Zone 1 – Innovation Infancy
Either the organization just started their innovation
initiative with something like a “suggestion scheme”
or the company does not see the importance of innovation and
will never embark on such a road. Ideas from the suggestion
scheme are never matured and frustrations are high.
The company has very little in place to get innovation started.
Although not doing all the required actions at the moment,
it does not mean that this organization is not ready to start
on a path of innovation. Such companies would have the unique
opportunity to start with a clean slate. They might already
have practices such as cross-functional quality improvement
meetings in place and they know what it means to do a Continuous
Improvement project. Fear for losing their jobs and/or having
to reskill to keep a job in the organization. R & D department,
Find a sponsor in the company that would be prepared to take
on the challenge of an Innovation Initiative.
- Get the sponsor to check the level op potential support
form various divisions.
Get division heads to agree to start with an ideation system.
- Formalize the suggestion scheme and add importance to
it by incorporating it into a formal ideation system.
- Provide basic and later more advanced education and then
eventually training in innovation practices.
- Select certain suggestions from the ideation system and
provide these as challenges to specifically appointed teams.
- Work with this specific plan and after six months take
this survey again to check progress and then to graduate
to the next level of company wide support for Innovation
Zone 2 – Innovation Conversion
This is normally a dangerous phase for innovation. This organization
is on its way to make innovation happen but is in a precarious
position. Anything could go wrong at this stage. There is a
good balance between innovation practices and management practices
and should be kept this way.
Your existing continuous improvement programs are standing
you in good stead and should be used as the springboard and
catalyst to make innovation graduate into the next level of
effectiveness. You might still have certain procedures, policies,
and processes that could negatively influence your company
efforts for improved innovation applications.
If you do not have a sponsor for innovation in your company
yet then get one and start working on the following challenges:
- Identify and approach company “opinion leaders”
to buy-in to the initiative and particularly to push it
into the next level of effectiveness.
- Provide training to innovation champions and get them
to spread the benefits of innovation to the rest of the
- Improve company procedures and policies to facilitate
the improved use of innovation actions – remove whatever
red tape that might still be present in the system.
- Implement a formal feedback, reward and recognition system
Zone 3 – Innovation Transformation
The company is adopting new ideas and the innovation project
is starting to produce some tangible results. However the
results are not what we would ultimately like to see happening.
There is still further scope for “breakthrough”
innovations and we also believe that this could be more widespread
in the organization. Management is supporting the initiative
and employees are starting to use the various ideation vehicles
for contributing ideas to the company. Motivation for Innovation
is fairly good at this stage. Conversion of ideas, Walk the
talk, reward and recognition system
Get top management involved in a more tangible way. Let them
speak about company successes from the podiums, in meetings
and presentations. Let them motivate more widespread use in
the company. Get them to give status to this initiative in
a similar way in which the company continuous improvement
practice is enjoying. If the company does not yet have innovation
champions and/or facilitators, go ahead and appoint a few
of them and provide them with the necessary training to spearhead
the breakthrough innovations the company is looking for. Also
start to provide innovation training to more key people to
spread the use of day to day and more significant innovations
applications throughout the company.
Zone 4 – Innovation Enterprising
This company is enjoying enviable successes regarding innovations.
This company is not only seeing innovation as a possible continuous
improvement strategy, but also as a strategy for survival
and good potential future growth. Regular recommendations
are made to management and a good percentage of business cases
are accepted and implemented successfully.
The process is working for most people and employees in the
company are very aware of the successes because of all the
publicity that the innovation teams enjoyed. Successes are
celebrated and the benefits of innovations are flowing through
to the employees working at the first line of service and
other customer contact areas. Employees are starting to embrace
change as a given and a strategy for growth rather than fear.
Good decision making culture, spending money on innovation
The following are suggested actions to make your company into
the ultimate state of breakthrough innovation practices:
- Start spreading innovation to other non-core disciplines.
- Do what ever would be necessary to cement the innovation
practices and start to provide benefits to company employees
involved in innovation exercises. Create a culture whereby
employees are eager to volunteer for innovation exercises.
