The virtuous circle of innovation management

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One of the many benefits of ISO’s new standard on innovation management is that it delivers across the board, keeping businesses of all sizes agile, adaptable and resilient enough to cope with today’s challenges. Here, experts from two companies –one big, one small – explain why ISO 56002 is a key driver of sustainable growth and value.

Where would we be without innovation? It’s not something we spend our time mulling over, but without innovations such as, among many others, the printing press, the humble light bulb, clocks and telephones – not to mention, of course, the wheel, that got the whole thing rolling – we would still be living in the dark ages.

Fast-forward to today and where would we be without the slim metallic device that slides easily into a back pocket or sits snugly in the palm of the hand. It not only connects us with each other but also to the Internet and a world of information? According to cell phone trade-in site bankmycell, 3.5 billion people use a smartphone today. Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who transformed the company into a world leader in telecommunications, led the way with the iPhone, which is still one of the most popular and sought-after smartphones today.

Jobs, along with the likes of Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk, is among the roll call of top innovators who have become household names. People renowned for their vision, creativity and single-mindedness in pushing boundaries to achieve their goals. As in many other fields, success doesn’t come overnight. Jobs had a bumpy time at Apple and it took 18 years before Musk’s company SpaceX achieved his goal of launching astronauts into space in 2020. In doing so, SpaceX has become the first private company to launch astronauts for NASA and set a new trajectory for space travel and exploration.

3D printer in the process of printing a square-shaped metal-looking grid.

Fast track to digital

Innovations have fast-tracked us through three industrial revolutions to the current digital age, the era of the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. Artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum computing machine learning, 3D printing, etc. are all words in common usage now, even if we’re not exactly clear on what they mean. And a recent review in the Financial Times of a book, The Future Is Faster Than You Think, by Peter H. Diamandis and Steve Kotler, points out that the authors believe this convergence of technologies promises even greater breakthroughs. In fact, according to them, we have only just begun. This new technology has led to sometimes extraordinary innovations in health and healthcare. For instance, Diamandis and Kotler write about an astronaut on the International Space Station in 2018 who was able to fix his broken finger by creating a splint with the help of a 3D printer.

Returning to earth, however, it is worth bearing in mind that for every brilliant idea, there are many more that do not see the light of day. The Steve Jobs and Elon Musks of this world are trailblazers, natural showmen and disruptors who shine bright and use their flamboyant insouciance to sell their products. Every large business started small and there are many start-up companies today quietly going about their business and using innovations and, more specifically, innovation management systems to successfully transform their business and business models – and, at the same time, make a positive impact on our lives.

An organization can innovate more effectively and efficiently if all necessary activities and other interrelated or interacting elements are managed as a system.

Coping with existential threats

In our fast-changing and ever more interconnected world, where economies are vulnerable to existential threats such as climate change, few companies, big or small, can afford to stand still and stick to a business-as-usual model. But is innovation something you can learn? And what do you need to turn bright ideas into reality and make big new things happen? Just how do you manage innovation in your company or business? ISO 56002 can provide some of the answers and is a good place to start.

Top section of three telecommunication cell towers viewed against blue skies.

ISO 56002:2019 is a new management system standard that focuses on innovation. It states: “An organization can innovate more effectively and efficiently if all necessary activities and other interrelated or interacting elements are managed as a system.” According to a blog published by the American National Standards Institute, the ISO member for the USA: “An innovation management system can aid any organization in determining its vision, strategy and objectives in relation to innovation. It can also set the support and processes that help an organization reach its intended outcomes.” The blog goes on to say that ISO 56002 is beneficial to any organization, “regardless of type, sector or size”, in helping to “establish, implement, maintain, and continually improve, an innovation management system”.

As we see, one of the great bonuses of ISO 56002 is that it is applicable to any size of business, from the smallest to the biggest. Let’s start with a big company, Sony Mobile. Johan Grundström Eriksson has first-hand experience of how the standard is applied. He is Deputy Head of Management System & Audits, Corporate Strategy, at Sony Mobile, and also technical committee member of ISO/TC 279, Innovation management. His perspective is particularly valuable as he has been working with innovation management and management systems for 20 years, first in the food business and then in the telecom sector. The latter sector especially has been, as he says, an “extremely high-paced and volatile industry for a long time and changed with each technology shift going into 2G, 3G, 4G and now 5G”.

Close view of a crowd of people recording video with their cell phones at night.

Seeds of success

He explains that Sony Mobile, as part of the wider Sony Corporation (whose first product in 1958 was an electric rice-cooker), draws on leading international innovation in engineering and designing audio, video, gaming and communications to keep its products at the cutting edge. Innovation, he says, is what eventually defines your sustainable long-term success and the survival of any business. “Innovation is the source of your future mission, your products and services and your answer to sustainable growth – regardless of whether your offering to your customers is provided with internal resources, as a collaboration, outsourced to partners or provided through an acquisition.”

Eriksson points out that innovation is also crucial to non-commercial and public organizations and needs to be introduced and balanced against the current mission and needs of the organization as well as future needs and upcoming changes. “This is valid for any hospital, municipality, at city level as well as in NGOs,” he says. Indeed, innovation is crucial to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). For instance, SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure – acknowledges that investment in infrastructure and innovation is critical to driving economic growth. Eriksson says we will see much more collaboration to solve societal needs across public and private sector and “there will be business opportunities in saving the world by refurbishing it in greener ways and providing the clean technology to make this happen.”

