Talk:Starting Innovation Processes in organizations

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See the original thread of this E-Discussion on D-Groups

Naguib Chowdhury, 2010/05/03

Dear All,

I am curious to know- how to start Innovation program in an organization, provided it is a development organization with staff from more than 60 countries. Can anyone suggest me some tips, references on how to start, what should be the priority, few quick wins etc. The Top management wants some innovation programs to be started soon.

IDB Saudi Arabia

Jaap Pels, 2010/05/03


A bit vague / wide question, but my thoughts:

There is a 'fit' and a 'gap' strategy. The 'fit' looks at what's available in organisations first and build on that where 'gap' starts with pointing out where to finish.

On the other hand, Nike slogans 'Just do it'.

Perhaps the 60 country staff has good ideas for innovation: consult them.

Is it product / service or process innovation?

My tips for you innovation interventions: - use SMART (specific etc; Google SMART: - use the KM lessons of the pioneers (Google Sveiby + lessons learned + KM: To see if you intervention stands a chance.

IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre Netherlands

Md Santo, 2010/05/03

Dear Naguib,

In KM “language”, learning is output and innovation is outcome. Predisposing factors to kick starting the innovation should be well prepared priorly because learning itself is a process. Therefore no short cut to innovation. From my view, first maximizing the use of your KM Tools. Secondly, “learning how to learn” should be mastered through KM Process Framework (eg through adopting PCF – APQC standard). Thirdly, the most difficult and multi aspects should be accounted is Culture and Value Management or KM Standards. The backbone of KM Standard component is what I suggested the term of “Middle-Up-Down Mechanism”. The “Middle-Up-Down" mechanism symbolizes “flat organization” as well as “democratization within organization” in which we put priority first to the “Process” followed by “Function” and then “Structure” as last priority respectively. This will be entirely different with commonly culture, where we usually put most important is determining the organizational structure first. Later establishing the functions. And finally, which is frequently forgotten, the process. The mechanism of “Middle-Up-Down Mechanism” is inherently occurred and driven with recently world wide phenomenon known as webification or convergence phenomenon of ICT - workflow – semantic web – web 2.0 – black swan – long tail econ – AI – spiritual computing – user created content – mobile technology – social media – complexity theory” etc. ( Visit -HOW TO RE-POSTULATING THE PARADIGM OF KNOWLEDGE AND KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT)

To speed up the tempo of innovation, I put the attribute 2.0 to the word Innovation to becoming Innovation 2.0 motivated by the consideration that our conduct business extremely relevant with the global trend in Business 2.0 innovation which is leveraged with Web 2.0 technologies (see the Link - MOBEE AWARENESS ON BUSINESS 2.0 ENVIRONMENT)

And last but not least, take a visit to my Mobee Knowledge Base of Innovation

PT Mobee Indonesia (Mobee Knowledge CoP) Indonesia

Nancy White, 2010/05/03

I find the writings of Johnnie Moore on innovation to be VERY eye opening. If you go to his site and search on Innovation, check out

Ian Thorpe, 2010/05/03

Dear Naguib

A colleague recently sent me a link to this innovation toolkit developed by nfpSynergy a not for profit strategy consulting firm, who in the past have also written great stuff on marketing and branding. I've not gone over it in detail, but the executive summary looks good, and it has a number of good suggestions you might consider trying out.

Toolkit: Editorial (short overview):,4H1G,KNCCH,DW6K,1

Full Circle Associates United States of America

Tony Pryor, 2010/05/03


A very interesting topic right now, what with an Increased emphasis on innovation among a range of donors and partners. The question though for me is: what does innovation mean? Is it a change of some work process? Or of an approach, or of a whole mind set? Or all three, and which has the greatest potential impact? And just who says that anything in fact is innovative? In that one SID workshop last month, someone talked about "positive deviancy" - doing things differently from the norm but which have a positive result. Frankly I can see how one searches for innovation among small entrepreneurs in Romania or farmers in Mali, but how do you seek out and support innovation inside donor organizations?

The biggest trick seems to me is figuring out how to make a positive deviancy become a positive norm. In other words, you don't want to JUST be the only person doing things differently, you want the innovation to become both viral and boringly mainstream, ie become part of the bureaucratic culture taught to newbies (we we ALWAYS do things this way...). But to build innovation in as an ongoing force for change is tough, outside of the private sector ( 3M being one company example which comes to mind).

