SUCCESS IS DETERMINED INTERNALLY
What do enterprises need in order to increase their innovation capacity? Does the way lead over the existing employees, and if so, does the existing corporate culture offer scope for innovations? These questions are asked by many entrepreneurs and managers. But what does »innovation capacity« mean and how can the status quo within the enterprise be illustrated?
Innovation capacity is defined as the ability of an organization to generate improvements. Improvements refer mainly to new and optimized products and improved processes and structures. Here, an organization seeks permanently and proactively to adapt to changes in the environment. The objectives are twofold:
Externally: differentiation from competitors and generation of profits.
Internally: optimization of efficiency and effectiveness of performance.
It can be stated that innovation and adaptation should be the supreme objectives of an organization in order to survive on the market. Here, we speak of the »learning organization«. How important this is, is illustrated by a statement by the former Shell strategist Arie de Geus. The average life expectancy of Fortune 500 enterprises is only between 40 and 50 years. Famous examples are the numerous camera manufacturers who incorrectly assessed the development from the analogue to the digital market.
Organizations need an innovation system in order to cultivate fertile ground for innovations in terms of strategy, structure and culture.
• The crux is the innovation process, determining steps to developing and implementing ideas into innovations.
• Strategic management assumes innovation steering, which sets the strategic direction for innovations.
• The innovation environment shapes the overall conditions such as incentives and scope so as anchor innovation in the corporate culture and to make employees enthusiastic about it.
From the viewpoint of innovation management, the challenge does not lie in implementing an innovation process, but in shaping an innovation environment inspiring employees, but also managers, to make innovations. Here, it is a question, on the one hand, of proposing innovations oneself and, on the other, of supporting the implementation of innovations.
An example illustrating these challenges is classic idea management. Many see it as a powerful instrument for motivating employees to suggest innovations and investing in costly IT systems. But all too often enterprises face the dilemma that idea management almost becomes a creativity killer. Ideas are submitted in favour of statistics, often at the expense of quality. But these ideas have to be processed and engulf valuable resources. Many ideas are rejected or bogged down in long processing loops. All of this demotivates presenters and processors.
Nor do idea management or innovation process make organizations by any means innovative. The degree of innovation is contingent on the quality of ideas and their processing. Here, persons with commitment and a willingness to accept change are needed. Employee attitude surveys can find out whether these cultural conditions are given.
Employee attitude surveys are a proven tool for deriving indicators for the willingness for innovation from the atmosphere among the employees. If the staff in the environment of the company feel not well or poorly led, they will evince little commitment to innovations. Hence the mood provided by employee attitude surveys presents important information about the willingness and capacity for innovation. For management, they identify levers for increasing the innovation willingness and capacity of an organization.
Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Maria Tagwerker-Sturm, MBA, MSc has worked in innovation and knowledge management in industry and training for nine years. For more than three years, she has been responsible for innovation management at Doka in Amstetten. She is the founder and chairperson of PDMA Austria and runs the innovation blog www.inknowaktion.com.