Balancing the Matched Pair of Innovation and Risk

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IT organizations often struggle with moving beyond their role as implementers and facilitators to that of driving innovation in the business.


As our Ann All wrote this week, sometimes it is simply a matter of reputation. IT has so long been thought of as the "how" silo of the business that winning a seat at the "why" table can be a real challenge.


However, it's also true that innovation, as a cultural issue, is largely about taking qualified risks - not really the strong suit of groups dedicated to locking down the network perimeter and ensuring that code is airtight.


If you are trying to build a culture of innovation in your IT group, you should read the excerpt from the book "Roberts Rules of Innovation," which is available for free download here in the IT Downloads library. The 7-page PDF from our partners at Wiley breaks down the challenge of building an innovation culture into 10 "imperatives," and gives you tips in each category.


There's a lot of helpful information about ways to inspire your team and focusing on customer value, but perhaps the most interesting (at least the most actionable) advice centers on idea management, risk evaluation and success metrics.


Some key points you will find:


Failure Management: Never allow an unsuccessful, but approved, risk to hamper a team member's opportunities and advancement.


Risk Checkpoints: Make sure your Go/No-Go decision checkpoints have teeth and are based on data, not rhetoric.


Measure Everything: Business success is about metrics. Key performance indicators and metrics include:


  • R&D spending as a percentage of sales
  • Total patents filed/pending/awarded/rejected
  • Total R&D head count
  • Current-year percentage of sales attributable to new products released in the past year/three years/five years
  • Number of new products released


The book excerpt also includes general wisdom about how to evaluate the current health of your business's innovation culture. As you think about product development and risk in your shop, ask yourself if any of these statements reflect the current state of your business.


  • I'm not sure what products to focus on ...
  • What's our overarching vision regarding innovation?
  • Strategy implementation is unclear, right down to specific roles and functions ...
  • We're paying lip service to innovation ... it's just words, not actionable ...
  • Decision-making processes are positively glacial ... we can't deliver quickly
  • Risky ideas are avoided ...


If this sounds familiar, you have issues to be addressed.

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