There has never been a better time to innovate. Opportunities are plentiful and there is a groundswell of interest from the new generation to try new things. The nature of business today and new tools and technologies have also empowered organizations to much more quickly test out their ideas and refine them with real users. Yet many companies are struggling to shift their way of thinking and working to be able to innovate more effectively. Instead of fundamentally changing the game they are focused on the symptomatic treatment of innovation.

We are taught about the ground rules growing up but in this new world that we live in even the most basic principles should be questioned and revisited. Then again human nature has also always been about pushing the limits. This is certainly true when it comes to best in class organizations who look to systemize their innovation management processes in their journey to develop sustainable innovative n operations with the ability to constantly transform and reinvent themselves. They don’t accept yesterday’s facts and limitations as gospel instead they challenge conventional thinking every day.

Conformity, building consensus and political correctness often trumps originality, risk taking and trying new things. But this is exactly how companies structure and reward what is deemed to be “good” work and in the process kill innovation. Creating innovation labs and organizing innovation events such as a hackathon is the more common approach to “deal with innovation”. As if innovation is a problem you can solve in isolation with a single brush. But these simple, single, framed and isolated initiatives only create more organizational inertia, employee disillusionment and mixed results.

Most organizations readily recognize the need to build systems of record to ensure and help facilitate the proper management of individual departments including sales, marketing, administration, services and R&D. Still many organizations are struggling how to go about doing that when it comes to innovation. Business units and functional departments with their own designated management teams can seriously impede innovation when the right mechanism and touch points are not established to help provide inter-departmental collaboration that leads to real change. The successful execution in this area will also help lead companies to function in a more pioneering fashion by working directly with the functional silos that have long plagued progress, productivity and performance.

Organizations are starting to embrace this challenge by adopting solutions that makes this kind of cross functional collaboration possible but they need to create a system that automates and streamlines the entire innovation management process. As the nature of work continues to flatten organizational structures, companies need a new way to communicate and create transparency and accountability which transcends the old hierarchical business structures many organizations still grapple with. A holistic approach must support multiple types of innovation (process improvement, business model transformation, enhance customer experience, new product or service development etc.) that invariably require the involvement of each and every functional department as well an ecosystem that extends externally and facilitates ongoing interactions with customer, suppliers, universities and the start-up community. Crowdsourcing through inter departmental participation, targeted micro challenges, open innovation and co-creation activities is what will ensure true measurable impact each and every new idea and concept can eventually bring about if the right thought process and approach is in place to unlock its maximum value.

This Age of Innovation really ushers in the age of opportunity in this next wave of disruptive change as the ability to continuously innovate takes center stage. To move away from the symptomatic treatment of innovation and build the right system it all starts with making sure you have the right mindset to make it happen. Don’t look for a fast cure for the symptoms instead focus in on how you can really address the underlying problem.

How are you planning on building your innovation management competency? A good way to start is to identify the right challenge to focus on. You can learn more about taking the right first steps by looking at the Infographic – Step by Step Process to Challenge Driven Innovation Management.