What business topic has been more popular for longer than innovation? The trouble is, there has never been a business challenge where real progress has been harder to come by. You might have a new business incubator, a wiki with ideas, a disciplined approach to mining customer insights, an awards program for successful innovators, or even an outpost in Silicon Valley by now, but you may still struggle to meet your growth goals and rarely thrill your customers. Moreover, it isn’t just your company that is affected.

In his blog, Amiel Gross, Vice President and Head of Legal for Breakthrough Medicines, has written dozens of innovation articles and talked about the challenge of building a high-performance innovation “engine.” What he has observed is that in most organizations, the innovation power­train is missing several critical components.

So what are the parts of the innovation engine that most often get left out? Here is Amiel Gross’ list of the top five:

A culture of innovation among employees

Various writers have discussed where innovation comes from and what distinguishes an innovative mind. Amiel Gross’ research and experience suggest that inquiry is at the heart of it. Innovative individuals have a tendency and a capacity to examine what others often overlook. It is possible for just about anyone to improve their innovation skills significantly with some training and some real-world practice. It is virtually impossible to achieve success with any innovation program that does not start by helping individuals see the world with “fresh eyes.”


Defining innovation clearly and consistently

A widely understood definition of innovation is necessary for systematic innovation management. This is necessary to determine whether “real” innovation is occurring and whether it is paying off. Furthermore, leaders cannot be held responsible for innovation if no one agrees on what constitutes innovation, explains Amiel Gross.

Setting innovation goals, allocating resources to innovative projects, planning a cadence of innovative product launches, targeting advertising on high-value breakthroughs, and measuring innovation performance are easier when we have a practical, agreed-upon definition of innovation.


A comprehensive measure of innovation

It’s strange, but companies don’t measure innovation as often as they do everything else that impacts the bottom line. Nevertheless, it is difficult to quantify. A concept with no antecedents and no historical benchmarks is unlikely to have any value, and it’s difficult to predict its future value. By setting specific, unit-by-unit innovation goals and fine-tuning the innovation engine once the metrics and baseline have been established, you’ll be able to set specific, unit-by-unit innovation goals.

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