Innovation is considered synonymous with creativity. Most businesses across industries reward creativity in their employees and encourage them to come up with new ideas for growth, process improvement and new products. However, very few of these organizations are able to harness this creativity by converting ideas into action-driving profitable growth.
If conversion of ideas into actionable strategies and plans is plaguing the Indian industry, where is the gap in our organizations? Experts will tell us about an idea conversion engine, a much-needed structure with a governing system at the organizational level. While we put in place a structure for innovation in an organization, it is extremely critical we understand that a separate strategy, focus and toolset are required for front and back end innovation.
If we look at the entire cycle of Innovation, it goes through a phase of creativity generating a plethora of ideas which we will call the front end of innovation. Subsequently, these ideas need to be converted into tangible actions in terms of new products, processes, or business models being designed. While the front end needs spurs of creativity and catalysts for team thinking, the backend that focuses on developing the ideas into tangible actions needs structured analysis, design, development, and testing of ideas generated in the front end.
The question that really needs to be answered is how do we best create synergy between the front and back end of innovation in an organization? Let me share few principles which will ensure synergy between front and back end innovation:
Principle 1: An idea in itself is of no value unless it provides value for both provider as well as consumer. Innovation can therefore be defined as creativity having value for both provider and consumer.
Principle 2: We require employees with both extremes of innovation quotient – those who are restless but can generate many new path-breaking concepts and those who can work on one great concept to give birth to a new business revolution through multiple rounds of design, tests and trials.
Principle 3: While we require divergence of ideas in front end, we necessarily need convergence in back end phase of innovation. Hence the use of numeric and statistical tools for validation, justification should be avoided in the front end, they are extremely critical in the back end phase of innovation.
Keeping these principles in mind here are few steps that need to be taken by management to establish a culture and a system for breeding innovation through this cycle of front and back end phases perfectly complimenting each other:
Step 1: Establish an end-to-end structure for innovation covering both front and back end including necessary checkpoints for management oversight and practitioner reference.
Step 2: Develop capability separately for teams working on the front end and back end innovation. While front end will involve more of triggers for creativity muscles and learning from across space, back end practitioners need to hone their judgmental and developmental skills covering aspects of research, design, validation and testing.
Step 3: Link performance measures of employees with relevant success of innovation journey and demonstrate management belief going beyond commitment to active involvement.
Step 4: Run pilots on business-critical opportunities, take the learning and work towards making innovation an integral part of organizational culture.
By consciously separating the front and back ends of innovation and building relevant skill sets at either end, businesses can expect to take a large number of ideas to their logical conclusion and generate significant growth.