Making the Most of Innovation Consulting

To transform a business into a successful innovator, management has to understand the need for a structured innovation process, how to execute it effectively, and how to fine-tune it. To get a head start, they can employ Innovation Consultants.

Innovation Consulting firms are not scarce, but you do have to ask why they are consulting. The innovation consulting firm may well have innovated in its service – for example using Skype for consulting delivery – but beyond that they are telling other people how to innovate.

When selecting an innovation consulting firm, it is fundamental that you be persuaded by their own innovation success, and how they make innovation work within their own firm. If you’re not persuaded, then don’t engage them.

Innovation consulting process

The consulting firm will start its assignment with a review (often called an Innovation Audit) It is in itself part of introducing the innovation model – the transformation has started.

Five key areas have to be reviewed: Why, What, How, Who and Where.

  • Why – Why should you innovate? The strategy of your organisation must include innovation. There has to be a clarity why innovation is important to the organisation.
  • What – Strategic innovation portfolio. The products or services must be identified and prioritised. This is standard project appraisal, and may use NPV or market share growth as the criteria for prioritisation. The management would be involved in agreeing these factors.
  • How – The process of innovation. The consulting firm will explain the model, and how it differs from what the business currently does. Gaps will be identified.
  • Who – The work culture. People must be oriented to innovation – they ways in which they interact, whether they operate in ‘silos’, the general level of organisational ‘trust’ – these are some of the dimensions that have to be considered by the consultants.
  • Where – The right resources. Adequate resources must be provided for supporting innovation. If necessary, a mix of outside resources have to be used along with the inside resources. The first external resource is the innovation consulting firm – no surprise there.

The Innovation Audit – Conclusions and Recommendations

A convenient way of presenting conclusions is the Gap Analysis, which illustrates how current operations differ from the ideal Innovation model. There may be no gaps in some areas (for example the company may have adequate cash resources, and the ‘Where’ gap is not an issue). Most often, the ‘Who’ gap is significant, and often given a high priority.

There are specific types of organisation where the ‘Who’ gap can be a particular problem. Without going into details, they are typified by over-focus on structure, or by autocratic management styles. These will make culture change (including structural re-alignment) more challenging.

The Recommendations of the consulting firm will prioritise the areas for actions (to close the gaps), and the changes necessary, ideally with a template action plan. It should also identify the set of measures to be used for measuring the progress of the transformation process.

Moving Forward

By now, concepts of becoming an innovative organisation will be gaining traction. Armed with the report and a template action plan with priorities for the transformation, the detailed work can begin.

Selecting a consulting firm is usually a straightforward business process, but to get the most out of Innovation Consulting:

  • choose the firm carefully, checking them for their own innovation,
  • look at their proposed process for your project which
  • will engage senior management and involve a sample of the broader workforce,
  • provide a practical, structured set of Conclusions and Recommendations with
  • a credible action plan.