Discover Your Innovation Strengths: Initiate and Implement Innovation

Finding the right talent to implement transformation is important in a fast-evolving marketplace and highly competitive talent landscape.

Sustaining the innovation initiative in the company is critical and yet challenging in your organisation’s innovation strategy.

In Part 1 we spoke to The Entheo Network’s Chief Innovation Officer and their consultant, Shoba Chandran (in the picture above) and Monika Steimle to find out how to innovate.  

With the ideation stage is now behind you and what’s next is to test those ideas and implement them.  

According to a BCG 2015 Global Innovation Survey, the top roadblocks for innovation performance are mostly related to selecting and executing the ‘best ideas’. In other words, actualizing the fruits of ideation.

It’s always exciting to contribute to idea generation, and everyone is always happy to chip in to showcase their brilliance. But when it comes to realising those ideas, suddenly the buzz fizzles out and no one wants to claim responsibility for their ideas.  

What now?   

In this second part, we will find out how we can create a self-sustaining innovation culture and environment that will encourage both management and colleagues to be the change.  

Cogs: Hello once again, Monika and Shoba. This is probably a commonly asked question by leaders you meet. How do you think leaders can motivate their people and lead others to take up innovation opportunities?

M: As humans, we will act and be motivated to do something when we are clear about the following:

  1. Why we should something
  2. What the benefits are for us
  3. And that we believe and trust that we have the skills/ability to do something about it

If leaders want their people to focus on innovation, they will need to motivate within these three areas.

The answers to these questions vary of course for each company, but it is so important to make everyone aware of why innovation is key to the success of the organization and to achieving its purpose and vision. In other words, the strategic importance of innovation. Then it’s important to break it down for the individuals and departments to understand what is in it for them and (maybe most important) help them see and build trust that they can do something about it. That they have the ability to master innovation.

The Six ‘I’®s framework can be very helpful with the answers to (1) and (3). The framework starts with the ‘Why’ (Purpose) and can help individuals, teams, departments to understand their unique and important part in successful innovation. Shoba will lay out in detail below how The Six ‘I’®s framework supports this.

S: You’re right – it is an issue that is on many leaders’ minds. These leaders may be pleased to discover that all employees have the ability to innovate.

entheo-network-six-i-modelOur innovation strengths profiling tool enables anyone to discover what their specific strengths are and how they can most effectively contribute to innovating within their organisation.

The leader’s role, therefore, is two-fold: Firstly, it is to provide strategic direction for innovation efforts. Rather than simply saying “Please innovate!”, a leader can more effectively channel creative energies of their people by providing strategic direction “Please innovate … in this area!”

In other words, they can motivate their staff by providing direction and purpose. This is why PURPOSE sits at the centre of The Six ‘I’s® Innovation Model.

Secondly, a leader is also responsible for creating the right conditions, a.k.a culture, for innovation to flourish.

As you can see from The Six ‘I’s® Innovation Model, there are two triangles: these represent ‘Culture’ and ‘Process’.

At Entheo, we believe that cultures, systems, policies, processes need to be set up to support each stage of the innovation cycle.

In our first discussion, I talked about the need to be outward focused.

The first stage, IDENTIFY, requires an outward focus. For example, in order to IDENTIFY new trends or changing needs, what systems or processes have been set up to enable this to happen? Are there dedicated resources for this?

In summary, if a leader wants to motivate their staff, they need to provide a strategic direction and provide resources for their employees to innovate.

Cogs: Can hiring (differently) play a part in achieving your innovation goals?

M: Hiring can absolutely play an essential role in innovation, yes! However, I would not necessarily ‘hire differently’, but rather, hire with strategic foresight filling gaps you might have in your organization and involve many people in the organization.

I’ve seen (in the organization I worked for as HR Director) how challenging it can be for an organization to just looking for ‘experts’ in areas where the organization wants to innovate. No matter how stellar an expert is (and that mostly comes with a high cost), if the culture of the organization is not able to embrace the expertise or if the individual does not fit the overall culture, the effort can be wasted. And in the end, it is frustrating for the individual and the organization.

I would suggest that it’s important to create the culture mindset for innovation first as we discussed in the previous question and then ensure there is ample support/ backing and time spent to help the newly hired innovators succeed.

I’ve seen clients hire whole innovation teams (for their innovation labs) as experts into their organization at a very high cost and these teams developed a great number of cool ideas but weren’t able to embed these into the larger organization

The Six ‘I’s® Team assessment tool can be of great support to highlight any specific gaps that might exist in your teams with regards to innovation capability and it can be a great conversation starter to build strategic hiring goals to support the purpose of innovation.

