Innovation Management – Balancing The Conformist Company Processes With Chaotic Ideation

One of the biggest problems for innovation management teams is trying to align the sporadic/creative work done by research and development teams with the more predictable implementation work done by other departments tasked with delivering products to the marketplace. In this article, we look at how innovation strategies need to incorporate procedures in research and development that encourage better communication from ideation to implementation of new products.

All companies mature over time by establishing their own business processes can be formal and informal and document exactly how products and projects are delivered by the firm and its individuals. This is an absolute necessity in all companies in order to make it possible to predict product time lines on a sufficiently far enough planning horizon.

In contrast to this, research and development work does not follow many of these company processes, especially in relation to time and deliverables. This is principally due to the fact that new product ideas cannot be predicted as to when they will occur, and the methodologies used for researching new ideas can often be quite chaotic (e.g. the fuzzy front end of design).

The dilemma for innovation management is how they can then make these two disparate areas of the company actually work together in harmony. The first step is to make research and development teams aware of the fact that their work needs to fit in with the current environment and business processes within the firm. This means that there idea creation deliverables are going to form the basis for new product lines that other departments will be implementing and, with this in mind, employees working on ideation need to be more aware of the impact and dependency other teams have on their deliverables (including time-lines).

The second step is to establish a more stringent go/no-go gating system on the idea proposals. Large companies often have a lot of bureaucracy regarding consultation and committees that need to approve new product ideas, however, the proposals from research and development are rarely so stringently evaluated. In truth, proposals from ideation teams also need to include indications of costs, manning requirements and time lines for implementation in order to give these individuals more ownership and responsibility in defining how their product ideas will ultimately be produced by other departments.