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No UK companies in Top 100 Global Innovators List?

Time to take a long look at your Innovation Eco-Systems

By Simon Evans

It’s official. In 2012, by at least one measure, there is not one single UK based company in the list of top 100 global innovators! The Thomson Reuters list of 100 top global innovators makes for uncomfortable reading if you are in British business. While it is true to say that some of the measures used do not favour some of our highly innovative sectors like pharmaceuticals (which has a lower throughput of patents than many of those on the top 100 list), there is clearly a serious problem to address. Can this really be true? If so, we British need to wake up and smell the innovative coffee beans!

For the last couple of years, my company has been asking businesses, large and small, about how they view their innovation processes. The outcome of these conversations has been very interesting. Many, maybe most, companies feel constrained in their approach to innovation - they are lacking the freedom to innovate. When we look to why this is the case, a number of common factors usually emerge:

So, innovation is hard at the moment. How do we break through these barriers and give innovation leaders like you the freedom to innovate at increasing innovation velocities?

One thing you can do is to step back and view your innovation process as an eco-system. This innovation eco-system provides a highly visual, holistic view which allows you to appreciate the breadth of options available, and to ensure that all parts of the process are nourished and working efficiently. It forces you to think about the whole end to end process, not just that bit where you come up with new ideas -- what is the use of a brilliant idea if it generates no value?

We can divide the eco-system into 4 zones of activity (or habitats), each one of which is dependent on the other just like in a natural eco-system.

Once you have a mental picture of the overall eco-system, you can imagine a set of processes, architectures, skills, people, strategies etc. populating the four habitats. If all four habitats are properly supported, resourced and contain all the activities that are needed, we can see them all coming together to create an efficient way of creating and developing ideas and then driving the realisation of their value. By examining each zone in turn, and asking yourself searching and honest questions about what is really needed to make that zone work, you stand a better chance of identifying where the real opportunities and barriers are. It’s not just a question of identifying two or three methods (e.g. brainstorming), you may be looking at 10 or 20 linked activities, some of which may be uncomfortable, for example, is your management truly open to new ideas or does the “innovation initiative” you are part of in reality stand no chance of delivering? Are there some cultural components to the challenge?

Taking this approach can give organisations like yours real momentum to drive “innovative innovation” and to create real freedom for the innovation leaders to finally make a difference. Do you have the title of Chief Innovation Officer? Do you know what this really means? In reality, it is your job to set up and nurture the delicate webs of interconnecting activity across your innovation eco-system. Draw a picture of it, and hang it on your wall to remind yourself every day what you should be doing! Break out the watering can and fertiliser!

About Simon Evans

Simon Evans along with Victor Newman created InnovoFlow ltd in 2009 to help organisations look at their innovation capability in a different way. They run workshops using the InnovoZone™ game to explore innovation eco-systems and inspire agile innovation leaders. For more information about innovation eco-systems, InnovoFlow and Simon, visit their web site: .

© 2012

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Jeffrey Baumgartner
Bwiti bvba

Erps-Kwerps (near Leuven & Brussels) Belgium




My other web projects

My other web projects 100s of articles, videos and cartoons on creativity - possibly useful things I have learned over the years. reflections on international living and travel. - paintings, drawings, photographs and cartoons by Jeffrey