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Transforming Data With Intelligence

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Ten Steps to Creating an Innovation Organization

TDWI offers tips for how to drive innovation with analytics in 2016

Use of analytics has taken the business world by storm. A recent study1 found that “more than 70 percent of firms indicated their company is actively using or has near-term plans to use analytics in everyday decision-making.” The adoption rate is high and continues to accelerate. Yet by some estimates, the rate at which analytics projects fail to meet expectations exceeds 70 percent.

The incongruity of high adoption rate and high failure rate signals a need to rethink analytics motivations and expectations. “Insight” is most commonly stated reason to pursue analytics. However, insight is not enough. Insight not acted upon has no value and will likely be seen as failure. We need to change the goal. Instead of pursuing insight we must use analytics to drive innovation.

Many organizations find innovation intimidating. Unsure about where to begin or how to make innovation happen, they either struggle to innovate or avoid getting started. Innovation is not magic or even elusive. You don’t have to hire a “breakthrough genius” to make it happen. Ordinary people can and do innovate. Put these tips to work to drive innovation in your organization.

  1. The Five I’s – Don’t attempt to leap directly from insight to innovation. Follow the path of insight, ideation, imagination, and inspiration that leads to innovation. Analytics can provide the insight. Ideation, imagination, and inspiration work simultaneously and together to generate both ideas and excitement. The most promising ideas are selected for follow through to innovation.
  2. Innovation Teams – Build, foster, and support teams for innovation. Innovation is not solitary work. It is teamwork and the most effective teams are diverse. They include design thinkers, critical thinkers, systems thinkers, lateral thinkers, and divergent thinkers. As innovation maturity grows, evolve from managed teams to self-directed teams.
  3. Innovator Qualities – Understand, encourage, and develop individual traits that make people good innovators. Two distinct roles—explorer and driver—are both important for innovation teams and each relies on different personal qualities. Explorers pursue new territory. They are curious, willing to experiment, and open to risk taking. Drivers pursue value creation. They rely on empathy to see through the customer’s eyes. They combine collaboration with individual initiative and are tenacious in pursuing their goals.
  4. Innovation Mindset – Foster values and provide incentives to build an innovation mindset in your organization. The innovation mindset changes perception of what matters in work efforts. “Get it right the first time” is replaced with “fail fast and move on.” Similarly, instinct and intuition are valued on par with logic; what-if is as important as proof-of-concept; exploratory is as valuable as decisive; meaning is as important as results; and ambiguity is sometimes better than certainty.
  5. Innovation Processes – Innovation is more than idea generation. Ideas are only the beginning. When selecting ideas to pursue, apply some feasibility criteria to consider practicality, economics, marketability, technology, and legal and ethical constraints. When incubating, testing, adapting, and implementing ideas, rely on the discipline of projects.
  6. Innovation Participants – Various innovation efforts may use different processes and involve different participants. Two common models are corporate initiative innovation and open innovation. Corporate initiative is enterprise innovation where all participants are employees or other stakeholders in the organization. With open innovation, participants are invited and contribute in a manner similar that of open software development. Open innovation may also extend to include crowdsourcing, especially in idea generation activities.
  7. Innovation Purpose – With each innovation effort, know the goals and purpose of innovating. Some common goals include market leadership, outpacing competitors, engaging customers, and improving process efficiencies.
  8. The Innovation Portfolio – Innovation is an investment that takes people, time, and resources. Manage an innovation portfolio to get the most value from the investment by balancing risk and reward levels to with the (International Institute of Analytics n.d.)goals and tolerances of your organization.
  9. Innovation Culture – Innovation culture encompasses the beliefs, values, attitudes, and behaviors that are fundamental to an effective and evolving innovation environment. Foster and promote culture that embraces creativity, collaboration, freedom, playfulness, and agility.
  10. Leadership and Innovation – Innovation is not leaderless freedom. It is guided freedom. Build a strong connection between leadership and innovation. Leaders should both lead to innovate and innovate to lead. Leading to innovate involves removing barriers, nurturing creativity, challenging people, building teams, providing resources, and managing workloads. Innovating to lead changes leadership style to demonstrate innovation by example. Add elements of awareness, playfulness, imagery, storytelling, inquisitiveness, and personalization to your leadership tools and techniques.

About TDWI
For 20 years, TDWI has provided individuals and teams with a comprehensive portfolio of business and technical education and research about all things data. The in-depth, best-practices-based knowledge TDWI offers can be quickly applied to develop world-class talent across your organization’s business and IT functions to enhance analytical, data-driven decision making and performance. TDWI is hosting a conference January 31 to February 5 that will delve into the topic of innovation. To learn more visit:

Media Contact:
Meighan Berberich, TDWI
[email protected]; (425) 277-9139