Can FEI Software implementations support and improve Innovation Culture within an organization?
This article is part one of a two-part series on supporting an innovation culture. In this article, we’ll explore the ways in which the implementation of Front-End-of-Innovation (FEI) software can support, or even improve the culture of innovation within a company. In part two, we will explore best practices approaches to making sure that the FEI software implementation actually does achieve an improvement in the innovation culture.
Let’s first start with a working definition of Innovation. For our purposes, Innovation is a sustainable process which, by the combination of ideas, knowledge, skills and resources leads to the adoption of new and/or better products, processes, paradigms which create value for the company.
The operating elements of this definition we wish to focus on are “sustainable” and “combination”. In order for innovation to flourish, the company’s Innovation Culture must support a sustainable process that encourages continuous activity, and the combination of ideas and knowledge through internal and external collaboration. Innovation depends on the creativity of employees, customers, suppliers and partners, and the capacity of the company to convert this creativity into value. How then, does the implementation of FEI software support this increasingly important culture of innovation?
Through ten years of experience implementing Front-End of Innovation (FEI) Software in many of the world’s largest corporations, we’ve addressed several key inhibitors to establishing a successful innovation culture. They are: collaboration, efficiency, and quality. It should be noted that software cannot create a culture within an organization. The organization must at least have a supportive culture of innovation with executive level backing. However, a bad implementation of supporting software can kill an organization’s will to innovate, while a successful implementation can enhance and support the organization’s innovation culture.
The first inhibitor of innovation culture that many companies face is lack of collaboration. Whether the result of legacy organizational boundaries, intellectual property concerns, or a desire for the purity of one’s technical domain, innovators in some companies toil in isolation, filling lab notebooks with experiments, proving and disproving hypotheses, and trying to solve innovation problems through brute force, without the benefit of other points of view, or additional knowledge to bring to bear on the problem. These companies have realized that their process was not collaborative enough and the outcome of it was the creation of low quality ideas and low participation. Collaboration allows different people thinking about an issue to discover each other and by thinking together, create more value than thinking separately about the same issue. In today’s distributed organization, bringing people together in meetings or in hallways to attempt to foster the “water-cooler” effect is nearly impossible.
Better collaboration can be fostered by having a system whereby innovators can discover each other in “virtual space” where their ideas naturally “connect” with the ideas, knowledge and insights of other innovators. Inova uses “Enrichment Technology” to make these connections possible. Powered by a revolutionary correlation engine, Enrichment Technology leverages the world’s largest semantic network to analyze the concepts contained within an idea and suggest other ideas, research notes, knowledge papers, and other content, which may be similar to, or improve upon the original idea. By making these meaningful connections, Inova’s FEI system breaks down organizational silos and improves collaboration.
Enhanced collaboration can be achieved within the company, and also across the company’s borders, with its partners, customers or networks of third party innovators. Implementing a robust FEI software system can make “open innovation” within and outside of the company a reality.
The second inhibitor that an FEI implementation would address is the efficiency of the process. Many companies either don’t have an innovation process at all, or their current process doesn’t have enough visibility or traceability to efficiently progress the best ideas through vetting, evaluation and decision-making, leaving innovators to circumvent whatever processes are in place to get their desired result. This inefficient process slows everything down and frustrates everyone involved, to the point where they give up trying to improve the business and the innovation culture dies.
Implementing FEI software can improve:
- Traceability: Some companies are still working with excel sheets to work on ideas and do idea portfolio management. With FEI software, they can have a process to fully trace some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), such as the time to development/market of an idea, the real financial value of the idea after implementation, the novelty, etc.
- Visibility: Without FEI software in place, innovators don’t know the status of the evaluation of their ideas. Without the confidence that their ideas are being worked on, the innovator either stops suggesting new ideas, or begins burdening the management team with emails and phone calls, or worst of all, repeat submissions. By implementing FEI software, status and activities are made visible to everyone who needs to know, and the innovation program runs more efficiently.
The efficiency of a process is key to maintaining the momentum, the sustainability that supports an innovation culture.
Lastly, the lack of quality is a major inhibitor that can be addressed by implementing the right FEI software. While many companies generate a high quantity of ideas through various techniques to spark participation in the innovation program, the overall quality of these ideas falls short of the expectations that were promised at the beginning. Our clients realized that it was more important to increase the number of real innovation concepts with added value (for example, increasing the number of sales based on new products) and that having this capability was a pillar to supporting an innovation culture.
By focusing on enriching ideas with other knowledge and insights, our clients were able to improve the quality of their ideas, combine related ideas into big innovation concepts, and avoid wasted time and effort on large quantities of small ideas. By discovering multiple related ideas submitted in different ways by different people, our clients were able to eliminate duplicate evaluations and foster teamwork and collaboration around a combined “big idea” that could achieve a valuable outcome.
Using the right FEI software to build big ideas and turn them into real concepts will consolidate and support the company’s innovation culture.
In this article, we’ve explored how implementing the right FEI software solution can overcome the three most important inhibitors to establishing and supporting your company’s innovation culture.
In part two of the series, we’ll explore the best practices required to implement an FEI solution and ensure that it supports and improves your company’s innovation culture.