The reason most innovation companies just don’t get services industries…

For those that have followed this blog over the years know that I’m a proponent of open, collaborative and more social approaches to innovation. But only the ones that simplify our lives. What got me here?

We are exposed to industrial methods of innovation through most of the popular press. Even some of the books I recently reviewed on innovation in banking propose a highly disciplined, governed, and organized approach to innovation. Don’t get me wrong; there is probably nothing wrong with the content of these books, it’s just that we just don’t see any of these ever being implemented successfully. There is a critical question about approaches in the services related industries that play out very differently in financial services and services companies in general. In one of my previous entries Reshaping open innovation for service industries, I focused on unpacking the issues behind open innovation, see this as a continuation on that theme.

I see that financial institutions have a very specific set of conditions under which they operate, and with the latest developments in the industry, these conditions are very different to manufacturing for example. Employing thirty thousand something people in an organization where “invention” is not the focus, but “innovation” is the driver, makes for different thinking. Your measure of innovation success is often not the patent or the product, but the benefits that can be derived from mobilizing thousands of ideas through implementation.

Most idea and innovation platforms are great at managing the innovation process with all the bells and whistles. In services organizations (especially banks and insurance companies) already heavily loaded with compliance, governance, risk, operational, decision, escalation, and many more, processes that direct the execution of work; where do I slot in my “new ideas” platform and approach? New ideas are developed all the time across the various lines of business in the face of the customer, in operations, and other parts of the business on an ongoing basis. So, do I really require another heavily loaded workflow, form capture, escalation based, resource hungry innovation platform?

In an average sized financial services organization you sit with some nine hundred technology systems that automate in fragmented and in most cases with overlap in functionality, large parts of the organization. Adding another platform based on the “brain wave” of the internal technical person that attends a course and reads a book or two on innovation, just won’t cut it. On the other hand, taking a heavy duty and feature rich platform from a vendor that caters for each and every eventuality of how a process of innovation will differ between companies definitely will not survive in the large service organization.

Simplicity, accessibility, fit-for-purpose, light-weight process, to name a few characteristics, are the more modern approaches needed to make innovation platforms work. Some points to ponder for services companies on the approaches to innovation:
– simplify the process to no more than three steps
– only record the essence of the idea and then socialize
– leverage existing budget and funding cycles and adapt where needed
– drop the great ideas into existing project management approaches and operating models
– derive benefits alongside the multitude of outputs already in motion
– if it’s radical, externalize and then rehabilitate later
– allow for the “adoption” of ideas across the business as relevance is everything
– never award great ideas, reward the people that want to make great ideas work
– focus on telling your people that their contributions are the only thing that matters

When you are explained that your innovation company is going to supply you with the all encompassing innovation approach, always ensure that you understand how it’s going to fit. Otherwise it will become another short-lived and irrelevant initiative like many others in large organizations…