12 Questions to assess your Company’s capability for Breakthrough Innovation

Companies have to develop a capability for breakthrough innovation. They can’t rely on strong maverick individuals to get it done. Not that those people aren’t crucially important…they just have too little muscle in the organization to make breakthrough happen often enough.

Here are some questions for you. Does your company have a breakthrough innovation capability that addresses Strategic, Portfolio and Project level issues? Think about these:

Strategic Level Issues: The Innovation Agenda

1. Is there a Corporate innovation strategy? A corporate Strategic Intent regarding where your company should be in terms of technology/market domains ten years from now? Is it used to drive investment decisions in terms of hiring, acquiring and networking?

2. Who in your senior leadership team is responsible for major innovation? Who’s responsible for cultural change associated with breakthrough innovation?

3. Do you have a dedicated group of people responsible for making breakthrough innovation happen? Does it have a known structure and a mission that’s clearly articulated? Are they located within the main part of the company, rather than relegated off to the sidelines, with the hopes that they’ll come up with cool ideas that’ll change the future of the company? (Turns out that approach doesn’t work very well).

4. Who are the key innovation stakeholders at all levels in the firm and externally? Who manages their expectations, and how?

5. How are diverse expectations managed?

The Innovation Portfolio

6. What is the right innovation portfolio mix (incremental to radical; current strategy versus strategic intent; aligned with one of your current businesses, aligned with several of your current businesses, and unaligned)?

7. Who’s overseeing the portfolio? Is there anyone in charge of the sub sector of the portfolio that is the set of initiatives that offer the potential to be real gamechangers? Who makes decisions regarding the mix of initiatives within that breakthrough portfolio? Who is coaching those project teams? Is there a governance model in place for the portfolio of possible breakthrough innovations percolating along in your company???

8. How are investment decisions made? What defines strategic, portfolio and project success?

9. How is a culture of innovation nurtured?

Project Level Issues for Breakthrough Innovation: Team Learning and Uncertainty Management Mechanisms

10. What are the considerations for initiating, maturing and transitioning innovation projects?

11. How are projects managed with high levels of technical, market, resource and organization uncertainty?

12. What is required to build entrepreneurial teams and individual buy-in? How are people rewarded?

Breakthrough innovations are not individual acts.

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