Exploring Innovation: Make CI Integral

What CI elements strengthen an innovative ecosystem?

How does the intelligence process enhance business and economic development, growth and innovation?

Aurora WDC’s RECONVERGE: G2 post-lunch session on Tuesday, April 19 examined this topic in a presentation by Aurora WDC’s Dr. Craig Fleisher and Rostyk Hursky, of the Sasketchewan Research Council (SRC).

This session covered practices in place at the SRC and discussion regarding ways organizations might develop such a function at their enterprise.

Failure rates of innovation can be high, according to Fleisher, and trying to get them institutionalized are “not an easy task.” The goal is to understand “How do you promote innovation at all levels?” and today’s remarks reveal insights about how intelligence can drive innovation processes and foster higher success rates in innovation.

Intelligence practitioners can facilitate innovation at multiple levels of organizations, and this presentation is the first at which Dr. Fleisher and Hursky reveal their most recent findings.

The agenda:

  1. Explain differing models of structuring innovation: incubators, centers
  2. Identify how intelligence can promote innovation at the organizational, community and regional levels;
  3. Share practical examples of how intelligence groups can imteract and network with others to promote innovation at multiple levels.

Global markets are smartening and increasingly difficult to compete in. Technology has potential for commercialization and Hursky’s organization has defined areas in which they can succeed with innovation.

Sensors and instruments are becoming installed in a myriad of products, and they are changing methods of innovation as well as the nature of the data that is discovered. They accelerate innovation. Surrounding the analytics part of the equation: The fact that data exists does not make it valuable. It must be put into context.

Innovation and entrepreneurship are like a horse race. The horse represents the innovation. The jockey is the entrepreneur, the track is their community—the ground for growth. And the prize is better jobs, successful businesses, and higher quality of life. All of these things must come together for wins.

Data presents a challenge as those in charge of innovations may not understand the value-add of data. Considerations of roles we play in the innovation cycle are important. Incubators can provide a service—but with an end-date. Misunderstandings prevent advancement to “next stages” of innovations. Understanding of gaps is critical.

Dr. Fleisher indicated he and Hursky intentionally failed to defined innovation such that attendees would do so, and furthermore consider what factors at their organizations prevent them from achieving innovation.

How do conference attendees define innovation?

  • Associated with revolutionary change; identification of ways to better serve customers
  • Something that vendors do! (Driven by external partners)
  • Must be profitable, disruptive and provide service competitive advantage
  • Innovation results in increased customer success

What are the obstacles to finding success with innovation?

  • Geographic distance
  • An “I’m in charge” mentality from the company itself
  • Some companies “kill things” before they get started as they strive for perfection
  • Cultural—a reliance on previous inertia and success of the past
  • Lack of agility in the developmental process
  • “Best to market” not “first to market” idea
  • Too reactive in handling day to day problems; this inhibits exploration of new ideas
  • Lack of training in how to innovate—leadership required, for instance
  • Regulatory constraints
  • Customers inhibit progress (government contracts, for example)
  • Most people resist change

Innovation is NOT: Thinking you have a new groundbreaking idea or product when there are actually 10 just like it.

Incremental innovation is not a bad thing, but sometimes it must be more “radical”.

What do we know about innovation?

It is something new perceived by customer or client to increase value as a result of the innovation.


Three dimensions of innovation

  1. Technology
  2. Knowing what is desirable to users
  3. Understanding what is viable in the marketplace

Innovation is invention PLUS commercialization; it cannot be one or the other.

When innovation works well, it is the difference between survival and failure. Jobs are dependent on quality of innovation, and it is essential for prosperity.


What else we know about innovation:

  • Sustaining innovation success over time is difficult
  • People will and do share their unique ideas
  • There are new opportunities not discovered within normal business contexts


Invalid concepts about innovation

  • That innovation can be managed by assigning it to someone
  • A single location “creativity center” fosters broad innovation
  • Research and Development can do it alone or in spite of other functions

**It is important to note that too much money early on in the innovation process will “sink” innovations. Rather, new projects tend to develop in times of shortages and challenge.


