By Henra Mayer
Da Vinci Head of Faculty: Management of Innovation
The significance of innovation is widely recognised as an important business driver in a dynamic world of rapid change and shifting business models. Many organisations invest in innovation initiatives to create more competitive and resilient organisations, but how to continuously produce repeatable, strategically significant outcomes remains a challenge for many.
Intent needs to be supported with effective innovation practices, and at its core, this includes a focus on innovation leadership. It invariably points to the leader’s ability to enable a strategic vision for entrenching an end-to-end innovation capability within the organisation.
The annual Da Vinci Technology Top 100 (TT100) Business Innovation Awards programme was launched in 1991 to create an awareness of the role of technology and innovation leadership in South Africa. It employs the TIPS™ model, which refers to the inter-relationships between how we manage our technology, innovation and people in a systemic way to enhance sustainable development within the organisation.
In essence, this model acts as a good starting point for focusing the leader’s role as orchestrator of innovation by integrating management disciplines that considers:
The Management of Technology (MoT)
The management of technology is all about the ‘tools’ and metrics organisations use to gain competitive advantage. Simplistically it is “a way of doing things better” and may involve the use of anything from computers and hi-tech, to simple hand-held tools. In this context, it refers to the small “t” in technology where organisations manage their technology to best position their products or services to maximise their market share.
The Management of Innovation (MoI)
The management of innovation is about how an organisation stimulates and capitalises on the ideation process to develop an innovative product or service which demonstrates either commercial or social value. It’s about hard metrics such as income generated from new products, processes or services as well as success rates in commercialising new offerings, coupled with the softer side of change management, co-creation and employee engagement.
The Management of People (MoP)
The management of people is all about the human technology interface. It embraces both the employee and the end user. It is about the processes that organisations deploy in the development of their human capital, and how they retain and re-skill existing employees, how they incentivise their people and how they plan for succession to ensure organisational longevity.
The Management of Systems (MoS)
This is the process of synthesis, where systemic integration of all organisational activities and performance is used to solve unique problems, and where a hyper-competitive redesign of the landscape occurs. This includes internal synovation and organisational ecology that allows the parts to become greater than the whole.
It is evident from the TT1000 research results gathered over the past 25 years that companies who link their technology and innovation practices effectively tend to become more agile. Agility in this sense refers to the link between people and innovation practices so that employees become engaged in seeking solutions at work. The appropriate linkage of technology and people practices tend to create better alignment to react to changing circumstances and this ensures that the organisation up-skills (by acquisition or development) the appropriate human capabilities to match, and even exceed the technological needs at any one time. From here the organisation develops, improves and adapts its technology needs and appropriate innovation is applied to generate real market value and profitability.
It is about speed to market, response to change and an ability to cope with new world flexibility. But none of this will lead to real-world outputs if people do not make it so. People and innovation need to be managed in such a way that it impacts on the commitment and motivation of people in the workplace so that people take personal initiative and accountability. The TIPS™ model is graphically depicted below.
Figure 1: The TIPS™ model used with the TT100 Awards
In a sense, the TIPS™ framework could serve as a meta-framework for managerial leaders within the workplace, but leadership is about more than frameworks. It talks to the heart of an organisation.
In the 2016 South African Innovation League Awards, administered annually by Innocentrix, innovation leadership emerged as South Africa’s strongest capability. It seems to be driven as a clear outcome by the majority of organisations who believe that overall strategic objectives are translated into innovation objectives.
Although executives are demonstrating an intent by aligning innovation outcomes with overall organisational objectives and supporting tactical thinking with concrete strategies, leadership intent alone is not going to make innovation happen. Success lies in the execution of intent and while organisations are willing and able, it is clear from the League results that much room is left for improvement as weaknesses in execution coupled with ad-hoc activities and misaligned interdependencies needs attention.
Effective approaches for leading innovation could include enabling a strategic innovation vision, a focus on the customer and creating a climate of reciprocal trust. Add to this the importance of communication, the power of persuasion and an emphasis on speed and it becomes clear that the role of the leader is more about being an orchestrator and supportive enabler of success. If the point is to foster organisations that are willing and able to innovate over the long haul, then tomorrow’s leaders of innovation must be identified and developed today. Great leaders of innovation, see their role not as take-charge direction setters but as creators of a context in which others make innovation happen. That shift in understanding is critical to fostering the next generation of innovation leaders and must permeate the organisation and its talent management practices.
In the end, leaders who do innovation well focus on providing an enabling environment, they create an open culture and inspire an engaged workforce, they act with strategic intelligence and foresight. They get the experts together and connect from ground level up to forge relationships within the innovation eco-system on a local, regional and global level. Inspiring leaders provide opportunity, mentorship, and empowerment and they act with integrity and courage in integrating these values across the organisation.
For more information on the Da Vinci TT100 Business Innovation Awards Programme and to enter the Awards programme, visit www.tt100.co.za or email email@example.com. To talk innovation and the SA Innovation League, please contact Innocentrix by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting www.innocentrix.co.za.
 SA Innovation League Report (2016) by Innocentrix (www.innocentrix.co.za)
 Research: 10 Traits of Innovative Leaders (2014) by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman (2014): Harvard Business Review