Before the Bank did its well-known Development Marketplace, it did a series of awards around innovation of work processes inside of the Bank. It was quite cleverly done; peer identification, very visible presentation of each innovation at a booth in the Bank's otherwise stodgy atrium, an open competition and then a formal announcement of the winners by the Bank President. What was interesting about it was that the primary "prizes" for the winning group or team usually included: peer recognition at the Bank; handshake with the President ; and most important a call to the supervisor of the winners from senior management, thinking through how best to accommodate the specific innovation (ie protecting the seedling from recalcitrant middle management). This might include additional funds, or staff, to ensure that the innovation couldn't be blamed for slowing down "real work", or if necessary a firm scowl from the President.

I have NO idea if these tactics worked; what has been people's experience in supporting and institutionalizing innovation?

International Resources Group United States of America

Jim Tarrant, 2010/05/03

I would distinguish between a "development organization" and a donor.Clearly, the two are not an identity. The great burden donor organizations face regarding instilling innovation is that they are usually bound by very strict rules regarding procurement (contracting, grant giving, etc.), reporting and accountability and political policies. These forces all push donors in the direction of adopting hierarchical structures, which, in and of themselves tend to discourage flexibility, rapid response and innovation.

Which is not to say that innovation is impossible in donor organizations just that it will likely take a rather different form from innovation in a private company or a development organization. Innovation in private companies is often associated with technological innovation that results in new products or services that create new market niches or adopti9ion of procurement rules that permit a company to market itself as socially innovative (green certification, socially responsible policies, etc.). The other avenue for innovation is efficiency (defined here as cost efficiency). Some or even all of these avenues for innovation are open to development organizations too, depending upon the mission of the organization.

I don't think there is much question that "institutionalizing" something like positive deviancy within a large organization in particular requires that the norm, i.e. positive deviancy, however defined, be made a core part of the mission and identity of the organization. Otherwise, a completely understandable inertia is always going to take over. Again, this is especially the case for rule-bound organizations like donors but even for international research centers, universities, etc. Institutionalizing positive deviancy, however, is going to require a performance metrics system for evaluating to what extent a proposed innovation actually a) works and b) really makes a difference to how the organization behaves, performs or some other core metric on which it can be evaluated.


Nancy White, 2010/05/03

Another perspective on innovation from Dave Snowden. To me, this video goes to creating space for mistakes.

If there is space for "safe/fail" experiments, an ability to learn from failure, then there are conditions for supporting things like positive deviance, approaches of "bringing the whole system into the room" to learn from diverse perspectives and other processes which help us solve problems and seize opportunities.

Full Circle Associates United States of America

Jaap Pels, 2010/05/03

Let me try and dissect some more the topic of innovation :-)

Industrial / technical innovation versus process / service innovation? Are there any differences crucial to emphasize?

For example, I love my spell-checker; is that an innovation or 'mere' new combination? Micro finance using Internet, consumer to consumer; is that innovation? When is development innovation?

Innovation has a context; it is the same damn thing as with knowledge! Crux question seems to me 'innovation to do what?' And the answer may be as vague as 'to be the best'; at least that's a start.

A management calling for an innovation agenda is wise. And on that agenda must be the question 'innovation to do what?' - Innovation to make networks? - Innovation to make money / improve a process? - Innovation to help HIV patients in Africa? - Innovation to influence UN policy? - Innovation to convince donors of the devastating project paradigm?

Innovation needs good people that have the freedom.I guess we need brains here and bold questions.

IRC International Water and Sanitation Centre Netherlands

Jim Tarrant, 2010/05/03

I agree with Jaap. Innovation is context dependent. An invention is taking an idea and realizing that idea (literally). Innovation is taking an invention, which can be a product but actually also an institution or even a social process and doing something new with it. So innovation always assumes that there is something on which to act. It's more specific than knowledge; in fact, innovation requires knowledge (of markets, of new applications, etc.) so discussing innovation in an organization really needs to be brought down into the "what for", which has been mentioned already.