S: The short answer is ‘yes’.  A more nuanced answer is “on condition…”  

Let’s say an organisation wants to hire ‘out-of-the-box’ thinkers. With reference to my earlier point, does the organisation have a culture, systems and processes that will support people who will challenge the status quo? Or will the organisation treat such behaviour as a “foreign element”, and reject it? As a matter of fact, our business partner Natalie shares her own story in her book ‘Yes You Can Innovate’ where she talks about her experience regarding this matter 

 Therefore, on condition that the culture is designed to support people with different skillsets and mindsets, an organisation is definitely encouraged to hire differently. That being said, decisions should still be based on good hiring practices: a sense that some bring the right basic skillset with them, along with a positive attitude, good work ethic and the ability to work effectively in a team.  

Cogs: Last question for today… Let’s settle a hotly debated issue that everyone wants to know. Exactly who owns or who is responsible for innovation in the company? Is it the Tech Department? Management? The Creative Team? What are your thoughts having helped companies with their innovation programs?

M: Love this question! Yes, it’s a big debate and as with so many things in life, there are many different perspectives to embrace and ‘it depends’.

Generally, I would say that innovation needs to sit at the board table. It needs to be a strategic priority with the BOD or C-suite to get the traction it needs. It then depends on the strategy of innovation on where innovation opportunities and work will be employed.

If the strategic direction is to transform a company (digital transformation, service transformation, or else) then it makes sense to create a stand-alone team (an organizational transformation department) which leads this large-stake transformation throughout the organization. If the strategic direction is to innovate to increase market share and to improve existing processes/ products and services, it might be best to have innovation champions inside each of the departments/ teams and develop sub-strategies. If innovation is part of the overarching culture of an organisation then innovation happens within each team, department and level of the organization at all times. As I said, it depends.

What is key is that the ownership model of innovation must be in line with the strategic direction. That’s why The Six ‘I’s® framework starts with Purpose in the centre and asks the important questions up front: “Why do you need/ want to innovate? What is your purpose?”

S: Let me provide an example to bring this to life.

Example, say the organisation is a telecommunications company. Let’s assume, that it is a time where their industry is being de-regulated, and they’ve gotten wind of the fact that there could be two new entrants entering the market soon. If this happens, their market share will be challenged, so they need to innovate in order to maintain and continue to grow. 

 “Continue to grow market share in the face of stiffer competition” is a broad strategic goal to focus innovation efforts on.

What leaders and department heads then could do, is innovate in their specific areas.

The department that was in charge of retail stores might focus innovation efforts around “Radically (re)designing the in-store retail experience”.

The IT department could innovate along the lines of “Providing services that are quick and efficient” so that other departments can continue to react quickly to customer needs.

And if it were the HR department, they might innovate around career progression, so as to continue to make the organisation an attractive place to work.  

Consequently, when we work with organisations, we share that for a start, the leadership team is responsible for creating, maintaining and growing a culture that supports innovation efforts. This includes effectively upskilling their employees with innovation tools and techniques.

Leaders and department heads are responsible for setting the strategic direction for innovation efforts. Then, departments and employees are responsible for innovating around products, services, processes and experiences.  

In other words: everyone is responsible, in different ways.  

— END —

This 3-part interview will take you through the innovation process. We begin with discovering opportunities and strengths, how to implement innovation and sustain it to tracking progress and defining success.

To read Part 1, click here

Do hang on for:

Part 3: To be Published


If you’re seeking transformative talent to support your innovation ambitions, reach out to your local Cogs office here.


About Monika

Monika Steimle is an Executive Coach and Purpose Guide for leaders who want to lead with purpose and foster innovative and agile business cultures. Monika is the first True Purpose® Coach in Germany. Prior to starting her own consulting practice, Monika was a human resource and organizational development leader in a leading global digital transformation agency, Publicis Sapient. Her work with Sapient span across three continents and partnered with business leaders to build high performing, values-led leadership teams. Between 2012 to 2016, Monika lived in Singapore where she was responsible for their APAC region.


About Shoba

Shoba is the Chief Innovation Officer of The Entheo Network, where her primary responsibility is to design and deliver solutions that meet the needs of Entheo’s clients, partners and networks. Before striking out on her own, she worked for several years as an in-house innovation consultant at the Ministry of Defence (Singapore) where she and her team introduced policies, systems and structures to enable the organisation to innovate. She is currently a Certified Competent Facilitator (CCF), Scrum Master and CTI trained coach, with almost two decades of experience in the field of innovation and transformation. She formed part of the team to create a book on facilitation called “Collaboration by Design” released late 2017.


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