Demystifying Innovation


The subject of innovation can elicit two very different responses: a visible cringe from some (particularly service providers) and a starry-eyed look from others (most often buy-side enterprise clients). Though innovation is often defined simply as the introduction of something new or different, the discipline of making innovation happen tends to be shrouded in mystery. But it doesn’t have to be.

Innovation is a powerful tool for driving cost savings and improving operations. But to really benefit from fresh ideas, enterprises need to properly communicate expectations and build an incentive program into their governance framework.

Here are the Top 5 strategies for demystifying service innovation in your organization:

  1. Define what innovation means to you. Enterprises and service providers need to define what innovation means in each of their specific environments. What is new in a particular industry or environment today will be different tomorrow. Think about what keeps you up at night; these just may be the places where you can get to the heart of real innovation.
  2. Avoid using the word innovation punitively. Innovation happens when you garner new ideas to enable improvements and solve business problems. Penalizing a team or group for not being “innovative enough” will result in unproductive churn with no clear results. Be sure to first communicate the definition, purpose and strategic goals of innovation so that new ideas relate to real business objectives.
  3. True innovation is a collaborative effort between clients and service providers. For innovation to be meaningful, it must tie to positive business outcomes, which means clients and service providers need to work together to identify their challenges and goals. One client, in collaboration with a service provider, encouraged service provider employees to submit product improvement and marketing ideas that, when implemented, resulted in an increase in sales for the client. Years later, these ideas have differentiated the client’s services from its competition.
  4. Try Innovation Campaigns. Employees are a great source of ideas and energy when steered in the right direction. Choose a campaign theme centered on a business problem or targeted business outcome, set a start and end date with appropriate incentives, and let the ideas flow! Be sure to keep communications open throughout the campaign. Recognize and take action by dedicating funding and/or resources to the ideas that have a potentially high return on investment. This type of approach has generated hundreds of meaningful and actionable ideas and creates palpable excitement within the organization.
  5. Initiate Innovation Committees. Innovation Committees are not “fluff.” These groups are charged with identifying, prioritizing and overseeing the execution of innovation-driven projects. They are a way to focus resources on a strategic topic of interest. If the right resources are named to the committee, holistic conversations will occur about how to enable the business and drive strategic value. If your Innovation Committee is focusing its energy on day-to-day transactions and/or operations, it is time for an overhaul.

When incented and focused properly, innovation strategies have a powerful effect. ISG’s governance framework enables companies to effectively encourage and drive innovation. Contact us to discuss further.