- Motivate a higher level of ideation to all in order to
further improve the ratio of number of suggestions per employee.
- Provide specific company challenges to be addressed that
would propel the company in a highly competitive state.
Look for highly ingenious products and develop lucrative
- Start a yearly Innovation gala where public recognition
and rewards are done in a very public recognition way. Create
innovation champions and let it be known that they are innovation
Zone 5 – Innovation Inventiveness
Your company has reached the level of self-actualization
and is doing well in the market. You are getting known as
an innovative company and articles are starting to appear
where your company is mentioned as a leader with new products
and niche markets.
You have well trained innovation facilitators and company
employees are starting to see that becoming an Innovation
facilitator is one of the ways of making progress in the company.
Management is encouraging experimentation and failure is accepted
as a given when you are searching for ingenious product and
Innovation is embedded in the official performance management
system and the only threat at this stage is to guard against
the pessimists and regression of the high levels of innovative
Suggested actions to stay at this level of
- Do a regular gap-analysis on the health of the organization.
- Seek out the pessimist and convert them by involving
them in innovation teams
- Establish an elite innovation team that could continue
to look for nich products and markets on an ongoing basis
- Have regular guest speakers to stay abreast with the
latest developments regarding innovation practices.
- Publish in formal magazines and allow company employees
to speak at conferences to share the way of how they’ve
reached the pinnacle of Inventiveness.
- Appoint Innovation Director and innovation department
- Train more facilitators and spread the way of innovation
to all corners of the company.
IP1 – Incidental Innovation Zone
Your company has a philosophy for innovation but really do
not know how to handle it yet. Your company is ten to one
heavily relying on the Research and Development Division to
gather ideas and then to convert these ideas into business
opportunities. However, your R & D department does not
have the skills or knowledge of how to do this. They are experts
in research and you need to have creative ideas is would normally
be outside their existing expertise framework. You might even
have a suggestion scheme or a market client survey instrument
but just do not know how to use this as the springboard for
Your company most probably has some kind of mature Continuous
Improvement practice, but you are not experiencing the true
innovation ideas coming from it. For some reason you cannot
understand why your company and its employees cannot make
that final transition to inventiveness.
Your company has done a few things already to propagate the
usefulness of innovation but your management practices are
not supporting this vision. You also have a problem whereby
management is not doing enough to break through the barrier
that would ensure the beginning of an exciting road toward
re-inventing your company. We suggest the following actions:
- Get the CEO committed and get the CEO to start the walk
the talk of innovation.
- Start taking positive actions by sponsoring cross-functional
- Empower the suggestion scheme – Formally screen
suggestions and hand-pick those you want your company to
work on. Then train people on how they can take an idea
and convert this into a business opportunity.
- Provide more education on the requirements of a good
and successful innovation practice.
- Appoint and train innovation champions/facilitators and
get them started to facilitate the kick-off and sustaining
of the innovation initiative.
- Get the organization to learn as much as possible what
would be needed from the company and its managers and employees
to make up a good innovation practice adequately supported
- Start to tackle the “bigger” and more challenging
innovation issues and opportunities in the company.
IP2 – Innovation Procedural Zone
Your company is doing well with its Continuous Improvement
practices and the company has no problems to adopt and adapt
new improvement ideas. This culture is very strong but for
some reason you cannot convert this same success with breakthrough
ideas. It is because Innovation is a different philosophy
and need very specific management actions to elevate the company
into the innovation orbit. This is even more questionable
when you take into account that the company has a formal way
and procedure of conducting innovation in the company.
You might even have Innovation embedded into the performance
management system, but still the innovation successes are
sporadic and the company cannot make the breakthrough to sustainable
Innovation is communicated and presented at various times
and celebrated at occasions.
You might even have innovation facilitators trained but still
we are not getting the results we though we would be getting.
