by Claire Bull

In the second half of 2017, I was encouraged to watch the growing investment and competency in the world of innovation. The world called out 'Innovation Theatre' as executive tired of yet another Hackathon that doesn't create future value for the organisation. The time of objective understanding in the innovation journey was starting to mature, and that's a good shift.

With the growth in maturity, we also saw a growing level of scaled investments. Moving from a few thousand dollars, into the millions. Encourage a wave of new 'Innovation Consultants'. In South East Asia, this was great for my business and many of these new consultants previously trained with me either through workshops or former clients. But a weakness in the industry tore a chasm between the various tiers of innovation programs, and it quickly became evident that some were working, and some had disappointing results.

Over the course of nearly five years, I've worked to continually be open to learning with the market and clients. Past clients have contributed to the maturity of my approaches, and written parts of my book Innovation Wars. But one trait stood out time and time again in the review process.

Those that invested in the Context(see my 4Cs) phase, laid an important foundation that differentiated between material value creation, and 'just another idea'. The pattern was those that appreciated the value of governance. Now I'm not talking about the overpowering business and project review boards that exist today in most large organisations. I'm referring to the frameworks that empower front lines to execute ideas within a given set of guidelines. 

Innovation governance is a system of mechanisms that work to align goals, allocate resources and assign autonomy and authority for innovators, organisation wide. It also helps to define the way a company can work with third parties. For companies pursuing a more disruptive agenda, the governance model also shelter early-stage ideas from the scrutiny of powers within traditional project investment committees and executives. Early stage ideas are easy to poke holes in. 

Companies have struggled to productively manage a complex, cross-functional, multidisciplinary and at times 'loose' activity like innovation. Most companies are organized to manage business units, regional operations and functions. But how can they stimulate, steer and sustain innovation, an ongoing transformational endeavour that is increasingly becoming a corporate imperative?

Let's take a look at the aspects an effective innovation governance model should account for:

Defining roles and methods of working

Innovation is a sexy topic and often attracts unwanted attention from power-hungry executives. This is most evident by looking at the list of speakers of local and regional innovation conferences, filled with executives that have never had innovation experience prior to their current role.

By investing foundational efforts to define roles and methods, teams can be left to autonomously address the customer problem they are trying to resolve, without subjective update requests from various powers. This should also outline the method library which the organisation has adopted. Going as far as defining what criteria people must meet before executing a method.

Far too often I watch clients passionately self-empower themselves after one or two workshops, labelling themselves as the internal innovation expert. THIS IS DANGEROUS. For example, when an individual has completed my Innovation Practitioner and Innovation Bootcamp training, they still have less than 15% of the skills and experience required to effectively execute the methods.

Hence, it's my recommendation that basic training is adopted to ensure only those trained, execute the methods they are trained on. This drastically boosts the consistency, effectiveness and output of the process.