Innovation on a Shoe String Budget – When Growing Your Innovation Program, Think Daisies, Not Orchids
A utility company client was tasked with growing their collaborative innovation program with limited budget. Another client had considerable budget but was daunted by the management effort which might be required in developing a program of collaborative innovation which scaled.
My advice to both was, think daisies, not orchids. Orchids require excessive amounts of care and maintenance and are more analogous to a corporation’s notion of tight control. It is one that fails to promote intrapreneurship. Daisies by contrast require little more than fertile soil.
Therefore, consider creating a fertile environment. Of course enable the official sponsors of innovation to form communities (perhaps aligned with a line of business or company practice). But also allow for “rogue communities”; communities which are formed by budding innovators who have a passion and would like to explore it with others that share that passion. These rogues are your intrapreneurs and seek official sponsorship.
Of course, we don’t recommend allowing just anyone to form a rogue community. The right to form a rogue community is earned by valued participation in an official community. In short, an official community propagates rogue communities which, if they deliver value or show promise, can earn sponsorship and become an official community.
However, as some platforms cannot accommodate true communities, we should describe the attributes of a true community. A community is formed around a common interest. Prescribed communities might align with the silos of an organization such as a line of business. For example in insurance that might be property casualty, auto and life. A community might align with a practice which cuts across the silos. Again in an insurance company, that might be underwriting. But communities can form around many other common interests; a client, a process, a technology, etc. Regardless, they gather to promote a common purpose.
On-line communities should generate activity which promotes their common purpose. They may schedule regular presentations, post meeting notes, share scholarly articles, have on-line discussions, ask questions of the community and of course, run on-line innovation challenges where they can seriously collaborate in addressing a problem or opportunity aligned with their community. It is important to note that communities go beyond ideation and can be a valuable source of resources needed to commercialize an idea.
Each community should have a leader or leaders. An official community is led by an executive sponsor who has budget and resources. A rogue community is led by a passionate innovator seeking to create value for the company by focusing on their area of interest. They are seeking official sponsorship.
Community leaders need to have control over their space. They need to be able to share or hide a view of their community with other communities. They need to be able to engage their members with little more than training and guidance as provided by the managers (the Innovation Management Team) of the overall on-line platform (the Innovation Management System).
The Role of the Innovation Management Team
As suggested above, the Innovation Management Team (IMT) can be small because it is not controlling every aspect of what occurs in communities and is instead promoting viral propagation as with daisies and not labor intensive cultivation as with orchids.
The IMT is therefore enabling the formation of communities, providing training and guidance, setting expectations and measuring value created. Communities, particularly rogue communities, are expected to generate a certain level of activity and in the longer term, value. The IMT measures the activity to ensure the community has not died. Dead communities, like dead underbrush, need to be cleared out so as not to choke the innovation program. Value created, needs to be measured and reported because it proves the significant Returns on Investment which can be generated by an approach which promotes your rogues, your intraperenuers, your daisies.