This article is the last of three parts. Initially an overview of Micro-Innovation was outlined along with its benefits. In the second part general guidelines, critical success factors and risks were shared. Micro-Innovation in practice and maturing the Micro-Innovation process is the last part in the series.
In part one of the series, I mentioned the most mature form of Micro-Innovation can lead to the creation of an Innovation Hub/Digital Lab and associated activities. This article presents this evolution and also outlines some of the lessons learnt during my experiences of implementing Micro-Innovation internally and on various client sites.
As stated before, Micro-Innovation should start in IT or in an area of the organisation where you have control over the work completed and access to technical development environments & skills. Start with a small but committed team with a 10% time allocation. Give this small team ‘time to think’ especially in the ideation phase.
The focus for this phase is to build momentum and gain credibility by demonstrating what can quickly be achieved by simply re-allocating some time to more value add activities like innovation.
Once some ideas have surfaced, the same small team chooses the best ones (>2) to Prototype and starts designing and building the Prototypes, constrained only by the light boundaries established (i.e. POC in <20 day total effort and <€2k) and the 10% time allocation. Speed is key with ideally a 4 week sprint cycle (2 x 2 week sprints) to build the prototype. If any Prototype build fails, figure out why and what will be done differently in the future. Report on these failures and do not see failure as an issue, but rather a learning experience to be acted on and an opportunity to improve.
The final stage is to present the Clickable Prototypes to an Executive Review team. During this review not only should the clickable prototype be demonstrated, but also a summary of what was done, what was found out, the benefits and future value of adoption. Agreement on the next steps for each prototype is reached during the Exec Review. Make the Senior Leadership Team see what is possible, by making time to think and re-directing resource efforts.
Once Micro-Innovation (MI) is up and running within IT with a continual stream of Idea’s and Prototype; ensure Senior stakeholder support before expanding MI into business and the next phase of maturity. In order to capture ideas and Micro-Innovations from across the organisation, invest in an innovation platform at this stage, at minimum a mailbox for submitted ideas is needed. During Ideation, conduct creative brainstorming activities with cross functional Business and IT participants; as well as the platform/mailbox to capture ideas generated outside these group sessions. Not surprisingly opening up micro-innovation to the business does increase the ratio of Front-Office/Customer innovations and ideas.
When building prototypes the business is now included in the POC build team. The team should be cross functional and behave like an Agile/SCRUM team. To ramp up and quickly build Prototypes one day a week or 20% time allocation is needed. The Micro-Innovation team members should be rotated as required and separate teams for group Ideation and POC builds can be created if needed.
The final and most mature phase, utilises external stakeholders as well as the internal organisation for Ideation. This can involve customers in group ideation sessions or just summiting ideas via digital channels. Expanding ideation to external parties does increase complexity and risk, but also recognise a separate reward mechanism should be implemented for external participants.
The other significant change from Phase 2, is the 100% time allocation to the POC builds. This is a real organisational commitment to innovation where a cross-functional team(s) is completely dedicated to prototyping digitalisation and advancing innovation development activities within the organisation. This agile cross-functional team, will be continually experimenting, building, market sensing, sometimes failing but always advancing digital innovations and other improvements forward within the organisation. Lean start-up is a preferred build approach during POC development but common sense also works! Note: building a POC team with a 100% time allocation can also occur in Phase 1 and/or 2… it depends on the organisation’s innovation strategy and the throughput of the innovation pipeline, feeding the POC build activities.
Before finishing this series of articles on Micro-Innovation, I wanted to share some of my lessons learnt during Micro-Innovation implementations. Importantly Micro-Innovation is not simply a cut and paste framework… sure the end to end process will have the same steps, but how it is implemented and which operating model is used will be different across organisations. These variations are primarily driven by culture, level of C-Suite support and where Micro-Innovation starts within the organisation. The best place to start as declared before is with IT and driven by the CIO.