Do You Know the Five Best Practices of Innovation Management?

By Michelle Grainger
Innovation management is a field ripe and ready for best practices. That’s been CIMS’ premise since its founding in 1984. Leading innovation management consultant, author and speaker Robert V. Tucker shares the same philosophy, which is why he was invited to keynote CIMS’ recent fall meeting in Raleigh, N.C.

His core message, which he writes about in his books and speaks about in his talks around the globe, is this: There are five things the companies with the best innovation management track records do that other companies do not.

Tucker discussed these practices during his talk. They are:

Embrace the opportunity mindset

The most successful companies turn happy accidents into breakthrough products. Think of Viagra, which was originally intended as a cardiovascular drug. Inventions like the microwave oven, products like NutraSweet and services like Federal Express all came about inadvertently. These innovators recognized the potential value of these products and services and were willing and able to invest in marketing them, Tucker said.

Fortify the idea factory

Yes, happy accidents are wonderful, but they’re not enough. Innovative companies create an environment that encourages employees from across the enterprise—not just those in R&D—to share ideas for products, services or internal systems. Tucker noted that sometimes the best out-of-the box thinking is found in the rank-and-file, or customer-facing, employees, so the executive team should encourage their input.

Collaborate with customers and strategic partners

Tucker likes to tell the story of how Amazon’s Jeff Bezos makes sure every meeting he attends has one empty chair. That chair represents the customer. As Bezos has famously said, “We innovate by starting with the customer and working backwards. That becomes the touchstone for how we invent.” Other companies find that to be true, also. Tucker quoted one employee who responded to a survey this way: “Whether we admit it or not, virtually all innovation comes from the end user, either through a question that sparks an idea or a direct request for something new.”

Cultivate a risk-taking culture

Many top-performing innovative companies think this is best accomplished by appointing a Chief Innovation Officer, according to Tucker. When someone with a high degree of authority is accountable for creating a culture of innovation, employees realize the company is truly invested in breaking new ground, even if it means failing a few times along the way. Also, companies with a single point of accountability for innovation reported higher innovation performance and capabilities compared with their peers at a ration of two to one, according to a 2008 Accenture study that Tucker mentioned.

Involve everyone in the enterprise

Tucker quoted innovation champion Simon Spencer of Borg Warner, who has said, “We’ve got a process for everything else around here—why not innovation?” Indeed, Tucker noted that companies with highly aligned innovation strategies and highly aligned cultures generate 30 percent higher enterprise value growth and 17 percent more profit growth, according to a Booz and Company survey published in the Winter 2011 issue of Strategy + Business.

Want to connect with Robert Tucker or learn more about his books? Visit

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