Friday, February 25

Are you Genuine and Mature?

I recently attended an event at which one of the speakers invited audience response along these lines:

"Which of the following best describes your organisation?
"1. Says it's not interested in innovation
"2. Says it's interested, but doesn't really mean it
"3. Is interested in innovation, but doesn't have a meaningful plan
"4. Is interested in innovation, and has a plan"

It occurs to me that this question could actually form the basis for examining organisationsa sort of poor man's "maturity model" for innovation, if you'll indulge me!

So where would we place our own organisations on this scale?   And what's to be gained by so doing?

If an organisation rates itself thus, there are some serious questions to be asked.  First of all, we'll probably find that "Disinterested Plc." is already investing in non-operational matters, so by many people's definitions there will actually be plenty of innovation going on.  If there isn't, the company can't be sustainable in the long-term.  Even if there is, the lack of recognition suggests that more focus might improve results.

Companies which feign interest in innovation may just be trying to protect their reputations in a market which has suddenly become obsessed with the term "innovation".  I'd worry more about "" than about "Disinterested Plc.", because the latter is likely to be more open-minded. sounds to me like an organisation lacking in integrity, so probably has bigger problems to worry about anyway.  Perhaps it devotes a lot of time to finessing, subterfuge and in-fighting?

"Well-Intentioned, Lost Ltd." (WILL) could well be on a journey, but it's not clear in which direction.  With any luck it's recognised the need for developing creative propositions, but not yet found the time, budget or cultural motivation to take the subject seriously.  If so, it's likely that will change in time.  The alternative is that WILL has evolved from a product to a services company (haven't we all?)  If so, then perhaps it has always believed in innovation, but has struggled to apply its former R&D specialism in a services context, and may never realise that aspiration.

Organisations like "Now We're Cook-Inc." are clearly in a good place, and should thrive for as long as their competitors remain less effective.  The important art here is balance:  It would be easy for an evangelistic company like this to allow its excitement about "new stuff" to dominate, and allow margins to erode, and leadership attention to divert entirely away from matters operational.  

So on reflection, perhaps there's a fifth level of maturity, where innovation is a natural function of the business, self-improving and self-optimising, sensitive to external "PESTLE" forces.

What do you think?   Do these levels make sense?  Where do you sit, and why?

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