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Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

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Innovation; where are we?


From join the dots to cryptic crosswords via word searches and those pictures which contain one anomalous object, it’s a rare newspaper or magazine that doesn’t contain a puzzle in some form or another. And if they aren’t to your taste then there is always the latest TV detective drama to mull over, or even the humble jigsaw puzzle which can engage entire families in the search for that one missing piece.

Quite simply, people like to be challenged and the more that we are challenged the more that pathways open in our brains. In fact, studies have shown that presenting very young children with a range of puzzles helps to enhance their reasoning, spatial awareness and cognitive development skills whilst even in later life puzzles help to keep the mind active.

So why is it in business that we tend to shy away from challenges and instead look for absolutes? And why is it that when we seek to change organisational culture, we are more likely to concentrate on where we want to be rather than taking the time to puzzle out where we are now?

Sure, working out the new vision and values and strategy can be a challenge, but unless you understand what your starting point is, it’s a bit like filling an empty grid with a random set of words and claiming to have solved this week’s cryptic crossword. Yes you’ve got some answers, but you’ve no idea whether they are right or not.

The Innovation Maturity Assessment…

That’s why when I talk to organisations about building a culture of innovation I emphasise the importance of working out exactly where the organisation is at the outset. Carrying out an innovation maturity assessment helps CEOs and leadership teams to evaluate an organisation’s current innovation capability, culture and level of maturity.

It’s not a one stop process though. To get an answer which you can rely on in order to build for success you may well finish up using a mix of qualitative and quantitative assessments with balanced scorecards, employee surveys and customer surveys all in the mix. And to ensure you stay on track and that your initiative is delivering the sorts of ROI (return on investment) that you initially planned you’ll have to keep checking innovation capability levels and tweaking the process as required.

Assessing an organisations innovation maturity is something I delve into in my latest book ‘Building a Culture of Innovation’ where I outline the core framework that the majority of maturity assessments are based on.

For ease I named the model in the book ‘The 4x4 Innovation Maturity Model’ as it outlines a framework for assessing four different areas of an organisation, Innovation Strategy, Innovation Leadership, Innovation Culture and Innovation Process. Those four areas are then measured against four levels of ‘maturity’ starting at Innovation Novice and moving through Innovation Apprentice, Innovation Professional and ultimately, Innovation Leader.

Why should you bother with an innovation maturity assessment? Surely as a leader you already have a fair understanding of your organisation’s culture? Your HR team must know exactly where you are right? Moreover, surely when innovation capability is proving to be such a game changer, wouldn’t it pay to simply get on with changing the culture to one of innovation?

Stop guessing, start solving…

Sorry to disappoint but when it comes to culture and particularly to innovation culture, unless you have a very strong finger on the pulse then your guesswork may be well wide of the mark. And if your guesses are wrong then every initiative you try will simply not deliver an acceptable return, if it delivers anything at all as it will be hindered by the existing barriers that you won’t have removed!

The benefit of running an innovation maturity assessment is that if they are designed correctly, they should highlight exactly the areas of your approach to innovation that need attention, allowing you to focus acute time, energy and resources to address key barriers to innovation, thus accelerating your efforts in terms of building innovation capability and culture.

It doesn’t matter where you currently sit on the innovation scale; if you don’t take time to evaluate, to work out ‘where are we’ then you will never move your business on to where it deserves to be. So open up your mind, take the innovation challenge and puzzle out a great future for your organisation. 

Author Profile Picture
Cris Beswick

Author, Speaker + Strategic Advisor on Innovation

Read more from Cris Beswick

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