It is important to dispel the myth that innovation is something magic
and therefore can not be managed. However, to be able to manage
innovation, a systemic approach is required. It has to include the
process, culture and underlying systems and structures within the
The Australian Business Excellence Framework is a proven framework that
outlines "best practise" within the field of contemporary
management. It is based on 10 Principles which represent the core of
sustainable business excellence:
- Effective leaders provide direction and create a supportive
- Effective organisations are plan driven rather than event driven
- Organisations benefit from decisions and actions based on facts and
- All systems and processes exhibit variability, which impacts on
predictability and costs
- All people work in a system; improvement happens when people also
work on the system
- The most important resource of any organisation is people –
especially their creativity and knowledge
- Continual improvement relies on continuous learning
- Quality is determined by the customer
- In order to improve the output, improve the process
- Impact on the community and the environment are key influencers of
The ABEF challenges an organisation to think and question the
assumptions they are using to run the organisation. It provides guidance
as to what the organisation should consider, but it is not prescriptive
about how these things should be done.
The ABEF consists of seven interlinked categories as shown below:
Leadership and Innovation
The leaders of the organisation have to determine the strategic
direction of the organisation and what role innovation is going to play.
It requires the leaders to understand what types of innovation are
desired, how they link with the strategic plans and how to create a
supporting culture which enables the intention to be carried out. Leaders
have to be able to communicate what areas require new ideas to ensure the
creative energy is focused on areas that matter to the organisation. It is
further vital that organisational values enable innovation. These values
have to be agreed, communicated, role-modelled and reinforced. Sharing the
vision, direction and living the values are extremely important since,
studies into innovation have highlighted that one of the keys to
innovation is that people feel aligned and committed to the organisation
and its goals.
Leadership throughout the organisation is crucial for innovation to
occur. It is therefore important for the organisation to ensure all
systems support the overall strategy and that individuals are empowered to
make decisions and use their creative ability within a defined context.
Research suggests that management should keep administration power (eg
approving where to allocate funds), but ensure employees have a high
degree of empowerment in relation to execution of a project.
Strategy and Planning Process
The organisation has to understand its environment to be able to focus
its innovation effort. The ABEF requires the organisation to focus on
understanding its business environment and to use this understanding to
feed the planning process.
The ABEF requires the organisation to have a planning process which
turns strategic imperatives into actionable plans. This includes
developing directions for the innovation process and portfolio management
process. The outcomes of the planning processes have to be communicated to
ensure people know where to focus their creative efforts. The ABEF further
requires the organisation to review how it manages its resources and
assets with a focus on increasing its value into the future.
Commercialisation of the intellectual property is a vital aspect of this
part of the ABEF.
Data, Information and Knowledge
Use of data, information and knowledge is critical to the success of
the innovation process. It impacts how the organisation focuses the
collective creative effort. It is also vital for progressing any
initiative through the innovation process. There is a famous quote from
Edward de Bono that creativity has never harmed an organisation, but bad
judgement has. This category is about ensuring the organisation is clever
in its way of applying judgement through collecting relevant data and
turning it into information and knowledge.
The organisation needs to decide what data it requires to assess
projects as it passes through the gates in the innovation process. It will
also need to define how this data is going to used as part of the decision
making process. The same issues are true for how data will be used as part
of the portfolio management process.
An innovative organisation is always changing and as a result needs
people with a systemic view that can progress innovative initiatives in
the best interest of its stakeholders.
This article is an edited extract from a paper submitted to the Australian Innovation Summit.
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