Innovation is ‘Chefsache’

At the end of May I visited a ‘Green Deal’ network meeting in Amersfoort, The Netherlands. The meeting itself wasn’t really interesting, but it was organized at a nice location, I met a number of interesting people during the drinks afterwards and I participated in an entertaining workshop on innovation.

Boardroom. Frech

This workshop dealt with innovation cases, and my conclusion, based on a number of examples mentioned by workshop participants, and a conclusion that was shared with the organiser of the workshop, was: innovation is often positioned too low down in an organisation. To make an innovation process succeed, senior management in all participating organisations needs to be responsible; innovation is ‘Chefsache’.

Innovation means to be off track

For none of the participating parties within a cooperation, innovation is business as usual. Decisions need to be taken during the innovation process contrary to the normal course of action, dealing with major risks or demanding rapid action. Nothing new, and it is easy to acknowledge this and to accordingly agree on a form of project cooperation, for example based on a Green Deal. But the workshop showed that this doesn’t always result in the involvement of managers with adequate decision-making authority.

innovation is chefsache
Photo: Milev

Years ago, under the motto that you must learn from the lessons of your mistakes, I asked a graduate student of Twente University to investigate why projects fail. His thesis “Een goed begin…” (“Well begun is half the work”) resulted in the identification of a comprehensive range of aspects influencing the outcome of an innovation project, and in making these aspects measurable. The chance that a project will fail can be predicted depending on the extent that these determining aspects are organised at the start of a project. And yes, effective decision-making authority within the project participants actually is one of these determining aspects.

Take care whom to blame

The conclusion of the workshop in Amersfoort was that also a ‘Green Deal’-project organized just on the basis of goodwill can easily result in a failed project, maybe even to the surprise of the project participants. After all, effective agreements were made, weren’t they..? Government always is an actor within Green Deal arrangements, and when a project fails due to a governmental agency it is easy to blame this agency. Unjustified, when organising effective decision-making authority within this governmental agency was neglected.

Also published on Wijnand’s personal blog.

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