Cultivating innovation agility

In a recent Forbes article, “What Innovation is, and isn’t” by Rob Preston, from Oracle, suggested that consumers are suffering a bout of “innovation fatigue.” Presenting data from a communications firm, Ketchums’ new Innovation Kernel study, which was designed to identify how customers “define, perceive, and value innovation.” The Ketchum study was based on an online survey, conducted in January 2015 with M/A/R/C Research, of 4,094 working adults in the US, UK, Spain, China, and Hong Kong. The study is never quite able to define agile innovation, however, survey respondents said they’re most interested in innovations that improve their quality of life (58%) or help them be more efficient (57%).  Both requiring an adaptive, agile and lean approach as to how we ight start to define agile innovation, and what we call, at ImagineNation, cultivating innovation agility.

He went on to state that “Arguably, it’s that same commitment to continued innovation, backed by visionary leadership and sufficient financial resources that keeps first-mover products on top over the long haul. Think Oracle Database, Adobe Photoshop, and Quicken QuickBooks. Without that long-term commitment and vision, first movers quickly become also-rans—or answers to trivia questions. For every Oracle Database or Adobe Photoshop there’s a VisiCalc and a WordStar: great early products that didn’t keep up”.

Taking an adaptive, and lean approach to innovation agility

Innovation agility helps us to define innovation, as a blend of great advances in technology development together with leading-edge practices and principles of innovation culture, management, and visionary leadership.

Innovation agility enables people to see and solve key problems in adaptive and consistent ways, incorporating lean and agile principles, within a strategic and systemic framework.

The focus is on using financial and key resources to “out-innovate” the competition in ways that improve the quality of people’s lives in ways that they value and cherish.

What drives agile innovation?

In the book “Agile Innovation” the authors state that agile innovation addresses the critical drivers of innovation success. At ImagineNation™ we see these drivers systemically and synergistically because they involve making organizational climate, culture and process change decisions simultaneously. Enabling organizations to balance short term objectives with long term needs to ensure organizational growth and sustainability. Also enabling them to stay on course in successfully delivering the organizational outcomes they want to achieve – by cultivating innovation agility that either improves efficiencies or adds value to the quality of people’s lives

Taking the first key steps to cultivate innovation agility

1. Define the results you want to HAVE

The first step is to clarify what kind of short term results and longer-term organizational outcomes and the desired future the organization wants to have. Whilst many global organizations seek to strategically create competitive agile innovative organizations, to “out-innovate” the competition and create high value, low cost, new market segments. They seldom express and articulate their desire, within a visionary, a quantifiable and clear passionate purpose, mission and defined strategy that also defines innovation in their unique context.

2. What most organizations DO

In many cases, we noticed that many organizations tend to focus their innovation efforts on either;

  • Achieving short terms results:

Involving quick and easy superficial learning pathways and fast and dirty ways of generating income and or reducing costs. These are often internally focused, episodic and seldom outwardly focus on understanding and empathizing with customers’ problems, their perception of value or efficiency, or involve the true and deep organizational learning that innovation requires to be effective and sustainable.

Companies who do this might think they are being innovative, and focus their efforts by investing in idea creation processes such as hackathons and company-wide ideas competitions that are largely supported by technology-based idea management platforms. Whilst this is an effective way of engaging people and harnessing their creative energy towards imaginative ideas, it is only a first “baby step” towards developing real innovation agility because the majority of ideas never get to the implementation or delivery phase.

At ImagineNation, we have observed that what they neglect to do, is to focus on achieving a visionary, longer-term objective around developing their adaptive organizational capability and innovation agility.

  • Achieving the longer-term objectives;

Involving taking a strategic, systemic and human-centered approach towards a focussed business or digital transformation initiative involving the alignment of mindsets, behaviours, and skills as the first area of focus for learning and development in bringing about the desired changes or outcomes the organization wants to HAVE.

What most organizations could do!

  •  To achieve longer-term objectives and sustainable results, the first step is to know how to see and deal effectively with the company’s own unique set of inhibitors to change.
  • To pay attention to what is needed to acknowledge and flow with people’s survival and learning anxieties when involved in any kind of change process or new learning intervention. In other words, to engage and enroll them, at the cognitive, heart and visceral levels in the results they want to HAVE.

As well as to create an environment where people have the chance to, are able to and want to create the desired changes that deliver the outcomes the organization wants.

Most organizations neglect the BE in innovation agility

Also as these types of skills-based training programs tend to be theoretical and often academic in nature, and may even be delivered by a renowned academic institution. They seldom include and integrate the FIVE key phases of innovation; connection, exploration, discovery design, and delivery of commercially astute outcomes.

They may also neglect the critical foundational factors that empower and enable people to;

  • Know how to see and interact effectively with the world from their customers’ point of view to empathize with their problems.
  • Know how to ignite people’s intrinsic motivation by creating an urgent necessity and a passionate purpose for innovation.
  • Cultivate people’s entrepreneurial traits and most resourceful emotional states to equipping them with the self-efficacy and resilience necessary to stay and flourish in the innovation game as well as to develop a safe and engaged organizational culture.
  • Create true learning in terms of the desired innovation mindset changes required to develop consistent systems and processes, cultivate an innovative culture, that accelerates innovation and reduces risk adversity.

If organizations invest precious resources in integrating these key factors into their agile innovation efforts they will build their ability and capability to be adaptive, agile and innovative. Necessary to keep up with the current speed of change and ensuring that they successfully avoid being out-thought and outmaneuvered by competitors.

It’s actually this BE level that drives what we DO to create the results we HAVE, especially in regards to innovative entrepreneurship and innovation agility.

Taking the first steps in cultivating innovation agility 

Imagine if organizations were able to define innovation in their own unique contact, and invest in creating constructive organizational cultures where people are able to improvise, take intelligent risks, make agile decisions, experiment and fail without fear of retribution or punishment?

Then the OGI is a great way of measuring your current ability to adapt and grow in the face of disruption and  The Start-Up Game™ is a great way for people to learn, in playful, fun and interactive ways.

Allowing people to feel safe, motivated and esteemed when they dip their toes into the experimental, iterative and innovation agility that the lean start-up methodology and business model offers.

Where visionary leaders do the really hard work of leading self-organizing teams from whom they are be-ing and fearlessly role model real collaboration, adaptiveness, and true innovation agility.

“In the end, what customers’ value is true innovation—opportunities “missed by most people,” Thomas Edison famously said, because they’re “dressed in overalls and look like work.”

At ImagineNation™ we provide innovation coaching, education and culture consulting to help businesses achieve their innovation goals. Because we have done most of the learning and actioning of new hybrid mindsets, behaviors and skill-sets already, we can help your businesses also do this by opening people up to their innovation potential.

Contact us now at to find out how we can partner with you to learn, adapt and grow your business in the digital age.