The number of people engaged in innovation is limited. They usually present a minority. Innovation effort brings some divisions, but an innovation management system should overcome these inhibitors and provide the tools enabling the incorporation of all available innovative minds. Suggestions for the tools are presented.
First of all, when thinking of an innovation-friendly management, I have in mind tools useful for both profit and non-profit organizations.
Work Safety / Managed Privacy
Innovation begins with the right idea and as Hamel’s Law of Innovation puts it, we need to generate thousands of them. Innovation is a volume business . However, a new idea usually needs certain incubation period to be accepted.
In tangible productions, much is done today for the work safety. People receive initial and repeated training, protective means like helmets, boots, glasses, etc. However, in the intangible domain we are in the situation where tangible production was centuries ago. In many organizations, innovation is rather risky business for people, with little work and fire safety for the talented “black sheep” aboard. The minority report may be unwanted.
In the world of nanotechnology scientists speak about “sticky fingers” problem: every action influences reality. In fact, in the social nanoworlds of our teams, departments and units, similar things happen to innovation ideas: every statement influences reality. For example, many people intentionally or unintentionally follow the positive or negative statements of their bosses. Some people comment an idea just because the majority commented before them. Many ideas are not given at all simply because of fear  – mobbing, bossing, staffing can become reality if the innovation touches the present state of things and cash flows. Product innovations may be more safe than process or business model ones.
Some may argue that this is the question of culture. I agree in a certain sense – I believe that if we employ and train the top people then we can eliminate much. Open sourcing platforms like MIX are in a similar position – almost no risks are at hand and many make a hack just to be visible. But how do we react when an innovation idea touches our own job position or career plans? Maybe well, but we are not holy. It is an ethical problem. And we need to implement robust management tools to serve also for the innovative shop floor workers. Another solution is to run anonymous platforms for ideation. But once you have this, you can forget at least some ideas from people, who want to be visible, appreciated, honored, and rewarded.
There is a conflict – the need for many ideas on one side and personal risks for the involved on the other. This may be one of the root causes of why the present social platforms have a limited usage .
My suggestion here is a managed privacy principle. Imagine that when you make any record at the innovation IT platform, you can decide whether you want to disclose your personal identity. This means: you are assigned a nickname when you enter the organization and you can change it as often as you like. You can freely manage the disclosure of your identity at every individual piece of information you have ever entered into the system. It is no extreme requirement on IT: we simply need to preserve the history of all the nicknames related to a person and its records. If we wanted rather challenging IT requirements, we could demand time-related or event-related identity disclosure management; for example, full identity disclosure if the vote related to the idea reaches 5:1 positive: negative ratio J
Besides, we need something like an “Innovation Privacy Act” to set the privacy disclosure rules and levels in the organization. There should be one public authority at the C-level, very trustful innovation officer, responsible for the managed privacy enforcement. We can find here an analogy to a C-level person responsible for a quality management system. In fact, both quality and innovation are the accountability of everybody in the organization.
I believe privacy-related procedures are one of the important prerequisites of an innovation management system. Intangible work safety should allow me to write anything as Martin Kvapilik or as “James Bond” if I like it today, and as ‘’Yogi Bear’’ if I like it tomorrow. The rewarding system should respect the private wish of the author on disclosure as well. Some people like public awards and esteem; some prefer a silent mode cash premium and absolutely no publicity.
We cannot afford to lose any innovative minority mind just because of the work safety legacy.
Osmosis / Sourcing scope
We should not lose any mind able and wishing to innovate with us, not only the minds inside of our organizations. However, often there is a conflict with the usual complex hiring procedures requiring some approval rounds, advertising, equal opportunities measures etc.
Many organizations try to add crowdsourcing methods (awards, suggestions boxes, etc.). However, innovation projects staffed by volunteers tend to underperform those run by professionals and raw enthusiasm is no substitute for the right expertise and capabilities selected for the role . Anyway the worst conflict present here is the information divide and asymmetry – external minds have little information on how the insiders think and what they know. Their ability to bring useful idea is thus limited.
My suggestion is to learn from the nature. Osmosis is the movement of molecules through a partially permeable membrane. I think osmosis is a suitable model for how we should reinvent our organization entry membrane.
My suggestion is to redefine HR flexibility so that managers could freely micro-hire/micro-fire and make the organization “innovation edge” much more permeable. This is how you operate in a seed stage start-up or a garage-venture. You do not wait for weeks or months. You call several friends to get in touch with someone who will advise, help, generate ideas, and have different eyes than all we sitting here inside. Multicultural teams foster creativity . But this suggestion is not about the traditional notion of diversity, but about the diversity in knowledge backgrounds for the sake of innovation sourcing. It is also a tool how to attract innovation talents. You cannot get them for the whole day and every day, but maybe you can get enough of them to serve your needs.
The practical procedure for these micro-contracts should involve an initial training or boot camp that would prepare the semi-external minds and set the disclosure/intellectual property rules and relationships, maybe in an online form as well.
Imagine you manage 25 people and you have an extra budget for another person. But in fact you micro-hire 3 external people for some hours a week, just to check your team operation, submit new ideas and comments.
White blood cells / Focus
When we generate many ideas, we may have a problem to choose the right ones. We can implement commenting / voting mechanisms and panel evaluation, all with the embedded managed privacy. The most popular, most commented or panel selected ideas may run for a pilot or micro pilots.
How to focus the ideas? One possibility is to maintain a challenge list. Defining the right challenge i.e. innovation target may be an innovation idea itself as well. We may have a different category for defining innovation goals. And we may have different rewarding for the innovation ideas targeting the challenge list items.
However, I think we may develop here also a kind of an automated fueling of the challenge list. It should work the similar way as the white blood cells in the immune system. When a relatively local problem appears, focus of the best minds may go there immediately. For example to the problems of quality, zero-day security or function threats, etc. We need to “higher the temperature” at the wound.
Fast food / Packaged support
McDonald's is popular because it is fast and unified. You do not have to judge the meal and you know what to expect. The same speed and unification we need to manage in an innovation-friendly way. Can we use any tools similar to those from quality (like FMEA) and risk management (like predefined risk mitigation actions)?
For at least some processes, departments, units and teams we may have a predefined scope of innovation-related support actions or even indicators.
The first part of this supportive structure is the catalog of support elements. For example, a shop floor innovation palette could include things like 7 hours of machine time on any machine on the floor, 4 hours of CNC programmer, 500 EUR for material inputs, etc. The second part is the templates - the support elements could be preapproved and prepackaged so that the pilot of an idea could receive predefined support or a preselected palette to choose from. Templates may be leveled and each level may have its approval process.
Tools for innovation DNA were presented. They need further study, development and standardization. The respective reporting/controlling indicators should be built around. There is also an agenda for IT platforms suppliers.
Some innovation tools may conflict with the lean initiatives and may be viewed as muda. I believe that we need some “junk DNA” to be truly innovative. Maybe the biology example might prove to be useful: step by step the scientists disclose that what was once called a junk DNA is in fact a functional piece of the inspiring life structures .
 Martin Gunnarsson, Director IFS Research & Strategy, see IFS blog at http://blogs.ifsworld.com/
 See e.g. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osmosis
 Callaway, Ewen (March 2010). "Junk DNA gets credit for making us who we are". New Scientist.