Internal Innovation Teams

In a well-known book The Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen explained the perils internal innovation faces from various entrenched  interests. In a nutshell, a well-run organization is not designed to innovate, but rather to optimize existing processes and products. The solution may be to create an independent group charged with spearheading innovation – a separate department, group, even subsidiary.

Once such a team is up and running, it immediately runs the risk of not being relevant (or perceived as relevant) by the people running the “real” business and IT departments. The solution is slowly becoming a “best practice”, and I am describing in this post some of the steps I am taking in practice to make it happen.

My objective is to implement one of the internal innovation programs success factors as described by Westerman at MIT Sloan (and that I have “discovered” independently through practice in the 2007 – 2010 time period) :

Objective : Make the internal IT innovation program “shared”

Description : Lines of business co-funding, co-staffing, providing operational environments for projects, not just providing “ideas”

Benefit : Promotes adoption, improves engagement, various business leaders promote technology innovation

A possible way of doing it is through a “technology innovation council” as an internal “innovation team” with the following objectives :

  • Owns governance of technology innovations
  • Reviews projects, recommends funding for full-scale deployments
  • Tracks and records technology innovation projects

Members are from both business units and IT, and have one of the following qualifications :

  • Thought leaders
  • Business unit representatives
  • Internal entrepreneurs (experimenters in the innovation team, in charge of  running pilots)
  • Operations/business process representatives

I have done this informally in previous situations, and trying to do it in an institutionalized way at Sberbank, with quarterly meetings and wide participation. I am now looking forward to expanding technology innovation discussion with many colleagues…