In the previous blogs of this series, we discussed the importance of building an Innovation Maturity Model (IMM) that properly addresses each organization’s innovation strategy. In this final blog, we will examine the key role that regular assessments play in the maturation process of organizations leveraging the IMM.

As your organization evolves its innovation capabilities, you must update your maturation plan alongside the changing needs of your business strategy. As you adapt your innovation strategy, you can then shift focus to the next set of success criteria to implement. Conducting regular innovation maturity assessments helps to capture key changes and feedback in a timely manner. This ensures that innovation programs stay on track.

Key elements of innovation maturity assessment

To be effective, the assessment must consider feedback from all relevant stakeholders within an organization. A combination of the following approaches can help you see the full picture:

Pan-organizational survey – A survey that spans the entire organization provides an objective overview of current innovation maturity. It isn’t biased by feedback solely from those with a vested interest in it being seen as a success.  Surveys should target all levels of the business and collate as many different viewpoints as possible. Creating tailored surveys for different target audiences (i.e. senior leadership, innovation team, wider employees, customers) will ensure feedback is as insightful as possible.  Each audience should receive only the questions that it is capable of providing feedback on.  What may not be obvious is that rank file employees’ assessments should focus on leadership support and culture; these must be conducive to taking on the risks of innovation work.

Baseline innovation team and executive interviews – The second assessment phase focuses on those leading innovation efforts within the organization, their views on current success and what they see as future priorities. This includes innovation team members, senior leadership, internal line leads and any other critical stakeholders. For maximum insight, use an interview guide built around IMM exemplifiers to guide the conversation, but leave the interviewer free to deep dive into any key topics that arise.

Exception interviews – In situations where significant conflicts of opinions are apparent between survey respondents and interviewees, or specific survey feedback needs further exploration, exception interviews may be required. You can use these investigative interviews to supplement earlier assessment phases and help to build a more complete picture of the current situation inside an organization.

Post-assessment phases and actionable outcomes

Once you complete the initial assessment, analyze the results alongside existing IMM exemplifiers to identify key strengths and gaps in ongoing activity. This will provide an accurate view of the current state of the innovation program.

The innovation team can then work with senior leadership to co-create an innovation maturation roadmap based on assessment findings and business priorities. This maturation roadmap must be reasonable and actionable, and also achievable over time. Finally, develop a communication plan for the wider organization to keep all employees informed of key changes to innovation strategy and goals going forward.

Even outside of the regular assessment process, you should make innovation maturity improvement part of an ongoing, habitual cycle. Regular informal reviews led by the innovation team, combined with more formal updates at key intervals throughout the year can ensure innovation remains front-of-mind for all employees and a central tenet of successful business strategy at every level.

For organizations struggling to innovate effectively, incorporating an IMM can be the ideal way to bring structure and direction to what can often feel like an overwhelming business challenge.  Cisco created a centralized Innovation Excellence Center to develop their IMM and to conduct maturity assessments as a shared service for the company’s many internal innovation programs.  This small team of highly knowledgeable innovation consultants offer mentoring to the innovation program leaders, and vastly reduce the ambiguity they must face as they lead their programs.  We encourage you to set up similar programs.

This blog series was intended to provide an overview of how to successfully build and implement an IMM within any organization, based on challenges faced and the ultimate innovation goals that need to be achieved.