In February of 2021, we launched our Innovation Maturity Model (IMM) assessment. We designed the IMM to help strategy, innovation, and R&D leaders understand where their programs sit across the five-tier organizational innovation maturity spectrum we created, which starts with “ad hoc” at the least mature end of the spectrum, and ascends to “optimized.”
One key goal: helping leaders understand what they might do, and where they need to focus, to help their organizations rise to the next tier. So far, more than 130 individuals across a wide range of industries and organizational sizes have completed the assessment.
About one-third of respondents (31 percent) landed in the two most mature tiers, “Integrated” or “Optimized.” Just six percent found themselves in the starting gate — the “Ad Hoc” tier. The majority (63 percent) found themselves in the middle: “Emerging” or “Defined.”
To complete the IMM, leaders share the extent to which they agree or disagree that their organizations have the key enablers of innovation success in place.
Here are five takeaways from the responses so far:
1. The skills are there. First, respondents suggest that their organizations are most successful at putting the right innovation skills (62 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree), innovation culture or shared values (52 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree) and innovation language and communication (51 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree) in place. (Click the arrows at the upper left to enlarge.)
- It is not surprising that the first enabler — skills — rises to the top. One of the easiest things to do when building organizational innovation capabilities is to hire people with specific skills and sets of experience in innovation areas like design thinking, lean startup, and agile development.
- But it’s also common knowledge that culture (shared values) is a critical accelerator or inhibitor of innovation. An increasing number of leadership teams have made it a point to invest in things like idea management platforms, hackathons, and innovation skills training to involve a greater number of employees in innovation. Leadership teams are also emphasizing the importance of reinforcing innovation through language and communication. Many senior leaders in large organizations make sure to incorporate references to innovation in what they say and in the content their organizations publish online, both on company websites and in documents like annual reports.
- The fact that less than 50 percent of respondents agreed that both of these enablers are in place, however, reinforces what we already know — that most organizations have a long way to go.
2. Weak on strategy. Second, respondents suggest that their organizations are least successful at putting the right innovation structure (30 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree), innovation strategy (36 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree), and innovation systems (42 percent somewhat agree, agree or strongly agree) in place. (Click the arrows at the upper left to enlarge.)
- It is also not surprising that many respondents believe their organizations could improve in these areas. These are arguably the most important — but also the most complex — enablers of organizational innovation.
- Senior leaders must design their innovation strategy to address the growth, renewal and transformation needs of their overall organizational strategy. The innovation strategy should describe types of innovation the organization values, and the metrics that will assess whether innovation investments create necessary value.
- Ideally, senior leadership teams regularly assess and update the overall organizational strategy as market shifts dictate. Since the organizational strategy and innovation strategy must be in lockstep, senior leaders should also take care to regularly assess and update their innovation strategy as broader organizational strategic needs dictate.
- To paraphrase Lewis Caroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.” If senior leaders have failed to clearly develop and communicate the innovation strategy — or it is no longer a match with organizational strategy — it is then impossible to know if downstream investments in things like innovation structure (e.g., different groups pursuing different types of innovation) or innovation systems (e.g., processes that enable things ranging from continuous improvement to new venture building to startup investment) are the right investments.
To paraphrase Lewis Caroll, ‘If you don’t know where you are going, any road will take you there.’ If senior leaders have failed to clearly develop and communicate the innovation strategy — or it is no longer a match with organizational strategy — it is then impossible to know if downstream investments…are the right investments.
3. What accelerates progress. Third, respondents shared with us what they consider to be the greatest accelerators of organizational innovation performance.
- The responses range from senior executive support for innovation, to organizational alignment on innovation priorities, to the creation of specific teams and capabilities with dedicated innovation missions.
- The greatest number of responses fit into the category of external innovation catalysts. Respondents frequently cite things like “chaos and crises,” “digital disruption,” “slow organic growth,” “client needs and challenges,” and “changing market and regulatory conditions” as top accelerators.
- It’s easy to understand why such things propel organizational innovation forward — they suggest that the organization may not achieve its financial goals in the short term and/or over the long run, and that’s hard for senior leadership teams to ignore.
4. Things that can bog you down. Fourth, respondents told us what they consider to be the greatest inhibitors of organizational innovation performance. The responses generally fall into three categories.
- As usual, respondents cite lack of senior leadership support as a top inhibitor. While grassroots innovation efforts can be successful, they rarely move an organization like top-down support, and they rarely succeed without such support.
- Respondents also cite challenges at an execution level — “poor communication,” “complex processes,” “lack of bandwidth,” “the wrong metrics,” and “perverse incentives” come up frequently.
- Perhaps most interesting is the frequency with which respondents cited fear, uncertainty and doubt as top inhibitors. “Perfectionism,” “fear of failure,” “chaos,” “risk aversion,” and “analysis paralysis” are specific examples.
5. If you could do magic… Fifth, respondents share with us how they would use a magic wand to change their organizations’ approaches to innovation if they could. The wishes range from the general to the specific. A selection:
“Continued support and expectations from our CEO and senior leaders.”
“Create R&D center with [the] ability to test prototypes and work independently from manufacturing, yet connected to operations for fast implementation.”
“Creating dynamic, motivated and competent innovation teams.”
“Do less stuff.”
“Don’t touch the budget set aside for pro growth activities.”
“Have a good definition on ROI for innovation.”
“Perfecting my innovation strategy to achieve my goals and work with the clients/users to give them what they need (and improve the level of sales).”
“Scale globally big bets quicker.”
- “Make sure every executive had an innovation goal that was equal in importance to their other success key metrics.”
The goal of our IMM is to help you and the executives who oversee your innovation initiatives understand where your organization’s innovation ecosystem is strong and where it could use additional focus and investment. Even if you’re among the nine percent who land in the “Optimized” tier, there are always ways to develop new innovation muscles, pursue new sources of growth, or to stay more closely aligned with changes in overall strategy or organizational design. If you haven’t participated in this assessment yet, we encourage you to do so; you may even want to have different members of your team complete it before discussing the results you get — and how you can act on them.