategy that reflects its unique purpose, history, traditions, strategic assets, and collective know-how. The resulting strategy in this light becomes an organization’s unique Brand of innovation. “Brand,” in this context, represents the “B” in the BASIS Method for driving Everyday Innovation. The Brand serves as an organization’s “guiding beacon.” It defines what your organization will look like when it becomes an Everyday Innovation Organization.
The Everyday Innovation Brand is comprised of three elements
- An Everyday Innovation Definition Statement – a description of what Everyday Innovation means in your organization.
- A People Profile – the innovation skills and knowledge needed by everyone in the organization to make the Definition a reality.
- An Organization Profile – the organizational processes, systems, platforms, and tools needed to make the Definition a reality.
Your Everyday Innovation Brand also serves as a “goal post” by which progress will be judged along the way to becoming an Everyday Innovation Organization. It should, therefore, be written in “everyday” language that can be clearly understood by everyone.
Although there is no one “correct” way to create an Everyday Innovation Brand, there are seven general steps to follow.
Step One. Review your organization’s ultimate purpose.
Often in the midst of day-to-day work and through years of change and evolution, there is a tendency for an organization to “forget” why it exists. During this step you will want to gather (perhaps dust off) materials and documents and gain input from people within and outside the organization about what makes the organization truly unique and different from others (e.g., competitors). Questions to ask include: Why did our founder create this organization to begin with? What was his or her original vision for what this organization is all about?
Step Two. Review your organization’s strategies and goals.
The Brand must be consistent with and supportive of the overall strategic direction of your organization. Likewise, the environment in which it operates should be clearly understood and kept in mind (e.g., market, customers, suppliers, competitor, regulatory environment). Your Everyday Innovation Brand should help your organization meet its goals both short-term and long-term.
Step Three. Reinforce and revisit your organization’s culture and traditions.
Another foundational element for your Everyday Innovation Brand can usually be found in the organization’s history, values, and traditions. Questions to ask include: What values are important to us that have made us successful in the past? What are the traditions that keep our organization strong and different from our competitors?
Step Four. The final foundational element is to surface the organization’s (1) unique strategic assets and (2) collective “know-how,” (or core capabilities) that make it different from other organizations.
1. Document some of the organization’s competitive strategic assets.
Questions to ask include: What do we “own” that others do not, that makes us unique or special as compared to others (e.g., our marketing brand, our reputation, our infrastructure, our distribution system, our customer-relationships, etc.)? Ask: What do we “own” that our competitors would love to get their hands on?
2. Define the organization’s core capabilities and “know-how.”
Questions to be ask include: Not focusing on any specific product, what does our company really know how to do better than anyone else? What “core” or “generic” capabilities do we have that could be applied to deliver any number of different products or services to different customers or markets?
Step Five. Given the previous four steps above, create an Everyday Innovation Definition Statement for your organization. The Definition should be customized to reflect the information gathered about the organization’s history, traditions, strengths, etc.
The Definition should also include language that reflects the three meanings of “Everyday” (See Article, “Everyone. Every Type. Every Moment”).
(1) Involving Every ONE in innovation.
(2) Having an innovation mindset at Every MOMENT.
(3) Valuing Every TYPE of innovation, from small to transformational.
For example, a premier shipping company began with the following Definition statement:
“Our founder at AJAX, Marjorie Jessup, was told her vision for our services could “never” be accomplished. We believe, like Ms. Jessup, that what may first appear inconceivable today, is possible with hard work an innovative-minded employees. At AJAX Co. we will strengthen our position as the world’s premier distribution and logistics company by engaging all of our associates across the enterprise in the continuous process of seeking new opportunities to innovate at every moment throughout every warehouse and distribution center. We will value all contributions, large and small, as having great potential to have positive impact and to strengthen AJAX’s position in the market.”
Step Six. Develop a People Profile that helps “operationalize” the Everyday Innovation Definition in the form of specific skills and knowledge needed by everyone in the organization. The following are a few sample statements that might appear in your People Profile:
- ARC Model Skills:
- ACKNOWLEDGE and clearly understand the current state of events and circumstances, both positive and negative.
- REFRAME the current state in terms of a higher purpose and desired outcomes.
- CONNECT to a diversity of perspectives through people, data, experiences, and analogies aligned or analogous to the desired outcomes.
- Demonstrates excellent associational thinking skills – seeing “connections” between concepts and ideas.
- Demonstrates an openness to new ideas and change.
- Demonstrates a long-term focus.
- Effective experimentation, improvisation, choice-making toward desired outcomes.
Step Seven. Develop an Organizational Profile that helps “operationalize” the Everyday Innovation Definition Statement in the form of organizational capabilities (i.e., support processes, platforms, tools, and systems) that need to be in place to make the Definition a reality. There are four support areas that should be addressed: (1) Infrastructure, (2) Talent Management, (3) Leadership, and (4) Culture. The following are a few sample statements that might appear in your Organizational Profile for each area:
- An “Ideas Management” process and tools to allow people to submit ideas.
- Collaboration processes, tools, and platforms so that ideas can be shared, discussed, refined with other people both inside and outside the organization.
- Knowledge Bases and/ or Digital Libraries for searching and accessing off-the-shelf Knowledge, Content, and Resources.
- Jobs formally designed with innovation responsibilities included.
- Hiring processes designed to attract, recruit, and select effective innovators.
- Compensation and rewards processes to reinforce innovation activities.
- Performance Management Processes that establish goals and formally measures and provides feedback around innovation activities.
Leadership Behaviors and Capabilities (Leaders who…)
- Can effectively serve as role models for innovation behaviors
- View mistakes, failure, and bad news as essential to the process of innovation as these experiences often yield the most valuable learning.
- Encourage collaboration.
- Find ways to eradicate fear in the organization.
Cultural Behaviors and Capabilities (A Culture that…)
- Embraces change and new ideas.
- Embraces, respects, and expects mistakes and failure as essential to the process of innovation as these experiences often yield the most valuable learning.
- Reinforces empowerment and trust among all people at all levels.
In summary, your Everyday Innovation Brand should reflect those attributes that are unique to your organization. Your Brand should be steeped in your organization’s history, traditions, and strengths. These things are almost impossible to duplicate by competitors and therefore should be leveraged when defining your Everyday Innovation Brand and strategy. Furthermore, when done right and involving organizational members in the process, common language, collective focus and organizational engagement are formed around Everyday Innovation efforts, leading to results beyond original expectations.