Essentials of strategic innovation:

  • Managed at the core of the strategy
  • Cross-functional
  • Core competencies outline linkages
  • Should move organizations from balance to new spaces
  • Stimulate participative management
  • Continuous developments of market foresight
  • Inside-out/open process
  • Balance supply push with demand led requirements
  • Design intelligent systems for ideas: Assess and prioritize
  • Space: Workers need dedicated space (virtual or physical)


What will innovation incubators mean for companies?

  • Those that enable innovation and integrate functions and roles will create internal accelerators; they will become dependent on those who facilitate the intelligence process. Understanding risks and challenges is a gap that has been identified, and can help foster innovation.
  • Intel groups can serve as innovation accelerators, but it starts at the heart of strategy. Mission of accelerators is to strengthen competitiveness of the company.

Benefits for the CI function that fosters innovation are that they will become indispensable as: incubator; creator of new start-ups; generator of spin-offs; developer of SME projects; growth accelerator; animator of clusters; proximity connector; multiplier of public policy; networking hub; opportunity spotter; coach and mentor.

Consider: How might conference attendees move along the practice of innovation? How can you promote this throughout your organization?

Questions for those who contemplate becoming innovators:

  • What do we hope to achieve?
  • How will other entities support and catalyze innovations?
  • Can you create and sustain an innovative culture?
  • What is success—how do we measure “return on innovation”?

“Innovation in and of itself does NOT generate value.” –Dr. Craig Fleisher

Common places to focus efforts on innovation include: Analytics, big data, environment/sustainability, mobility, robotics, virtual reality, and 3D printing.


Consider where you might benefit in the innovation realm. Some examples:

  • Environmental sustainability and technological implications
  • Disruptive innovation: Attempting to track others as their innovations impact your business

Innovation strategies revolve around consumers, technology, business models, and competition.

Innovation leaders will bring together intelligence and innovation with eight factors: Leadership, learning, processes, collaboration, culture, customer focus, dedicated resources, and risk perspective—what is a reasonable amount of risk to take?
These eight attributes comprise the structure for the Innovation Maturity Model.

Various innovation models exist, but some steps and key concepts include: Preparation, ideation—some of this can be from the KITs perspective. The benefit of CI teams in innovation, per Hursky, is that they bring good questions from different perspectives to the table.

Innovation is not just about the product or service, but also about configuration—everything from profit model to network to process. “Post offering” considerations include brand, service, channels, and customer engagement. Companies need to focus on innovating in each of these areas throughout the system: the entire lifecycle of the product.

Bring intelligence ideas to bear on all ten types of innovation. It is important to consider goals, KITs, sources, methods, and deliverables. For example, a network analysis surrounding an innovation can be of great value.

How intelligence process can grow economic gardens

Utilize intelligence to help grow ideas in an innovation role. Hursky has experience with his team driving innovative approaches; in early stages they have started incorporating intelligence as key in innovation strategies. Alliances, networks, entrepreneurial leagues, etc meet to discuss how to continuously grow and evolve environments that allow innovation to flourish. They do not drive things from the policy perspective, but rather from grassroots projects (within schools, for instance) to instill ongoing need for innovation.

Supporting environments all play a role in enabling innovation to occur.

The intelligence function can readily network and communicate such that the right people are in the right place at the right time to innovate. CI can encourage participants to challenge each other. Mentoring and coaching is another opportunity for CI involvement. Training and technological assistance is an area of mentorship at the SRC, and can be a key role for CI entities as they help companies achieve success.

Youth entrepreneurship, too, fosters innovation.

CI pros balance available assets, and asset mapping for innovation becomes critical. Regional capacity for innovation, too, is important as you understand your region’s competitive assets, those assets that can help with new ideas, and identification of resources a region offers to grow innovation.

Do you have success elements at your organization that enable innovation to survive? Consider: Access to capital, environment, networks, training, and youth involvement.

Further, consider what unique perspectives CI can bring to the innovation process, and demonstrate value by applying your strengths in new ways at your organization. Get involved in the development of economic development centers.

Competitive and market intelligence, infrastructure, and connectivity and networks are three roles you can participate in to help various economic garden entities thrive.

How can you benefit economic gardening efforts? And, how can you benefit from them? Consider things like sharing of environmental scans, industry trends reports, global benchmarking and best practices, and market/demographic data.

CI can provide a critical role in fostering innovations; know what you do, and where you can apply your skills along the entire innovation pathway.