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To Innovate or to be Innovative

Innovation dilemma to innovate or be innovative. Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

In organizations there are many things that you have to execute and some things for which you have to build capability.

Take for example market research, it’s a very important activity for quite a lot of organization. However, rarely do you need to build an organization capability to carry out market research. In a similar vein, you get advertisements designed and executed, you don’t build an advertising capabilities.

In both these examples, you need a few experts or resources, with competencies in that area to execute the requirements. You don’t need organizational capabilities in that area.

Employees need competencies to execute the tasks, do projects and generally be efficient and effective.

However, the organization needs to build organisational capabilities to ensure they are successful time and again.

In most organizations, individual competencies are not representative of the organizational capabilities.

However, there are many other business activities for which there is no clear answer whether you need a few with competencies or do you require organizational capabilities.

We now know that organization requires leadership capabilities not just a few with leadership competencies

Similarly, we know that organization needs continuous improvement capabilities, not just a few with the competencies.

That brings us to the topic of innovation. An organization should differentiate it’s ability to innovate and become innovative.

To innovate or deliver an innovation is the result of an activity or a project and that requires only competencies that are essential for the project or activity. These could be outsourced as well.

For example, the organization discovers that there is an innovative product solution that can be launched with the help of an external design company. It engages the external designers, develops the solution and executes the commercialization. It would have innovated but not become innovative as it has built any organization capabilities.

Similar innovation achievements could also be a result of M & A activity. In these cases the organization has some of the innovation competencies required, leadership capabilities, process capabilities with respect to M&A, commercialization capabilities etc.

On the other hand to become innovative, you need alignment of strategies and goals (ambition), direction (what type of innovation), leadership capabilities, organizational personas, innovation process and competencies. You can read about these in the excellent book by Magnus Penker – Sustainable Growth and Profits.

You could look at your innovation efforts either as a strategic activity – become an innovative organization or as a tactical or project led activity – executing an innovation project. The two require very different approaches;

Executing innovation projects is a tool led approach and we have plenty of tools at our disposal to help you, such as design thinking, 10 types of innovation, jobs-to-be-done, lean start-up, etc.

Building innovation capabilities requires a strategic, longer term outlook and can be more rewarding as you build a sustainable organization. We use the Innovation360 framework developed by Magnus Penker.

While using a tool led approach may be rewarding in the short term of coming up with innovations, long term sustainability requires you to build systematic innovation capabilities

We can help you with deliver innovation using a project approach as well as build innovation capabilities. If you would like to discuss the topic of innovation, do get in touch with me. You can book a free 60 min one on one discussion here:

Krishnan Naganathan

Krishnan is a leading innovation consultant and focuses on helping people and organizations innovate and build capabilities for innovation. He brings over 25 years of experience in the industry and consulting. You can reach him by phone / WhatsApp: +919791033967 or email:


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