The Importance of Organization in Innovation

Most companies will agree that innovation is key to their business growth. They rely on teams to develop, execute, and create new ideas and solutions to meet the demands of growing the business in the marketplace.

Executives will start by sharing the vision of innovation–the big ideas worth going after. There will be plans in place for how teams should be driving the ideas and what goals the company is trying to reach.

But the vision and even the plan will all fall flat if there is no intention for how to actually organize things. The organization of innovation is the foundation for which the ideas can grow from and thrive.

In order to create and execute on new, novel ideas, it requires taking a leap to get an organization system in place and the discipline of evaluating and iterating organization strategies as you go along.

Step 1: Just Get Started

When you first set out to get organized, the urge is to find the perfect, clean start. Rather than moving forward, teams get paralyzed in trying to find a perfectly-aligned solution for organizing things. But when it comes to organizing the complexities of innovation, it’s more important to just get started.

I worked with one startup team that was creating products in the biotechnology space, creating breakthrough solutions for Alzheimer and dementia patients. They had a slew of innovative ideas and many experiments they were running forward with, across multiple departments. Work spanned across research and development teams to engineering and marketing teams, running in many different directions. The team members were overworked just trying to keep up with the status of the projects.

They needed a strategy for organizing their work and were testing different off-the-shelf products and applications to solve their issues. Each tool they researched would solve for most of their needs, but not all. They were stuck in the moment where they wanted to wait for the perfect solution that would fit every one of their needs.

Rather than holding on to the hope for a magical new tool, the team moved forward by selecting the tool that filled the more important needs. They identified the top requirements to solve for and fully committed to the adopted project management application, training all teams on how they would use it to stay organized. They addressed up front the short-comings, and came up with their own internal hacks for solving them. All communication about their innovation projects moved from email into the tool and they held monthly meetings across all departments to backfill where the tool fell short.

Getting organized sometimes requires making tradeoffs to allow you to get started. It is far more productive to have a system in place that you can tweak and improve with time, than no system at all.

Step 2:  Evaluate and Iterate

The second thing about trying to organize innovation projects is that what you originally set out doing will inevitably change. Whether that is outgrowing the original organization structure or breaking things along the way to learn that a new system is required.

One mid-sized financial company that I worked with wanted to better streamline communication across stakeholders and innovation projects. They originally invested in a tool that helped them to get things in order and worked well for their first three years of development. But by the time their projects were launching into the marketplace, they had outgrown the tool and needed something more robust and able to fit their nuanced needs of creating solutions in the ever-changing financial regulation space.

Reflecting on the tools that worked, and their short-comings, the team realized they needed to invest in their own internal tool that could keep up with their pace of innovation. This new organization strategy was able to use the previous tools as a framework to allow them to build the new homegrown solution they needed.

The thing about organizing big ideas is that the solution will need to shift at some point. It’s important to stay in tune to when things are no longer useful and how you can bring a new organization strategy to the table.

Getting organized is the often overlooked and less exciting step to innovation. It’s important you take a disciplined approach to getting organized, to allow for ideas to flourish and grow, without getting buried or bogged down by disorganized inefficiencies.

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