There are two ways to look at innovation: As a burning necessity, driven by external factors (“we need to be innovative to stay in business!”), or a burning desire (“we have the opportunity to be innovative to stay relevant to employees and customers!”).
A possible first step in both cases, you ask? Map your business activities using The Innovation Matrix.
Getting an overview of your business activities in this way will:
- help you balance the investment between running, growing, and transforming your business.
- help you understand the risk profile of your activities.
- help you facilitate the different innovation activities.
The model is co-created with Maz Spork and Søren Skov, and further extended for the leadership angles. It’s also featured in Eriks new book ‘The Responsive Leader’, which is in sale February 2018.
The Two-Dimensional Innovation Spectrum
Innovation applies in two dimensions, ranging horizontally from mundane improvements to radical changes via exploiting disruptive possibilities, and vertically scaling from everyday maintenance to strategic pivots.
The model is annotated in two ways: 1) Using Gartner’s Run/Grow/Transform methodology for describing the mindset of developing the business, 2) Describing the business mindset in said area, namely Maintain, Evolve, Turn and Jump.
The model can be used as a way of understanding how to create an innovative mindset, finding the suitable leadership style as well as creating an innovative environment and culture to keep enabling employees to be creative.
Ask yourself: in which area is your organization? Which leadership style and orientation do you practice? And what kind of innovation are you already doing?
Figuring out where you are mapped in the model will help you understand how to move, adapt, and – most important – shift between the four areas when needed.
(1) Maintain and keep running your business
If you’re not even making improvements of your everyday tasks, you’ll at some point be out of business. You’ll be left behind as both competitors and customers are getting ahead of you. Of cause, you need to run your business, but don’t stay in maintenance all the time. Remember to make improvements and keep evolving your organization.
(2) Evolve your organization and grow your business
Moving your focus from Maintain to Evolve requires a shift in leadership style. Going from a process-oriented leadership style to a product-oriented leadership style making everyday changes. This means you should encourage your employees to exploit new opportunities, and release control and empower the employees, and facilitate the innovation process.
(3) Turn your organization with strategic improvements to grow your business
This is where we ‘turn the direction’. Compared to ‘grow your business’, these activities have a higher magnitude of both gain and risk. Strategic improvements and innovative ideas are investigated, tested, validated, and evaluated. It requires a business-oriented and agile leadership style, as you’ll go fast and slow at the same time.
Fail fast, so we can learn and evaluate, and apply or throw away.
This is clearly a cultural change, through a change in methodology. The leadership style is one of the responsive leader, who encourages, empowers, engages, and enables everybody to take part in the strategic activities. We are seeing a far more agile approach to strategic innovation, involving and engaging employees, key influencers, talents and leaders based on meritocracy, instead of based on titles.
(4) Jump with strategic change and transform your business
Transforming the business is where the really innovative – maybe even disruptive – ideas are explored and exploited. And this is where the business jumps to new patterns, markets, ways of working, and identity and image.
The leadership style in this area is far more proactive and progressive, taking more responsibility for freedom, engagement and adaptability, with a thorough and profound focus on collaboration with the customers in new ways that maybe aren’t defined yet. The leadership approach is cross-functional and diverse, based on a multifaceted view of the world.
What should you strive to obtain?
So where in the matrix are you – and is this the right place for you to be? Look at your current leadership style. What can you do to move from e.g. a process-oriented leadership style towards a business-oriented innovation style? What will that do to your way of leading?
Being aware of where you are in the matrix, as well as understanding where your focus is, will help you shift your mindset and figure out which type of leadership style you need and how to focus your innovation initiatives.
Staying too long in any of the four will make you stuck in a loop, which may drive you focus in the wrong direction. It’s about being able to shift when needed and drive your innovation spectrum to its right potential. You have a responsibility as leader.
And as the responsive leader, you should strive to obtain these three things:
- A shift in organizational innovation approach away from the default operation-oriented, linear and lean-oriented run-the-business towards almost anything else: everyday changes, strategic improvements, and transformational jumps.
- A culture of employees, talents, middle managers, and C-level leaders, who are courageous and committed to embracing innovation as a usual pattern of thinking and acting
- A personal approach of situational leadership, being able to consciously and deliberately shift between the four innovation areas when needed.