According to Eriksson, Sony Mobile’s take-up of the innovation management system hails from the launch of smartphones in 2007-2008, when it needed to rebuild its business structures and management systems during the 3G and 4G era to support the transition from the previous feature phones. He was asked to make sure Sony Mobile’s business management system would also support innovation management, to get ready for the next technology shift to 5G and to innovate beyond the current smartphone business. “At the time,” he says, “there was no clear guidance or global standards available, so in 2014 I got engaged as a Swedish expert through the Swedish Standards Institute, ISO’s member for Sweden, to participate as a delegate in the ISO/TC 279 working group that has successfully created the newly published ISO 56002 innovation management system standard.”

How do you manage innovation in your company or business? ISO 56002 can provide some of the answers and is a good place to start.

Committed leadership

From 2014 to 2020, Eriksson says the emerging innovation management system standard has inspired Sony at different levels, in different organizations and across continents. “The emerging standard has provided early upfront insights, concepts and recommendations to be inspired by, experimented with and tried out, to feed back the learnings in iterations several years ahead of the publication, which has provided both a robust maturity as well as a greater flexibility in how to best use the new structures put in place.”

Through a committed leadership engagement in the new ideas and involvement in the progress of new opportunities, combined with resources balanced to authorize appropriate levels of investment, operating budgets and adaptation of the ways of working, there has been a systematic and iterative adaptation and improvement of how to work to fulfil the objectives at hand, to both become as effective as possible and abide by all the existing legislations to consider new market and customer requirements as well as all the internal rules to comply with.

He goes on to point out another novel selling point for ISO 56002, the recent announcement of the global partnership between Sony and UNOPS (the United Nations Office for Project Services) in the pursuit of innovation towards societal goals. “The systematic improvements of innovation capability,” he says, “have enabled common structures for the Sony Startup Acceleration Program at the corporate level in Tokyo and in Europe, which have now become the innovation management system infrastructure for Sony’s partnership with UNOPS to collaborate across organizations in pursuing sustainable innovation.”

Group of four young people working together on a computer in an office environment.
Low-angle shot of a white-metal telephone communication tower with spiral staircase, photographed against the blue sky.

Investing In Innovation

Of course, all big companies start small (Sony started life after the Second World War as an electronics shop in a Tokyo department store). ADOX is a small research and product development company in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a staff of about 60. Despite its size, Gonzalo Viqueira, who is in charge of strategic planning and whose father, Javier Viqueira, started the business, says: “We are a company with social commitment and international presence, defined by our agility and by developing innovation in solutions.” For more than 20 years, ADOX has been working in Argentina to develop “a solid but dynamic industry that is at the service of people’s quality of life, betting at all times on the training of our staff and investing in innovation and technological development”.

He says that ADOX has reaffirmed its commitment to the country by opening a model plant with the highest technology for the development of new technologies, manufacturing of equipment and medical supplies, complying with the highest International Standards and thus generating new sources of work.

Viqueira is not only committed to innovation but has also been an enthusiastic promoter of the use of standards within industry. “Our work is fully comparable with International Standards,” he says. “At ADOX, we work under ISO standards and we have the endorsement of ANMAT (the National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices), along with INTI (National Industrial Technology Institute) and ADIMRA Centros Tecnológicos (Technological Centres of the Metallurgical Industries Chamber). ADOX has the best relation between quality and price. We provide the efficient response of the technical service, training for the client in the correct use of equipment, and the low price of spare parts guarantees the highest quality at the lowest operating cost.”

Efficient framework

For ADOX, ISO 56002 has enabled the company to use all this creativity in a way that can result in a successful project. Viqueira says: “We developed guidelines, special teams and KPIs. Those are very helpful tools because lots of great ideas and initiatives tend to become missed opportunities if the organization does not provide the structure to follow them to fruition.” He has high, and seemingly boundless, hopes for standards such as ISO 56002 on innovation management. “We would like to see innovation systems extend to more industries (even those that are not traditionally associated with innovation) and also encourage collaborative projects between companies, both public and private,” he says. “I think that using ISO 56002 as an efficient framework could help alleviate the fears some companies may have when facing joint projects.”

In a report published by the World Economic Forum in 2015, Collaborative Innovation: Transforming Business, Driving Growth, Mark Esposito, Professor of Business and Economics, Harvard University Extension School and Grenoble École de Management, says: “Anchored in solid foundations of intrapreneurship, collaborative innovation is the engine of modern, agile organizations capable of creating new capacity, which can pioneer radical new ideas while testing the limits of markets. A true best friend for growth.”

For Viqueira, managing innovation is key. In our new digital age, the nature of work is evolving and changing as rapidly as the technology and increasing the complexity of talent management. “As people get used to working on projects that are very different from their day-to-day work, we see creativity flourish along with a deeper and broader understanding of our products and users. It is a virtuous circle.”

Eriksson sums up by saying: “Whether you decide to apply innovation from an internal motivation to create business efficiency, to build a culture of creativity, to increase your chances of survival or just be inspired by the innovation management principles, get started at any pace or in any order. If you dig into the guidance provided in ISO 56002 and get going at the right levels, you will soon see that the organization creates the ability to influence the future revenue sources and, by managing your innovation, you can change your innovation direction towards where the future is brighter.”

Electric blue UV column that combines ultraviolet germicidal radiation with personalized programming for the disinfection of hospital environments.

ADOX is developing a UV column that combines ultraviolet germicidal radiation with personalized programming for the disinfection of hospital environments.

ISOfocus Septiembre/Octubre 2020

Innovation generation

All industries have to continually innovate, whether its technology or retail. But how? Look no further than this edition of ISOfocus for more.

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Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Editor-in-Chief of ISOfocus