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Currently viewing the tag: "Continuous Improvement"

Learning n Development

Survival of a business in this digital age largely depends on its ability to timely embrace Digital Transformation.  Digital Transformation entails using Digital Technologies to streamline business processes, culture, and customer experiences.

In order to compete today—and in future—and to enable Digital Transformation, organizations should work towards fostering a culture of continuous learning, since Digital Transformation depends on learning and innovation.  The organizations that holistically embrace this culture are called “Next-Generation Learning Organizations.”

The next generation of Learning Organizations capitalize on the following key variables; Humans, Machines, Timescales, and Scope.  These organizations incorporate technology in enabling dynamic learning.  Creating Next-Generation Learning Organizations demands reorganizing the entire enterprise to accomplish the following key functions to win in future:

  1. Learning on Multiple Timescales
  2. Man and Machine Integration
  3. Expanding the Ecosystem
  4. Continuous Learning

Learning on Multiple Timescales

Next-Generation Learning Organizations make the best use of their time.  They appreciate the objectives that can be realized in the short term and those that take long term to accomplish.  Learning quickly and in the short term is what many organizations are already doing, e.g., by using Artificial Intelligence, algorithms, or dynamic pricing.  Other learning variables that effect an organization gradually are also critical, e.g., changing social attitudes.

Man and Machine Integration

Rather than having people to design and control processes, Next-generation Learning Organizations employ intelligent machines that learn and adjust accordingly.  The role of people in such organizations keeps evolving to supplement intelligent machines.

Expanding the Ecosystem

The Next-generation Learning Organizations incorporate economic activities beyond their boundaries.  These organizations act like platform businesses that facilitate exchanges between consumers and producers by harnessing and creating large networks of users and resources available on demand.  These ecosystems are a valuable source for enhanced learning opportunities, rapid experimentation, access to larger data pools, and a wide network of suppliers.

Continuous Learning

Next-generation Learning Organizations make learning part and parcel of every function and process in their enterprise.  They adapt their vision and strategies based on the changing external environments, competition, and market; and extend learning to everything they do.

With the constantly-evolving technology landscape, organizations will require different capabilities and structures to sustain in future.  A majority of the organizations today are able to operate only in steady business settings.  Transforming these organizations into the Next-Generation Learning Organizations—that are able to effectively traverse the volatile economic environment, competitive landscapes, and unpredictable future—necessitates them to implement these 5 pillars of learning:

  1. Digital Transformation
  2. Human Cognition Improvement
  3. Man and Machine Relationship
  4. Expanded Ecosystems
  5. Management Innovation

1. Digital Transformation

Traditional organizations—that are dependent on structures and human involvement in decision making—use technology to simply execute a predesigned process repeatedly or to gain incremental improvements in their existing processes.  The Next-generation Learning Organizations (NLOs), in contrast, are governed by their aspiration to continuously seek knowledge by leveraging technology.   NLOs implement automation and autonomous decision-making across their businesses to learn at faster timescales.  They design autonomous systems by integrating multiple technologies and learning loops.

2. Human Cognition Improvement

NLOs understand AI’s edge at quickly analyzing correlations in complex data sets and are aware of the inadequacies that AI and machines have in terms of reasoning abilities.  They focus on the unique strengths of human cognition and assign people roles that add value—e.g., understanding causal relationships, drawing causal inference, counterfactual thinking, and creativity.  Design is the center of attention of these organizations and they utilize human imagination and creativity to generate new ideas and produce novel products.

3. Man and Machine Relationship

Next-generation Learning Organizations (NLOs) make the best use of humans and machines combined.  They utilize machines to recognize patterns in complex data and deploy people to decipher causal relationships and spark innovative thinking.  NLOs make humans and machines cooperate in innovative ways, and constantly revisit the deployment of resources, people, and technology on tasks based on their viability.

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A commonly quoted statistic is that 80% to 95% of the cost of a product is determined by its design and is therefore set before the item enters manufacturing. This pic 1 5 Cost Management Strategiesassumption suggests that the dominant focus of Cost Management should be during Product Development and not during Manufacturing.

However, contrary to a widely held assumption, companies can integrate a variety of Cost Management techniques not only in the design phase but throughout the product life cycle.  This is to ensure that there is a substantial reduction in costs.  In fact, companies achieving Operational Excellence and competing aggressively on cost might consider the adoption of some form of an Integrated Cost Management Program that spans the entire product life cycle.

An organization must have a good understanding of Integrated Cost Management and the 5 Cost Management Strategies that they can use to reduce costs but still attain the desired level of functionality and quality at the target costs.

The 5 Cost Management Strategies

 The 5 Cost Management Strategies play a crucial role in the company’s integrated approach to Cost Management.

The 5 Cost Management Strategies can be applied throughout the product life cycle with one technique used during the product design and the rest during manufacturing.

