In recent months I have been writing several articles that I hope introduce some new and interesting concepts around driving value for innovation programs in (generally) large organizations.

These glass spheres are actually self contained ecosystems. I love them

These glass spheres are actually self contained ecosystems. I love them

The trick is that running an effective innovation program is becoming ever more complicated. At a high level, program leads continue to seek new ways to drive marketplace differentiation and growth, and ultimately increase the flow of innovative ideas being executed. Leaders of these programs are now working with sprawling innovation ecosystems that span complex matrix organizations with ever limited resources. It’s tough!

The complexity of these efforts comes from several sources:

  • The Federated Model: Rarely is there a single innovation program within these companies. More commonly I see central corporate groups that have some level of integration with other innovation focused initiatives / efforts running within regions, business units, or industry segments from across the enterprise.
  • Ideas of all shapes and sizes – Programs are trying to capture, assess and build a wide range of ideas with various levels of complexity, coming from different parts of the organization, differing in scope and scale, and at different stages of evolution.
  • Stakeholders – With this new complexity, there is a much broader variety of stakeholders, which are harder than ever to maintain and support. This takes a lot of time and effort, which is a drain for relatively small programs that struggle with limited resources and time
  • Broader set of activities – I will write more about this in my next article, but these programs are developing more sophisticated activities to support their innovation efforts.

For any innovation leader, whether they are running a corporate program, or one of the more focused efforts (say Business Unit specific), it is essential that they map out the full ecosystem and understand where their efforts sit and the value that they are driving to their leadership. Too often I see companies that have no idea what other parts of their innovation ecosystem are doing from across the organization. This creates confusion, misses scaling opportunities and encourages duplication of efforts. In other words, it generates poor quality results.

This new world is in contrast to innovation best practice from as little as 3 years ago, when an innovation leader could comfortably repeat the same single activity to form a program. This reliance on increased efficiency of activity worked in the past, but we all know that no-one improves their long term career prospects by doing the same thing over and over (despite the fact that that action might drive value to the organization).

I have attached a basic high level sample of what an innovation ecosystem might look like. This is very simplistic and I know that for many of you the actual picture is going to be far more complicated

Ecosystem drawing I would love to hear your thoughts on the innovation ecosystem within your organization? Have you gone through this kind of mapping exercise.