Innovation is vital to an organization’s growth. In fact, at least half of that growth can usually be attributed to innovation projects that the organization initiates.

Now, the start of the growth development may not be that complicated as you simply have to collect innovative ideas, allocate resources, appoint project managers that will handle the innovative projects, and maybe organize one or two innovation challenges.

What comes next? Which projects have the greatest benefit and which ones should you implement first?

Chances are, you will have to make a selection, since the means and resources are limited. This is one reason why innovation maturity models were developed — to guide organizations through their development phase, step by step.

What is an innovation maturity model?

The innovation maturity model is based on Gartner’s maturity model for innovation management. Its sole purpose is to educate organizations on the levels of innovation management and the capabilities they need to succeed.

It also comes with its own assessment, which helps organizations determine the status of their innovation initiatives, their performance at each level, and what they need to do to move to higher levels of innovation capability.

The innovation maturity level is also closely related to the innovation framework, which shows how you can implement a sustainable innovation system within your organization.

Focus on building an innovation engine

The Levels of Innovation Maturity

Remember that learning more about each level would help you determine which level your organization currently is and what development steps you need to take in order to raise your maturity level.

Here are the four levels of innovation maturity:

Level 1: Initiated

In the first level, there is already innovation taking place. However, it’s usually ad hoc and is completely driven by questions and feedback from customers and/or employees. During this level, most of the employees don’t know much about innovation.

This level can also be called “reactive” since innovation only happens when innovators within the organization react to individual opportunities. Innovation only happens when teams or departments face business problems and need to innovate to solve them.

In short, innovation happens in response to immediate business needs or market pressure and is often driven by personality or role.

Because the processes of innovation here are only in response to certain stimuli, this approach is inconsistent and centered only around narrow issues. Most efforts come from volunteers only, which means there’s no real structured innovation process like idea management.

To progress to level 2, you need to implement certain improvements including:

  • Actively seeking out innovation opportunities
  • Creating opportunities to collect innovative ideas (instead of simply reacting to problems)
  • Listing out potential influential executive that could sponsor the innovation efforts
  • Identifying leaders with innovation management skills that could start an innovation culture within the organization

Level 2: Defined

At this maturity level, ideas are actively being collected. However, innovation processes or procedures are still absent or are still not fully defined. Some elements of the innovation framework, though incomplete, are already in motion.

As for an innovation culture, employees already know about innovation, including the roles and responsibilities that come with it. Be that as it may, the problem here is that those roles and responsibilities are not yet assigned to anyone and aren’t given much priority.

If the first level is driven by needs and ad hoc processes, in this second level, teams and business units already have good practices. But there are no organization-wide standards or processes yet that are in place.

Even if innovation is valued at this level, it’s being obstructed by leadership gaps and barriers. This is the reason why even if the need for innovation processes is recognized, not everything has been accurately formalized yet.

To progress to level 3, your organization must implement the following improvements:

  • Implementing innovation processes to get the innovation engine running
  • Formalizing innovation management to drive collaboration and knowledge sharing within the organization
  • Weaving innovation into the business strategy and culture by leaders
  • Establishing a dedicated innovation team for innovation management

Level 3: Managed

Achieving the third maturity level is already an accomplishment. Here, the whole innovation process is being actively managed from a roadmap. Almost all parts of the innovation framework are being implemented and working seamlessly, to a certain extent.

Innovation in maturity level 3 is formalized across the organization with the intent of developing an enduring engine focused on strategic goals.

Innovation Maturity Level 3: Managed

Innovation is being understood and supported including the roles and responsibilities, and are already assigned to various people.

Ideation and other processes are also improved. In fact, creative tools and techniques are present at this stage like idea management platforms and innovation software to help stimulate and manage innovative ideas and solutions.

This innovation maturity level is already quite sustainable. Even customer and partner innovation are being formalized, with key sponsors and leaders in place. The defined processes in place here could endure even disruptive changes in the industry.

To progress to the final level, your organization could implement improvements including:

  • Facilitating organization-level funding and should be the goal of innovation managers (instead of relying on local funding or team-by-team budget)
  • Optimizing innovation governance, processes, and infrastructure even further
  • Developing a standing annual budget for ongoing funding of innovation initiatives

Level 4: Optimized

In the last maturity level, the business roadmap is the driving force behind all the strategic planning, project management, and innovation. All the parts in the innovation framework are being implemented and have gone through lots of iterations of improvement.

When it comes to the strategy and intent, there is an organization-level commitment here for innovation, with a well-defined strategy and focus. The efficient practices and processes in place, together with high participation and performance, ensure innovation results.

In terms of innovation culture, roles and responsibilities are clear and self-evident for everyone. Everyone is given opportunities to participate in innovation, with support from experienced innovators. Innovation is a top-of-mind issue for executive leaders.

Because of the improvements made by the organization to progress to level four, permanent funding enables managed support and infrastructure for innovation teams. There are open innovation, co-development, and social practices done to drive and enhance innovation.

Improving Your Innovation Maturity

Now that you know the different innovation maturity levels and the improvements to implement to move from one level to another, it’s time to discuss the specific steps to improve your innovation maturity. The following are what you could do to get started with the development:

1. Find Out Your Current Level

To get started, you must first determine your organization’s current innovation maturity level. The problem here is that some organizations refuse to acknowledge the truth. To make this work, there must be brutal honesty when it comes to determining your current level.

The evaluation is usually carried out by means of an assessment, like a questionnaire. For example, you can use the innovation maturity quick scan tool by Creatieve Koppen.

Innovation Maturity Quick Scan Tool by Creatieve Koppen

One factor to consider to be able to correctly assess your current level is to have as many employees as possible from different levels to take the assessment. This way, you gain extensive insight and reveal discrepancies from different employee levels.

2. Determine Where You Want to Go

The next step is to determine which maturity level you want to achieve. It’s also important to set a timeline here on when you want to achieve this. Although you could set a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) here, you must be realistic and smart with your short-term goals.

Logically, in the short-term, you will be aiming towards the next goal, which is why you must do all that you can in the first step to accurately determine your organization’s maturity level. In the long run, you will want to aim for either the third or fourth maturity level.

3. Identify the Gap

After determining your organization’s current maturity level and where you want to go next, it’s time to identify the development points you need to get to the next level. See the gaps from your current level with the next level.

In this step, you can refer to the earlier section on what improvements you need to take to get to the next level. The information you gain from the assessment you made in the first step will play a large role here as you identify all the gaps.

4. Plan of Action

Finally, after determining the gaps between your current level and where you should go next, it’s time to place all your plans in a logical order. You must also take into account the right priorities as well as your organization’s means and resources.

Work with your innovation managers and senior stakeholders and determine the right order of steps to take. Once everything is in place, all you need to do is implement and manage them and watch out for unseen circumstances.

Successfully Work With a Maturity Model

Performing the right assessment and being completely honest with it will allow you to see a clear picture of your organization’s maturity level, and see which parts of your innovation engine are the weakest.

The good thing here is that determining your maturity level will also allow you to see how you can improve, which projects to prioritize, and focus on aspects that are lagging behind. As these elements are improved, the innovation process also gets better.

Next steps: Working with a maturity level doesn’t have to be that complicated. As you have read earlier, there are tools out there like the assessment questionnaire from Creatieve Koppen that would allow you to scan your organization’s maturity level.

However, it may take a lot of time and resources on your part as you move along different maturity levels especially without help. Fortunately, you can always tap into Accept Mission’s consultancy services that include innovation strategy and program implementation.

Learn more about Accept Mission’s innovation consultancy services.