Introducing innovations from a holistic standpoint
Innovations improve our quality of living and accelerate advancement. But whether they succeed depends on successful interaction between a number of stakeholders within the innovation system. The most important players in such a system are people, whose roles change continuously with every evolution in current social and technological conditions. The future viability of companies therefore depends on how well firms succeed in responding to skills shortages and technological advances. The Steinbeis Consulting Center Human, Health, Technology demonstrates how Innvoationskunst (“the Art of Innovation”) supports economic success and amazing business results by connecting people with “Thinking Spaces,” and various methods.
People are a driving force and fundamental element of every innovation. It is they who come up with ideas and implement them. And without people, there can be no such thing as sustained renewal. Innovationskunst (engl. translation: “the Art of innovation”) combines two nouns. The word “innovation” is derived from the Latin word “innovare”, which means to renew or make new. The word “art” (Kunst) refers to the expression of creativity based on a variety of methods, different ways of thinking, and materials – supported by the imagination of the human mind. Bringing these two concepts together, Innovationskunst builds on diversity, i.e. variety and the differences between people as a source of different viewpoints. Diverse teams allow people to bring different viewpoints, experiences, and creative ways of thinking to the table, thus fueling a broader spectrum of ideas and potential solutions. “Neurodiversity in particular helps people look beyond conventional boundaries, and it reinforces the shared development of unconventional solutions to complex problems,” believes Steinbeis Entrepreneur Dr. Judith Rommel.
Environments that fuel encouragement – allowing people to join others with open and appreciative attitudes, adapting to the needs of neurodiverse teams – offer a whole host of advantages. They allow people to develop new ideas together based on a sense of commitment, to take risks and learn from mistakes, and to unleash their full potential. People are the most valuable resource of any company. Key to Innovationskunst – the Art of Innovation – is the ability to recognize and promote the talent and skills of employees in the best possible way.
From initial concept to innovations – with Thinking Spaces and expedient methods
Innovationskunst takes place in a universe of diverse thoughts inside the minds of people when they meet. This happens just as much in virtual spaces as in physical ones. In good Thinking Spaces, you spot connections, regularity, and patterns. You discover new ways of looking at things and different perspectives. You find unusual ways to interlink existing patterns, paving the way for the birth of innovations. In expedient spaces, exchanging ideas and letting them thrive is effortless.
Developing and delivering ideas also requires certain structures and, thus, also methods that support companies structuring the pathways that bring ideas to life. The decision as to whether ideas are only tested or pursued until implementation also requires expertise and a detailed understanding of the methods involved. Here, the role of processes is to outline what needs to be done in order to achieve a specified goal. Methods help you to achieve initially open, self-chosen goals. And how does this happen? That essentially hinges on scientific methods derived from a variety of disciplines, from the natural sciences to economics and social sciences. Principles derived from approaches used for research projects are also reflected in innovation techniques like design thinking and lean startup: Complex problems are broken down into small, manageable steps to enable fast feedback loops and continuous improvements. Innovation is an active and dynamic process, part of which we create new things and let go of the old, like in a living system.
Results – the benchmark of success
The goal that always underlies the Art of Innovation (Innovationskunst) is to deliver tangible results. In addition to new products or services, these results comprise enhanced business processes, more efficient working methods, or innovative marketing strategies. These results enhance the competitiveness of companies and their long-term success while improving the value they offer to customers. To gauge success, it’s important to establish clear goals and use metrics. At the same time, innovation always involves people as sentient, living beings. Scientific methods also help in this respect, especially when it comes to the evaluation and validation of new concepts. Through regular feedback loops organizations succeed with their continuous learning – on all levels.
Applying Innovationskunst in practice
The Human, Health, Technology Steinbeis Consulting Center is currently working with the diversity department of a medium-sized IT company. The management board of the company is conscious about the fact that particularly its employees offer huge potential to come up with ideas and innovations. At the beginning of the joint project, the company wanted to sensitize its managers to the topic of neurodiversity. After a short online training session run by the Steinbeis experts to impart knowledge, many of the participants were keen to start making things happen right away. Before that happens, however, a company with more than 8,000 employees needs a well thought-out strategic approach – one that encourages as many managers as possible to play a role in actively shaping the Art of Innovation (Innovationskunst).
To this end, the Steinbeis experts analyzed all four factors relating to Innovationskunst at the company – people, Thinking Spaces, methods, and results – and conducted face-to-face interviews with teams and individuals in order to assess the current situation in these areas. Working in “safe spaces,” people revealed the full spectrum of neurodiversity at the company. In addition, many previously unperceived challenges came to light. This evaluation resulted in a range of ideas relating to each area of Innovationskunst. The firm unearthed many new things about itself and discovered a number of new horizons that would be worth opening up. For further cooperation, the decision-makers chose to focus on the fit between people and Thinking Spaces.
Only then did they start preparing to run innovation workshops to pool ideas and lay foundations for successful Thinking Spaces. Drawing on an elaborate selection of ideas, the most effective levers were identified together and both clear and realistic goals were formulated, taking timings and budgets into account. The company has now taken its first steps toward implementing those ideas as part of a pilot project. The coming weeks will determine if additional specialized knowledge and professional support are required for the long-term changes to be made smoothly and efficiently.
As with every research project, on completion an assessment is made of the success of the implementation phase, and the company’s innovation skills are tested to gauge the extent to which they have improved. To do this, actual results are compared with original goals. After completion of the project phase, these status metrics are to be gathered every six to eight months for at least two years in order to secure successful implementation and gain valuable insights into continuous improvements.
The project shows how a medium-sized IT company can master the Art of Innovation and become a pioneer of technological advancement – in harmony with the needs and well-being of both employees and customers, even in a world of digital technology. Adopting a systematic and structured approach, from initial analysis to final evaluation, increases not only the effectiveness Innovationskunst, but also the likelihood that innovative ideas will be successfully put into practice. As Steinbeis Entrepreneur Judith Rommel explains: “Our consulting services establish a clear journey for innovation, at the same time providing the expertise and support that’s needed to achieve innovation goals – and thus boost the competitiveness of the company in the long term.”
Dr. Judith Rommel (author)
Steinbeis Consulting Center Human, Health, Technology (Mögglingen)