A 5-Dimensional Model for Managing Innovation through Organizational Change

I’m in the lucky position to run into quite a few business owners, corporate directors and leaders on a daily occasion. And when talking to them about innovation – and their ambitions – it almost always comes down to one simple question: “How can we implement innovation in our organization?”. A question which seems easy to ask, but needs a complicated answer.

In the consulting projects that follow, a range of interviews usually indicate the complexity of the question. Leaders on strategic positions indicate they require business model innovation, marketing personnel indicates they need consumer innovation, tactic level manager indicate they need product innovation, business analysts indicate they need process optimization. Everybody more or less indicates they need a culture change. Stakeholders indicate they would like to see the organization collaborate more. And the truth is: they are all important for organizational change.

With years of experience, and lots of projects to test it on, I’ve created a 5-dimensional model for managing innovation through organizational change: a model that will help answering the question that everybody asks: “How can we implement innovation in our organization?”.

The 5-Dimension model of Innovation through Organizational Change looks as followed:

Click to download a high-resolution version. We also have created specialized versions for i.e. education, healthcare and industry.

So, how did I create this framework? Let’s explain step by step:

First of all, I started by finding a perfect tool for change. The most important factor of change is: the implementation. Because change will only be change when it will be embedded in the daily routine of the organization. A model that is widely used is the PDCA-cycle of Deming: focusing on process change and quality. This will be the basis for our model.

Organizational Change
However, I wasn’t looking for a change as such, but for a model for organizational change. And in the field of innovation, these organizations are so-called ‘learning organizations’: they are open to continuous improvement and change. The best model for that use is the OADI-model, an adaption to the PDCA accredited to MIT Sloan professor Kofman. OADI stands for:

  • Observe
  • Assess
  • Design
  • Implement

This qualitative-research-based and design-oriented approach works well for innovative organizations. Moreover, I combined the model with the learning loop, creating a layered model of redesigning organizations.

There are a wide number of different definitions of innovation. Earlier, I have elaborated on the Ten Types of Innovation model. However, in practice, not all Ten Types are of the same importance to organizational change. In fact, I suggest only 5 different types are to be innovated when starting with a organizational change project. In chronological order.

  1. Innovation of the why (the mission, vision and goals. This one is not in the Ten Types model).
  2. Innovation the business and profit model
  3. Innovation of the (primary) processes
  4. Innovation of the product and product systems
  5. Innovation of the customer experience

These 5 dimensions are chronologically ordered. So, it’s best to start with the first. Moreover, they are also ordered in length: they all follow their own OADI-cycle. Innovation of the why takes much longer than innovation of the customer experience.

However, to start changing these 5 dimensions, innovation needs to be integrated in the preconditions. There are three types of preconditions in innovation:

  • Innovation of the network
  • Innovation of the structure

The first one is often referred to as Open Innovation. The second one, innovation of the structure, is relatively under-exposed in the Ten Types model. In the world of Sociotechnical Organization Design, authors often refer to for aspect of ‘structure’:

  • Innovation of the (formal) structure
  • Innovation of the culture
  • Innovation of the (informal and communication) systems
  • Innovation of the people

These factors can be divided into ‘slow factors’ and ‘fast factors’. For instance: structure, systems and the skills of people are refered to as ‘fast factors’ and the culture, attitude, shared values and stakeholder management are seen as ‘slow factors’ (Camp Matrix).
So, in order to go for innovation through organizational change: both the preconditions and the 5 dimensions need to be taken into account. But there is more.

Managing innovation

Up to now I didn’t talk about ‘managing’ this innovation process. This requires a set of special skills. The model out there is the OECD-model for a creative attitude towards innovation, which includes challenging assumptions, wondering, questioning, exploring, investigating, sticking with difficulty, daring to be different, collaborating, sharing, reflecting, crafting, making connections and using intuition. Not a usual set of skills for a change manager, but definitely the best one for managing innovation through organizational change.

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