There are two main factors that you should consider when selecting innovation programs and structures to put into practice in your organization: strategic fit and cultural fit.
Strategic Fit means that your innovation program should support your organization’s strategic goals. Strategy will determine the degree of investment in your innovation program, as well as the goals you will assign for the program.
Innovation strategies differ by industry, and so should programs. Software makers spend the highest percentage of their budgets on innovation, and most of the money is devoted to application development. Consumer products firms invest more in consumer insight work, while companies in mature industries often concentrate on engineering.
Likewise, if your strategy is to outflank the competition, you should invest in non-traditional innovation programs and structures, such as customer/user experience, analysis of non-customers who may become customers if you can design innovative solutions for them, and open innovation programs to link with communities outside of your company.
Cultural Fit is the main factor that determines whether your associates will foster or frustrate your innovation program. Any new initiative must take into account the current beliefs and behaviors in your organization. If change is required, top management must take the necessary steps to socialize the change so that attitudes and behaviors actually change.
If your current employees were selected for compliance and conformity, you may have to retrain them or hire some mavericks. If your current culture is risk-averse, you may have to set up a separate operation – either in-house or outside – to pursue new ideas with higher risk-reward ratios.
Although other companies have succeeded with many innovation programs, don’t be too quick to borrow them. Check for strategic fit and cultural fit first.
Related reading: The Ten Types of Corporate Innovation Programs