Organizational innovation

An overview of the developing nature of innovation in organizations

“Innovation” is everywhere

Most product descriptions, annual reports, mission statements, and political speeches contain “innovate”, “innovative”, or “innovation” somewhere.

An innovation revolution has been growing for many years and is not going away. For many decades we have had “Research and Development”, but “Innovation” is different. There is a much stronger intention that it is connected directly to valuable outcomes in the form of different and new products or processes, and it is organized differently.

Look at established organizations

While “start-up” ventures have been founded to launch innovative products since there have been products, it is in established organizations that the current revolution in innovation is happening. Many organizations have initiated innovation activities, projects, and programmes of various kinds, allocating budgets and people’s time to pursue innovative opportunities and developments. Some have appointed Innovation Project Leaders, Innovation Programme Managers, and Chief Innovation Officers to lead, manage, coordinate, and administer their innovation operations.

Organizational innovation is emerging as an important operational area. Many organizations report substantial success by whatever measures they use, but there is still a long way to go.

Organizational innovation is an innovation

While there are, of course, benefits from specific innovations which come to fruition—and that is the ultimate purpose—organizational innovation itself is developing to increase the effectiveness of those activities. Techniques for identifying and selecting opportunities for innovation are becoming established, with processes in place to develop those innovations into valuable outcomes.

But, in most sectors, organizational innovation is itself an innovation. Much is known about how innovation happens and how innovations develop and mature, yet, in most organizations, very little of that knowledge is being applied either to the adoption of specific innovations or to organizational innovation itself.

For organizational innovation to mature into the mainstream operational area which it seems destined to become, there are a variety of obstacles to be overcome. The symptoms of those obstacles can be generally summarised as “lack of alignment“. Recent surveys of innovation in organizations describe a wider range of obstacles (or, at least, symptoms of them), such as “The Biggest Obstacles to Innovation in Large Companies” and the report from which it was taken.

There’s a chasm ahead

There are clearly some important issues to be addressed as this field matures, not least the diagnosis of what is causing the obstacles which have been identified. One starting point is to understand what is perceived not to be aligned with what. But these are the details.

In overview, it seems clear that, in innovation terminology, organizational innovation has yet to “cross the chasm”. There are substantial changes in thought and language to be made as this field develops and matures.

This perspective on the landscape of organizational innovation provides a basis for identifying and discussing areas of opportunity for developments in this field.