Benchmarking Innovation Best Practice

This study highlights numerous practices that characterize highly innovative organisations. The research seems to indicate that innovation requires companies to excel along two key dimensions, namely:

1. Hard innovation: which is primarily to do with the company putting in place structures for innovation, such as innovation stage-gate methodologies, suggestion schemes, reward schemes, quantitative goals, organisational systems and procedures for interaction, physical infrastructures and resources to enhance co-operation and collaboration.
2. Soft innovation: which involves proper and effective management of the hard aspects of innovation. The soft aspects include managing the culture and climate of the organisation to create an innovation orientation and positive behaviours. The soft side of innovation requires careful management through sensitive leadership which sets the agenda for innovation and then reinforces the agenda in the behaviours of its people by signalling and reinforcing these behaviours by symbolic as well “hard” resource allocations.

The best practices defined in this research suggest that it is in finding the correct balance between soft and hard actions that innovation success is built. Too often firms stress hard aspects of innovation but neglect addressing the vague but vital soft aspects of innovation. Unfortunately implementing the hard alone yields only partial benefits which plateau after a short period. Long term and full benefits can only be accrued if the hard aspects are complemented by soft actions which provide the underlying dynamic and impetus towards innovation. Indeed it is the soft aspects that ensure that the organisation is innovative in the long term. In the end success is not a question of either or but based on a complement of actions. The identification of so called best practices in this study highlights some of the key issues that need to be addressed to create the soft-hard complement of actions to move towards innovation excellence.

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