What is Innovation?

Not everyone will agree on a precise definition of innovation, but most agree that it is more essential for organizational survival now than ever before. Companies like Blockbuster and Kodak, which went from multi-billion dollar enterprises to bankruptcy in less than a decade, provide cautionary tales to the rest of us on the importance of innovation. As new technologies disrupt existing industries at an ever-increasing rate, staying ahead of the curve is now a matter of survival.

But what, exactly, is innovation? To quote Sam Yen, SAP’s Chief Design Officer:

Innovation = Creativity x Execution.

Most organizations are structured for streamlined execution, and employees are trained and incentivized to solve problems.

However, to be truly innovative, organizations must also nurture creativity. That means making sure they are not just solving problems, but finding the right problems to solve. Employees from across the organization need to ask the right questions, which leads to insights and a deep understanding of customer needs and the problem space.

This combination of creativity, problem finding, and execution is the essence of innovation.

Organizations, however, are not after one-off innovations. Instead, organizations need to be innovative. Scalable and sustainable innovation of this sort is a matter of culture. All the hard work of planning and execution of innovation strategy will fall flat if organizations don’t address the intangibles of culture.

In a series of blog posts, I will share how design plays an important role in shaping an innovation culture, along with some concrete tools and frame works you can apply.

SAP’s Innovation Readiness Initiative

At SAP’s Design Services, we have worked with over 500 customers on strategic projects to create innovative, award-winning experiences. While we are proud of our work, it is not just about what we do, but how we do it.

We have learned quite a lot about what it takes to consistently deliver innovative solutions through working with clients and our own ongoing journey at SAP. In fact, many of our clients ask how they can work more like us. So, we developed a framework to address what goes into fostering cultures of innovation within organizations.

Through an initiative we call Foster Innovation Culture, we are now sharing these insights and expertise. You are invited to join along as we elaborate on our framework and explore the following topics:

· The three pillars of innovation culture

· The micro-elements of innovation

· The four stages of innovation culture

· Key barriers and strategic recommendations

· Practical advice on fostering innovation culture

We created a free 15-minute assessment tool to give participants a deeper understanding of how innovative their organization is. Through a series of questions, the assessment gauges what “stage” of innovation the organization is in — interested, invested, engaged, or scaled — , identifies barriers the organization faces, and provides strategic recommendations on how to move forward.

Technology is advancing faster than ever and competition is at an all-time high. There are proven ways to improve your organization’s chance of survival in this challenging landscape. So, don’t wait. Innovate!

Stay tuned for an overview of the Three Pillars of Innovation.

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