Innovation Management Blog

Multi-modal innovation activities: Ideation, opportunities, value and growth

Multi Modal Innovation

Bimodal IT is the practice of managing two separate, coherent modes of delivery, one focused on stability and the other on agility (yes, I got that from Wikipedia) and yes, the focus will soon be innovation management software, I'm just setting the scene.

Someone in the IT department will slap me on the wrist when I write this next part, but most of us will take that as meaning the first mode is tried and trusted while the second is more exploratory and responsive. And according to Gartner, nearly 40% of the respondents to the 2016 CIO study are working this way and the majority of those that remain will be within the next three years.

I'm writing this for two reasons. The first reason is because crowdsourcing was highlighted by Gartner as the most effective independent discipline when talking about bimodal IT but also because it created the opportunity for us to write about the importance of approaching innovation in the same way, if you are not already.

Multi-modal innovation, as we will refer to it from now on, is about approaching innovation objectives in more than one way. This isn't to be confused with multi-modal ideation. That is another post and even more interesting and confusing.

And by this, we mean that innovation isn't just crowdsourcing and workshops or about knowing what is coming or what is expected. There is an element of not knowing and a even bigger element of wanting to innovative and getting your feet wet.

It is after all from learning and engaging that real innovation opportunities can be identified and defined.

So that's what this post is all about; different ways to work with innovation, but with the management of those efforts at the core. And we've listed three popular right now activities below and more will come in the future.

And for illustration purposes and using the three horizons of growth model from McKinsey, we're demonstrating the time necessary for each activity but also the value it could bring.

But the part we'd like to highlight about these and the others that will follow, is that you can achieve the results you desire from the innovation outpost that you were working for in the hackathon and vice versa (or any other type of program or activity when working with innovation), if you work with ideas and opportunities long term and you're capturing the right information.

What we mean by that last statement is that it's not a lack of ideas problem, it's often not asking the right questions or not understanding what the opportunity really is.

To understand what the opportunities are, you need a team dedicated to innovation and there also needs to be a home for innovation within your organisation. And that is where innovation management comes in and not just playing lip service to innovation.

Multi-modal innovation with results focused inside the three horizons

1. The hackathon

It used to be you'd hack hardware or a product, but it's grown up to the extent now that organisations are hacking services and how they work to customer experiences and user journeys. Hackathons are a great way to engage with customers and you very quickly get to the heart of any problems or opportunities.

The hackathon is a great way to engage with a large group of people in a very timely manner and make decisions quickly. It can be hectic and exhausting, but you make decisions quickly, with the right people. The hackathon is something every innovation team should be ready to deliver.

2. The intrapreneur program

Crowdsourcing and workshops usually focus on a specific need or problem. But not all ideas fall into that category and what happens to all those great ideas that your employees have that are thought of as not part of their day to day work?

There is the suggestion box but without a focused theme or topic, those ideas will get lost.

Creating an intrapreneur program is a great way to identify potentially disruptive opportunities from within the organisation and provide a platform for them to be developed and possibly become part of the organisation. The intrapreneur initiative can also support the development of startup or incubator initiatives, either internally or part of something external and bigger.

A number of organisations are currently working with intrapreneur programs and intrapreneurship labs and successful examples that we've all heard of include Gmail and Adsense from Google as well as the PlayStation from Sony. There are many other examples too.

3. The innovation outpost

Lastly today, we've got the innovation outpost and as the name suggests, it's extending your innovation team into a particular technology area - think Silicon Valley, Tel Aviv or Stockholm or a business cluster for areas you have identified your business will focus on.

And it's not about having a physical location, well not at the beginning anyway, but that should be your ambition. Innovation outposts have become very popular with the likes of Deloitte, Accenture and GE (as well as many other companies).

The focus for these organisations has also moved past the networking and identifying interesting companies stage, they are now prototyping, investing and even acquiring startups or in some cases, older more established businesses based on the overall organisation strategy and the identified market opportunities.

You can also start slowly here and begin with something that has been called the innovation inspiration tour. There are people you can approach at most of the technology hubs that will set these up for you and these tours are not only a great way to get to know the area very quickly, but also a great way for the innovation team to experience first hand, with an objective, how innovation is driving other ecosystems to create new opportunities.

The multi-modal innovation takeaway

These are just three types of initiative you should be exploring and planning for, if you're not already and while they may be seen as aspirational, there are a number of success stories that can be showcased from them and they are all within reach. And just like with the illustration, you have to know what to expect from working with these types of events or programs.

Some say spend 70% of your effort or budget on core activities, 20% on disruptive and 10% on transformational. This will change from organisation to organisation and year to year. But make sure you are working on all three and you don't take your eye off the prize.

But the key takeaway from this post should be that you can work with innovation in many forms but they should be interconnected. The driving force behind each program will also be your innovation agenda and your innovation team objectives because for every ideation event or innovation program, you will end up with ideas or opportunities that fall into your identified areas and types of innovation.

And managed the right way, nothing will end up in the drawer or on an Excel file.


Gartner - CIO Study 2016

How Corporate HQ Can Get More from Innovation Outposts

Five brilliant examples of intrapreneurship in action

Header photo credit: Nick Tiemeyer

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