Exclusive innovation team

The dedicated team for innovation does not necessarily meet the desired objective. Rather, they have suggested innovation can be made possible through partnerships between teams. They write how when working with a client at a fortune 500 company they proposed the formation of a special group (an innovation team) to execute a new growth strategy and this is what the client had to say. Let’s call it anything but that. What is this so called innovation team going to do? Brainstorm? Sit around being creative all day? Talk condescendingly about a superior organizational culture? All of this while operating with neither discipline nor accountability? All of this while the rest of us get the real work done?

Solving the execution challenge throws light on how companies can’t survive without innovating and how most put more emphasis on generating big ideas than on executing them, only because ideating is energizing and glamorous. By contrast execution seems like behind the scenes dirty work. But without execution big ideas go nowhere.

Innovation teams cannot always operate in vacuum. Dedicated teams are OK, but the chain of management needs to be the same and the business ownership of the idea has to stay. However, for completely diversified big bang innovation one could have an incubation cell under the CEO to drive the initiative.

Among the many things that Marico has done to ensure that execution is as good as the idea itself is to tweak its performance management processes to ensure risk taking. Our challenge was to get the best talent in our innovation projects with 100% focus and no escape buttons. Having a consumer in approach rather than a brand out and focusing on culture rather than just the processes has been the two big shifts.

The Rs 2,660 crore homegrown FMCG company believes that innovation need not always be disruptive it can be a way of life of doing new things differently. Execution is the most important aspects of innovation success given the state of the Indian market. For this to happen we need to ensure that processes are robust there are enough risk management practices to ensure success and detect early failures and there is over all capability in the team to execute the projects.

Marico has a concept of strategic funding to big innovation projects so that the best talent is provided for the key projects. There is a gate process for selection of key innovation projects and resources are provided post such closures. The company has also put in place certain financial and qualitative metrics for choice making.

What companies are putting in place is a top management focus wherein in an idea and its execution need to be owned and driven by the top management. At the larger organizational level it is critical to share informational vertically as well as horizontally as also the willing ness to try learning, unlearn try again.

Nokia also believes that it is more useful to infuse a culture of innovation in the organization across the board, rather than setting up standalone teams. The very purpose of innovation is to free ideas think out of the box and collaborate it will not yield good results if management imposes a top down approach.

So is there a sure shot way to make an idea a success? The following parameters of the innovation sieve are essential: Is it on strategy? How big is the opportunity? How resources intensive is it? Will we need new competencies to do this? Will it give us a sustainable competitive advantage?

One of things is culture of prototyping – think big, start small and scale up fast. Another is resilience / persistence – once you have the conviction the idea stays put. Marico’s Kaya skin clinic is a case in point

But what’s equally important is having no egos and emotional attachments when it comes to reviews and course corrections.