8 building blocks that support an innovation mindset

To achieve a true mindset of innovation takes commitment. Kuczmarski submits that eight building blocks that rest on three interconnected platforms:

  1. Planning for innovation
  2. Defining the innovation process
  3. Crafting a holistic innovation organization

Platform One: Planning for Innovation

Building Block #1: Create an innovation vision and blueprint

A vision enables you to see beyond what you’re currently doing to what you want to become (Kuczmarski 126). Kuczmarski says that, while related to the corporate vision, an innovation vision more specifically:

  • Highlights the role that new elements will play
  • Describes mission and purpose
  • Examines how strategic direction is effected by innovation (128)

Give the innovation vision some parameters and structure by developing an innovation blueprint to guide the way.

Building Block #2: Develop an innovation strategy

To set the vision in motion you need more than a blueprint: you need a plan to implement what the blueprint outlines. That plan is innovation strategy, and it clarifies expectations and defines:

  • Financial growth gaps that will be filled
  • Financial objectives to meet
  • Strategic roles

Building Block #3: Design a technology and innovation portfolio

“Aligned to each strategic role should be an identification of the core technologies or technical expertise areas that you anticipate will be necessary for developing new products” (Kuczmarski 136). In other words, what core technologies do you already have that you can (and will) use to develop new products? Using existing technologies will give you a leg up on your competition.

Platform Two: Defining the Development Process

Building Block #4: Design a staged development process

To transition from a concept to a tangible product your innovation team (see block #5 below) will need a process to follow. Such a process, says Kuczmarski, will:

  • Provide a logical approach and system
  • Articulate the required approvals
  • Offer a framework to manage multiple new concepts (137)

Platform Three: Crafting a Holistic Innovation Organization

Building Block #5: Form innovation teams

To be effective you need a team effort, and the team should consider itself committed for the long haul. When forming an innovation team include these components:

  • Cross-functional representation, including expertise, perspective, and experience (140)
  • Full-time, dedicated leaders who can motivate, communicate, and solve problems (142)
  • Performance-based rewards to motivate team members and recognize a job well done (e.g. peer recognition and career advancement) (145)
  • Regular meetings

Building Block #6: Establish reward systems

Rewards do not have to be financial, but they do have to motivate. Particularly for an innovation team whose objective inherently involves taking big risks there is opportunity for big reward, which may come in the form of career advancement, option to buy stock, or some other form of compensation.

Building Block #7: Measure progress and returns

Because the members of innovation teams are pushing boundaries and working to expand the company in new directions they are taking risks. This puts them in a different position than other employees who are supporting the current product and service lines. For the innovation team evaluate members with company-wide, team innovation, and individual innovation measures; having a unique evaluation format further signals a commitment to innovation and cultivates that mindset in the innovation team (151).

Building Block #8: Infuse innovation norms and values

Norms and values, while somewhat informal, help a team establish a sense of community because they form a common set of standards and expectations. When the team members understand the ground rules, there’s no need for rules or regulations (Kuczmarski 153).

Again, the above summary captures the high-level ideas that Kuczmarski presents, and we recommend exploring these ideas with an expert who can help fill in the details and lead your company to successful innovation.  If you have questions or wish to start implementing an innovation plan in your organization, contact us for details at info@insightsc.com.

Kuczmarski, Thomas D. Innovation: leadership strategies for the competitive edge. Chicago: NTC Business Books, 1996.

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