Top Five Digital Innovation Hacks

The 5 most impactful digital innovations are the least used.

By Mary Mesaglio CIOs, it turns out, are trying out a variety of digital innovation techniques in their organizations — with varying results. The Gartner 2016 CIO Survey of nearly 3,000 CIOs revealed that the least-used digital innovation practices actually correlate to the highest digital return. For example, while agile methodologies receive the bulk of attention from CIOs these days, crowdsourcing will give an organization more bang for its innovative buck. What follow are the five digital innovation hacks that most correlate to digital performance. To boost your organization’s performance, pick one or two of the practices from the list below and adopt a quick win to get started.

  1. Crowdsourcing
The challenge with sourcing a task or challenge to a broad set of contributors via social collaboration is that it’s a different way of working. Organizations need a meaningful problem to solve, a willing community and a platform on which to interact. To get started, begin internally by crowdsourcing a nonessential idea, such as contributions for a meeting format or the holiday party. Over time, internally crowdsource a more challenging problem/idea, such as business opportunities in the Internet of Things (IoT) or optimizing the service desk schedule.
  1. Differentiated Funding
In the near term, create a “slush fund” under the radar for digital innovation projects (Mode 2) to achieve early results before changing existing funding processes. Next, talk to the executive team about sources of risk in the digital age, including the fact that not exploring digital opportunities may be more risky than taking on uncertain-but-important experiments.
  1. Differentiated Metrics
Digital innovation requires measures of value and performance that calculate innovation, speed and agility, not just financial ROI. Yet, it can be challenging to convince executive sponsorship to explore new, possibly risky areas that are important to the enterprise. Try introducing a project or two that are measured solely on cycle time between idea and product launch or how fast you can implement learning. Moving forward, focus less on whether an idea turns out to be valuable but rather on “time to truth” metrics that assess how long it takes to evaluate the true value of a new idea, with real data from real users.
  1. Working With Startups
One way to stimulate innovation and fill technology gaps is to partner with smaller companies, startups, incubators and universities. However, it can be hard to break out of your comfort zone with large, traditional vendors. And it’s hard for smaller vendors to work with your probably time-consuming purchasing and legal processes. For a quick win, source freelancers and experiment with online task-based marketplaces for a small task or project, such as coming up with a new logo or making a basic mobile app prototype. Over time, start networking with startups and building relationships before you need the services. For example, attend a conference focused on startups with no agenda except to see who is doing what and build your roster of relationships before you have a latent need.
  1. Formal Innovation Management
Innovation success often requires building a business discipline that drives repeatable, productive innovation practices. Yet how can organizations gain traction with innovation when the focus is on risk and daily operations? Give new ideas a “home” in the organization. At a minimum, everyone should know where to go with a new idea. What’s necessary in the long run is to foster creativity, experimentation and other new behaviors for innovation to flourish. Try holding creativity workshops, running a rapid prototyping exercise or introducing a “creativity moment” into your staff meeting. It’s important to introduce and cultivate a formal innovation process that engages employees and has some momentum — without making it look like every other corporate process (or you will get a result that looks like every other corporate result). View the interactive guide to The 5 Most Effective and Least Used Digital Innovation Hacks (Mary Mesaglio is vice president and distinguished analyst with the Gartner CIO research team)    


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