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Can Innovation be Standardised?

By Charlie Tuxworth posted 09-27-2019 16:12


Can Innovation be Standardised?

Read time: 2 minutes

Innovation is becoming mainstream, and few would doubt the benefits it can bring to a business (growing revenues, improving efficiencies, & increasing employee engagement, to name a few). It encourages creativity; thinking differently; and throwing off the shackles & constraints of conventional thinking.

However, confusion between Innovation and Idea generation (Ideation) often results in companies warmly embracing tactics such as online ideation; creativity; and design thinking, but with little or no consideration for the alignment of these activities to their overall business strategy & priorities.

Now, to be clear, these ideation techniques are brilliant, they're fun to be involved in, and most importantly they do work. I've seen great results from all these approaches, but I've also seen that - without strategic alignment — the novelty can quickly wear off and when the initial budget runs out, senior commitment to the programme often withers and dies.

It might seem counter-intuitive that the 'creation of the novel' might best be served by the introduction of formal processes and governance - but this month will see the launch of the brand-new ISO 56002: Innovation Management System Guidance.

ISO56002 is a key document in a new series of International Standards that provide organisations with guidelines and processes for managing innovation. More precisely, the ISO56000 series of standards outlines the best practice, procedures, and guidance needed to develop, implement, maintain & continually improve an organisation specific Innovation Management System.

“Innovation is not just ‘big inventions’, it is the capability of an organization to detect and respond to changing conditions in its environment, to respond to new opportunities and to make the most of the resources it already has.”
Alice de Casanove, Chair (ISO Technical Committee) 

In establishing these standards for Innovation, ISO had to address the significant challenge of standardising something quite ethereal, and it was essential that any such standard did not impede the creativity inherent in innovation.

The 43 participating, and 15 observing member countries involved in creating the standards took the sensible approach of laying down best practices for innovation and defining what ‘good looks like’ within a truly innovative business. ISO provide guidance on the key elements needed to make up an Innovation Management System (IMS) and outline how an organisation should go about building and maintaining their IMS.

Simply put, the new series of International Standards does not prescribe an approach to innovation. Instead, it provides a framework for organisations to manage innovation and to get the best out of their ideas.

Only time will tell how many companies will fully align themselves to ISO 56000 (which does sit well alongside other standards such as ISO9001:2015 for Quality Management Systems), but this month’s release will generate much interest and debate around 'doing innovation properly'.

Most importantly, the launch of ISO56002 means we will have a truly global consensus for innovation best practice. This is long overdue and is critical if 'innovation for all' is to move beyond the hype and become a viable, measurable, and most importantly, core business process.

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07-03-2020 08:51

Hi Leah,

I'm not sure if it will help in your scenario, but ISO are working with UNIDO to develop an ISO56002 handbook aimed at supporting SMEs (primarily in Africa) to become more innovative using an approach based around the principles outlined in the standard. it's due to be released before the end of 2020, but I'm not sure how it will be licensed, or if it will be free to certain areas.

ISO56002 is the key document in the series, and if I was to buy one, that would be the one I would choose.

If it's any area of interest I've released a series of blog posts on linkedIn that outline the key aspects of the standard here and a very high level overview 'Introducing ISO56002; here

I'm not sure if I'm permitted to share these links in this forum, so there's a chance this might 'get moderated'!


07-02-2020 13:56

Happened upon this while browsing the site and yes, it is probably interesting, although without buying it, you cannot know for sure. Unfortunately, it is not very useful for the vast majority of companies who are small as the purchase price is a showstopper, especially when you realize your need to buy at least three documents each at 118 CHF. I work with US SBIR companies and for the Government of Thailand helping to stimulate emergence of an innovation based economy, among other NGO and third world projects.  It is unfortunate as these are the very firms that need this kind of guidance most. Large firms can afford to get staff certified as NPDPs and hire consultants. Small developed nation ones, especially start-ups and SMEs in lesser developed countries have less disposable cash.  

I suppose the good news is that this indicates where a market opportunity for PDMA lies. 


11-25-2019 11:59

You're absolutely right Brian - Innovation can certainly happen without these elements in place, but stepping  from 'simply' generating up to embedding innovation as a core business function requires a level of process and formality.

Those leading Innovation in their organisation company should decide if they'd like to receive an occasional pat on the back from the CEO for a good idea, or if they'd like to be known for using a systematic approach to adding value to the business through innovation. If the latter, then I believe an IMS is the only way to go. 
Brian - I have taken my own company through from 'we need to innovate' to an external assessment confirming our 100% alignment to all aspects of ISO56002. If you want to talk through in relation to your own plans, let me know!

11-25-2019 06:13

Thanks Charlie for sharing this. It has motivated me to study the standard with a view to applying it within my own organisation.

On reading the document, I am very impressed with the approach. Firstly, it is not prescriptive and rather describes a sort of "meta framework" for an Innovation Management System. I think that is why officially it calls itself "Guidance" rather than a prescriptive standard to be met.

It includes recommendations like having a defined innovation strategy, ensuring senior management buy-in, regularly taking insights from customers and the market, a defined idea management process and supporting resources to nourish and encourage it. And that the organisation periodically reviews how the innovation management system is working and make improvements from time to time. It is not prescriptive how any of these things should be done.

I doubt many people would take issue with the main tenets of the proposal. Can innovation happen without putting these elements in place? Absolutely. Want to move the needle in terms of generating an innovation culture within your own organisation and don't know how? In my view this is a very good place to start to lay some foundations.

10-08-2019 14:43

Thank you for the insightful article.  ISO standards are a sign of maturity.  Most companies have financial goals tied to their innovation and comparisons using ISO56002 elements could be valuable.

09-27-2019 17:30

Thank you for sharing this.

the other important question I would like to add is, how many companies will adhere to this kind of innovation standard.

For quality standards, it is mandatory for many aspects but I think for innovation standards, each company will recreate its own innovation standard, it will take a global alliance to agree on keeping this as the Bible of innovation guideline.