Md Santo, 2010/05/03

Dear Naguib,

After mentioning some theoretical aspects of innovation (May 3, 2010), let me give you an overview of what we’ve done from practical aspect regarding our corporate innovation. The following are our corporate Innovation topics from Social Networking Site (SNS) “Mobee Knowledge CoP – KM 2.0) :according to Matt Ganis, IBM Senior Technical Staff Member, 2008, Hawthorne, NY – USA : there are 5 (five) types of Innovation an enterprise

Hawthorne, NY – USA : there are 5 (five) types of Innovation an enterprise or corporate could achieved. They are namely :Technological Innovation Business Innovation, Product / Service Innovation, Design Innovation and Cultural Innovation The following are the examples of Mobee’s achievements in their spirit towards all those 5 (five) types of innovation above mentioned :



Attachment : 1. White Paper Masa Depan Bisnis Media dan Solusinya.pdf 3.PRODUCT / SERVICE INNOVATION. MOBEE-DRIVEN CAMPAIGN : GENERAL ELECTION GOES MOBILE



Attachment : 1. BLUE MOON MOBEE KM GUIDANCE.pdf 2. PEDOMAN KM BLUE MOON MOBEE (IN BAHASA).pdf ……..* I hope to some extend will contributing the answer of your inquiry on kick starting the innovation Regards

Josef Hofer-Alfeis, 2010/05/04

Jaap just mentioned: „A management calling for an innovation agenda is wise”.

Let me extend this to the important step of defining and communicating an innovation strategy. And a central part of that is to describe

“corridors for thinking”, i.e. spaces where ideas/new knowledge should be created, or “search filters”, i.e. to enhance and focus the search for ideas and combinations of new and existing fragments of knowledge.


Some companies look for “mega trends” in their business context to define such corridors for thinking: - EADS: mobility, environment and safety - Siemens: environment, health and aging society, … Countries/societies define “research fields” and mange related programs to drive the cooperation between public research and industries in these fields.

Edgar Tan, 2010/05/04

Hi Naguib

This is how I would go about doing it:

1. identify and prioritise the challenges requiring solutions facing your organisation (you will need inputs from a cross section of staff and in particular your senior managers); 2. publish the top challenges to the general staff and invite innovative solutions (each challenge should have a senior mgmt sponsor; be sure to also publish what's been tried before); 3. encourage cross-functional teams to be formed and offer them training in brainstorming techniques like SCAMPER and forced associations; 4. recognise teams whose ideas have been accepted for trial and celebrate those whose ideas have made a major impact, through a corporate-wide event.

Hope that this is useful.

Straits Knowledge Singapore

Ben Ramalingam, 2010/05/04

I led some research on humanitarian innovations last year - follow the link for the final report:

A few things have come out of this, including

- a series of innovations case studies - a practical information tool for disseminating innovations across an organisation or a sector:

- a conference in London last October which featured an innovations fair

What are the key take-ways from all of this? A few 'top of my head' pointers - more can be found in the paper.

1. Aid innovations are driven less by needs and more by political context 2. As a result of (2), aid innovations are sloooooooo....oooo.... ooow 3. There are particular kinds of innovations, as Jaap suggests - products, processes, positions and paradigms, as well as different phases in the innovation process. Clarity counts for a great deal.

4. So too does resilience and persistence. No-one gets treated worse that she or he who comes offering new ideas and different ways of doing things - the iconoclast needs to prepare to fight.

5. Networks matter a great deal, especially those that transcend organisational and sectoral boundaries (esp with academics and private sector operators)

6. In the aid sector, 'open innovation' approaches are essential for two reasons. First, we are never going to have huge resources for this area, and so have to be collaborative from the outset. Second, the space for innovations needs to be negotiated throughout the system, from donors to aid recipients, if an innovation is to be successfully operationalised.

ALNAP United Kingdom

Naguib Chowdhury, 2010/05/05

Dear All,

Thanks for your input. The major challenge of implementing an innovation program in my organization will be the culture. Identifying some focus areas or framework can be done but people here just don't believe in any new initiatives or for few days they will talk about it and then lose all motivation. My challenge would be- how to make people believe in this new initiative and sustain their interest for a long term.

IDB Saudi Arabia

Matt Moore, 2010/05/06


One point that the book "Corporate Creativity" makes (and it's not a bad introduction to running ideas & suggestions programs) is that people need to be listened to. The fastest way to kill these kinds of thing are to ask for suggestions and then not do anything with them. Many organizations simply want to say they have an innovation program, they don't want to actually innovate because that's too hard and painful.


  • The program starts small.
  • Senior managers should pick one or two key challenges that they want to meet.
  • Some budget is allocated upfront to implementing ideas.
  • Senior managers commit to responding to each idea put forward (and if they say "no" they have to say why and also note what its potential might be).
  • Probably not everyone is cynical and uninterested in new approaches. These are the people that you should be supporting, encouraging and nurturing.

If the organization cannot commit to 2 and 3 then it should probably not bother.