Nowadays, innovation is a key challenge for companies. Not too long ago, most CEOs preferred to emphasise management and cost reduction which were considered safe bets for improving stock value.
The digital transformation wave has since put innovation at the centre of every strategy, whether it be conquering new markets or retaining market share. Companies are now in search of the best innovation method.
Which methods can enhance innovation potential?
Here’s a quick overview of the main methods divided into four schools of thought:
1/ Processed methods
Innovation as a process!
Triz was a pioneer in creating a method as early as 1946 based on the statistical observation of the common points of technical innovations. This “step-by-step” method makes it possible to find and implement incremental innovations, but rarely radical ones.
In more recent times, methods enabling a structured way of thinking innovation have appeared:
– The ERAC grid used in the famous Blue Ocean Strategy, to find an innovation strategy.
– More recently, the lean startup approach by Eric Ries, very much suited to digital innovation to find an innovative business model.
Nevertheless, these attractive methods have their limitations, since innovation and processes do not necessarily mix, as research into organisational sociology has shown.
2/ Teachings in organisational sociology
“How and why does innovation come about?”
Many organisational sociologists have pondered this. Among the main factors highlighted in these studies, we can cite:
– innovations arise most often in interfaces: between two teams, two companies…and not within one team, as talented as it may be!
– The best creativity method is to mix skills, experiences and points of view on a subject. Google understood this when they freed up time for their staff every weekfor its 20% projects so that employees can learn about worlds other than the company’s.
– “Serendipity” is often the key to innovation. What is serendipity? It means not necessarily finding what you are looking for, but still finding an innovation, a little by chance! This was particularly the case with the first vaccines from Pasteur, the microwave oven, post-its…these were all created in labs but were not the subject of the research!
– Empiricism: innovation is hardly ever spontaneous! It is usually necessary to imagine, then test and modify.
3/ Organisation-based solutions
Some organisation models strengthen innovation probability. Companies can create subsidiaries dedicated to innovation: spin-off startups. This helps to eliminate some of the constraints faced by a major organisation (processes, common rules, burdensome decision-making, etc.).
The digital innovation world is extremely dynamic and volatile, so it’s often better to create an ecosystem of well-selected partners than to recruit in open innovation mode. In particular, these partners include special consultants, start-up incubators, universities and research labs.
Finding the right partner is often more effective than searching internally! The current development of COVID-19 vaccines has proven it: all solutions were found by small innovative biotech structures (partners or acquired) and not by major pharmaceutical labs!
4/ Integrated methods
These methods create synthesis between carrying out an innovation process and respecting sociology teachings.
The best known of these methods is design thinking, which owes a lot of its success to this duality: creating a process facilitating its implementation, while integrating into the process respect for the main pro-innovation teachings (sharing, openness, alternating work methods, empiricism). Other methods such as hackathons, and more recently design fiction, have similar characteristics.
Yes! Innovation is a complex thing to achieve and has become the priority of almost every business sector.
What’s the best innovation recipe? It’s up to you to find what works best for your situation by fine-tuning the three dimensions of innovation: process, organisation and sociology!