People, Process, and Technology are essential pillars for effective Innovation in any organization/team and each must be addressed separately and integrated collectively to assure innovative results
What’s included in People? People includes the rewards and incentives, environment and culture, leadership and examples.
Companies have long boxed innovation into the R&D department. Not until recently have companies recognized that innovation can come from all levels within the company and in many areas without the company. For example, customers, clients, employees, partners, and competitors can be great sources of innovation.
What’s included in process? Process includes the formal and informal rules and steps to take a new idea to implementation.
There are formal processes that are stated and known and there are informal processes that are learned and assumed. Innovation often deals with supporting the informal processes–such as open idea sharing and collaboration among all levels. When was the last time you read something in the company manual about the process or rules whereby employees are encouraged to be creative and innovative. Google has been at the forefront at formalizing some innovative processes and rules. For example, employees can spend a whopping 20% of their time exploring projects of their interest.
What’s included in Technology? Technology includes the systems that tie the process and people together to automate the creation, collaboration, and communication essential to innovation.
Prior to the advent of the social and collaboration rich technology, there was technology that organized people’s tasks and productivity (i.e. project management tools and time sheets) but not technology that organized people’s thoughts and ideas in a collective fashion. There is a new explosion of technology to support and formalize the creative thinking (see the tools tab).
One of the major benefits of technology is the ability to automate the process flow and connect the people into a system that captures and encourages innovation.
One of the great failures of trying to spur innovation in a company is by thinking that by targeting one of the pillars you will have effective innovation. For example, a company may buy some innovation technology but not have the environment and rewards and culture in place for people to want to engage in innovation. On the other hand, a company may have the environment, rewards, and culture, but not the technology to capture and automate the process flow. For example, one of the great failures of trying to promote innovation is thinking that putting a simple suggestion box in place will create innovation. On the contrary, most suggestion boxes lock ideas in a closed box that ultimately gets huge and unmanageable very fast. Ideas often become lost as companies give a half-hearted effort to sort through them. Ultimately, for many, it becomes a time-waster for both parties.
Addressing only one or two of these pillars can undermine your efforts to be innovative. Taking a holistic approach and combining integrated initiative on all three pillars can create exponential growth in company-wide innovation. Innovative people, processes, and technology lead to effective innovation company-wide.