We could suggest the following actions and some would either
be applicable or not depending on this existing level of practice
you are enjoying in your company at the moment:
- Confirm the CEO’s commitment to Innovation. Check
his/her aim for Innovation and challenge this view if it
is not to eventually find ingenious products/services and
- Do gap analysis on management regarding their views on
Innovation. You need them to support the view of the CEO
and you need them to provide the resources to do this. Maybe
they are too impressed with the incremental improvements
and you need to get them to buy-in to the philosophy of
- Formalize an ideation system and personally pick the
first challenges/ideas to work on. Appoint teams formally
to work these ideas.
- Train facilitators to facilitate and coach these teams
to work breakthrough ideas.
- Get management to visibly support this by getting them
to provide the resources and the time for these meetings
to take place during work hours.
MP1 – Innovation Sanctioned Zone
The closest resemblance this company has to innovation is
the fact that they might have a project management practice.
This allows cross functional employees to meet to progress
a specific project. This company is new in the area of continuous
improvement let alone being in the Innovation game. They might
even have policies and procedures that might be counter productive
to innovation practices. Ultimately this company has no experience
in innovation and does not know how to start an innovation
This company needs to improve both their management and innovation
practices. Innovation is going to be seen as a threat, because
the employees have not even experienced the benefits if a
continuous improvement program yet. All that they have heard
is that innovation could mean the closure of certain sections
and that means that they might lose there jobs. This company’s
best strategy would most probably be to employ a strong person
that could jump-start this company into innovation, or employ
a consultant to help the company to kick-start their own initiative.
The following actions could be important:
- • Start with a top team session to determine an
innovation strategy, structure and recourse plan.
- Educate employees on benefits with real cases and examples
of success. You will have to address the syndrome of “what
is in it for me?
- Implement and kick-start and Ideation program. Go all
out for producing a few successes that would motivate and
fuel the further application of innovation actions.
- Select and train employees with continuous improvement
experience from previous companies to drive this initiative
in this company.
- Select a few challenges, appoint teams to address each
one and then provide a facilitator or leader to help this
team to work through their first challenge.
MP 2 – Innovation Campaigning Zone
This company is doing well with their continuous improvement
practices. Cross functional teams and the meeting of these
teams to address company problems is common practice. Mentally
most employees are already in an improvement mode and it should
not be too difficult for this organization to make the transfer
to innovation. It has a good decision making culture and they
do not have any difficulty in implementation.
This company should be well poised for getting innovation
results but it does not really happen as we expected it to
happen and it is because this company is lacking the framework
and infrastructure for innovation. It should not be difficult
to convince the company staff to graduate to an innovation
practice in the company. In this kind of company they are
doing well enough with their CI efforts and Innovation is
not really seen as a serious company structure mostly because
they are ignorant of the potential benefits of breakthrough
This company basically needs to make the emotional decision
that they will embark on an innovation initiative for all
the right reasons. All they have to do is to put at least
equal importance in this part of their business as they have
in the other parts of their business. We suggested the following
- Formalize innovation – Appoint an Innovation Champion
and provide the necessary education to management and key
- Get management to agree on innovation structure with
specific actions to implement.
- Arrange for a kick-off after the bulk of education and
training was delivered.
- Leverage the good experiences and key CI people to spearhead
this initiative. This will send an important message to
the rest of the organization.
- Appoint facilitators and get them to spearhead the innovation
teams meetings to address the first innovation challenges
agreed upon by management.
- Document results, communicate and celebrate successes.
Have formal reward and recognition sessions.
Zones 1, 2, 3, 4 and FreeZone is within the
The company has a balanced approach to INNOVATION and each
Zone is a progression on the previous one.
- Zone 1 – Innovation Infancy Zone
- Zone 2 – Innovation Conversion Zone
- Zone 3 – Innovation Transformation Zone
- Zone 4 – Innovation Enterprising Zone
- FreeZone – Innovation Inventive Zone
- IP 1 – Innovation Incidental Zone (Ad Hoc innovation)
- IP 2 – Innovation Procedural Zone (little inspiration
and a lot of perspiration)
- MP 1 – Innovation Sanctioned Zone (High level of
- MP 2 – Innovation Campaigning Zone (Not walking