We’re living in a time of unparalleled change and disruption. Between 2000 and 2015, 52% of Fortune 500 companies were acquired, went bankrupt, or disappeared from the list.
In order to keep ahead of a rapidly changing environment, organizations need to ensure they are meeting and exceeding their customer’s expectations. In my company, Belatrix Software, we decided to formalize this role, as the VP of Innovation. Now this is a role which has been criticized by some commentators, arguing that those organizations which decide to have a chief innovation officer or VP of innovation, merely reflect the fact that other executives in the organization are failing at that activity. However, I take a different perspective, and I sat down with our VP of Innovation, Jose Gramaglia, to get his perspective, and I want to share his insights here.
What does a VP of innovation do?
It’s about creating a unique innovation culture. And the keyword “culture” is important – because it’s about creating an environment where people want to offer new ideas, and can see how an organization can use these ideas to improve their work, build new products, and enhance the overall organization. For example, we have developed an idea generation platform/tool to collect ideas from our employees, and where they can “invest” virtual currency in these ideas – we then look to build a prototype of the most successful ideas in a dedicated hackathon.
Another key aspect of this role is managing Belatrix’s innovation labs. Here I investigate new market spaces where we are not currently involved. Following this investigation, if we decide to proceed, I’m responsible for creating small teams of individuals to research and investigate the new technology areas, with the objective to run pilots and POCs with clients, create best practices and templates, and ultimately launch as standalone services.
With the flood of new technologies, it’s important to experiment with new areas – as the VP of Innovation, it’s critical to work with different areas of the business, and use these insights to decide on which technologies to focus on. What do they mean for our business and our industry? Could a competitor use this technology to put us out of business? If so, how can we best respond?
The difference between innovation and innovation management
There is a fundamental difference between organizations struggling with innovation and those struggling with innovation management. As VP of Innovation, my job is to make sure we’re effective at managing innovation – that we’re constantly focused on creating, selecting, and building upon new ideas. Innovation doesn’t just happen. There needs to be a clear process behind it – from ways to generate fresh ideas, to assessing and reviewing these ideas, to taking them forward and making business changes.
It’s important to note that this is a long-term need. The pace of innovation, particularly in the technology industry is only increasing. So it’s essential to create a managed process to foster and benefit from innovation in the long-term.
Conclusion: The VP of Innovation is a role in constant change
In summary, there are 3 main tasks that a VP of Innovation has: creating an innovation-driven culture; managing the development of new ideas with the aim to create new products and services; and effectively managing the transformation that this involves. What this means is that you have to stay at the forefront of change and try to see the emergence of new dynamics. At what point do you pull the trigger and decide to invest people and resources? It’s a job where you have to love the challenge that constant change presents.