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Without implementation, innovation is only a good idea
2012-10-15

Innovation isn't just about having a good idea and talking about it. It's about putting that idea into practice to create meaningful results. Nor is it just about creating new products. It has more to do with changing the way a business is run. First and foremost, innovation is about doing things better. When broken down, innovation can be seen as having two parts: creativity and implementation. In order to innovate, you need to start with an idea, which is where creativity is key. Unfortunately, although for many companies innovation is a core value, the idea remains little more than lip service if it is not acted on. Innovation can only be said to have happened once an idea has been successfully implemented, says Roy Hobson, Business Development Manager at Intervate.

The front-end of innovation remains as the creative element, and it's this initial phase that requires nurturing, particularly when the idea is exposed to large groups of people within an organisation. If businesses are proactive in this space, these ideas multiply and grow organically. However, for innovation to be effectively harnessed, ideas need to be captured, shared and developed. Various tools or platforms can be used to achieve this, but at Intervate, we have designed the mechanics using Microsoft's SharePoint, a Web-based software platform ideally suited to the task. It allows ideas to not only be shared, but moreover, provides them with an environment to be considered and developed socially, not unlike idea sharing on Facebook or Twitter, but with a corporate slant.
 
The back-end of innovation consists of the implementation processes that have to be followed to take these ideas from the drawing board out into the world. Through this bespoke SharePoint-based design, a business can take an idea through the development and actualisation process, tracking and measuring its progress along the way.
 
Through all stages of innovation, there are "stage gates", and an idea in its development phase needs to pass through these to be successfully workable. It is this filtering process that helps determine whether an idea deserves pursuing, and if so, the software streamlines the process of implementation. The benefit of this gated approach is that ideas are refined through a structured funnelling system until only the valuable and feasible ones remain, saving time and energy in the process and ensuring that resources are only directed at the very best ideas.
 
Innovation using SharePoint is a set of techniques, not a product. Intervate has taken the invaluable foundation SharePoint offers, and in its architecture, manipulated the program in such a way that it allows users to drive and manage innovation, a process at which Intervate excels, which is why innovation and the nurturing thereof is one of the core company values.
 
With the front-end of the process powered by SharePoint, it's accessible to everyone in an organisation. The result is a shared "ideas box" that can benefit from input across the company. People are able to build on and stimulate other people's ideas in addition to contributing their own. As an incentive to drive the ideas engine, some companies build in an innovation reward system.
 
Intervate has seen the success of this approach both internally and with a wide range of clients, including those in the mining, hospitality and banking sectors. Businesses are increasingly coming to recognise that innovation is the last remaining growth vector; particularly those operating in mature industries and markets.
 
Often, breakthrough solutions come from within because it is the existing personnel who best understand a business. They are the richest resource in terms of their ability to identify problems and be inventive about potential solutions. Eskom, for example, has an internal innovation channel with innovation champions throughout the business who run the programme on an incentive scheme basis.
 
Innovation has become a key performance criterion for many companies, and for staff, key performance areas. Companies want to be able to measure innovation and make its outcomes trackable. Intervate can help by taking a manual innovation system and making it digital, more effective and efficient, and thus enabling a business to forge ahead of its competitors.
 


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