  1. Target Costing. This is a technique applied during the design stage. Target Costing is best used when the manufacturing phase of the life cycle of a product is short.
  1. Product-specific Kaizen Costing. This is a technique applied during the early stages of the manufacturing phase. It enables the rapid redesign of a new product to correct for any cost overruns. The primary rule in Product-specific Kaizen Costing is that the product’s functionality and quality have to remain constant.
  1. General Kaizen Costing. The third Cost Management Strategy, this technique is applied during the manufacturing phase. It focuses on the way a product is manufactured with the assumption that the product’s design is already set.  This technique is effective when addressing manufacturing processes that are used across several product generations.
  1. Functional Group Management. This is the technique that is applied in the production process. Functional Group Management consists of breaking the production process into autonomous groups and treating each group as a profit instead of a cost center. The switch to profit as opposed to cost allows groups to increase the throughput of production processes even if changes result in higher costs. It enables the change in mindset that functional group management induces.
  1. Product Costing. The 5th Cost Management Strategy, this is the technique that coordinates the efforts of the other four techniques. It does coordination work by providing the other four techniques with important, up-to-date information.

Target Costing vis-a-vis Kaizen Costing

Kaizen Costing as known as continuous improvement costing.  It is a method of reducing managing costs. Kaizen Costing has a similarity with Target Costing but it also has its differences.  (Note: Kaizen is the Japanese term for Continuous Improvement and often tied to the philosophy of Lean Management.)

Both Kaizen Costing and Target Costing can achieve results with lower resources. This is basically their similarity. On the other hand, the differences lie in their usage and involvement.

Target Costing is used on the design stage and requires the involvement only of designers. On the other hand, Kaizen Costing is used during the manufacturing stage and requires high involvement of employees.  The general idea of Kaizen Costing is to determine target costs, design products, and process to not exceed those costs.

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Business Process Reengineering (BPR) can be a great success but it can also be a great failure.

After months or years of careful redesign, organizations can achieve dramatic improvements in individual processes.  However, a paradoxical outcome has become almost a commonplace. Organizations suddenly find themselves watching the overall results decline. Process costs were reduced by 34% yet operating income stalls.  Claims process time cut by 44% yet profits drop. It seems that organizations are squandering management attention and other resources on projects that look like winners but fail to produce bottom-line results for the business unit as a whole.

Reengineering can actually deliver revolutionary process improvements and many organizations have been undertaking major reengineering effort.   However, like any major change program, a reengineering project can produce lasting results only if it is designed and implemented the right way.

 Implementing Business Process Reengineering

BPR implementation is a series of waves that can wash over the organization for years, leaving a system for continuous improvement. It must be undertaken with a clean slate approach to process design. Only then can companies avoid a classic reengineering pitfall of focusing on fixing the status quo.

Implementation of the Business Process Reengineering requires that new infrastructures are planned and built to support this Business Transformation. The full commitment of senior executives on its redesign and implementation must also be present to ensure the success of the reengineering project.

It is essential that organizations have a good understanding of the success factors, as well as root causes of failure.  While reengineering projects can succeed, it can also fail.  There are 4 practices that are the most damaging.

The 4 Root Causes of Failure

The root causes of failure remain a challenge for organizations.  These are 4 causes they must watch out for to achieve a successful BPR implementation.

  1.  Assign average performers. This is the tendency of organizations to enlist average performers from headquarters. This often happens because of an existing belief that assigning top performers will affect the business unit’s performance.
  1. Measure only the plan. Measuring only the plan happens when there is a lack of a comprehensive measurement system.  The organization also fails to track whether the implementation is succeeding or failing.
  1. Settle for the status quo. Settling for the status quo is a very deadly decision or reaction. When this happens, aspirations are never translated into reality. There exists the inability to think outside existing skill levels, organizational structure, or system constraints. Further contributing to this is the existence of political infighting on incentives and information technology during implementation. When this exists, often the decision is to maintain a status quo that could be debilitating to the organization.
  1. Overlook communication. During BPR implementation, there is a tendency to overlook communication.  Probably due to a lack of proper understanding, the level of communication is underestimated during implementation. Often, communication is done using memos, speeches, or PR videos.  While these may have its purpose, at times these methods can be limiting.

BPR implementation requires a small group format where employees can give feedback and air their concerns.  This may be time-consuming but it is important. In fact, organizations must create a comprehensive communication program that uses a variety of methods of communication.  When this is undertaken, the chances of succeeding during the BPR implementation is high.

BPR implementation is most crucial.  Hence, organizations must have a keen eye, as well as strong leadership development and commitment, to pursue it despite its challenges. BPR implementation is a series of waves that can wash over the organization for years. Hence, a system of continuous improvement must be in place.

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Companies often know where they want to go when it comes to Strategy Development. Companies want to be more agile, quicker to react, and pic 1 Next-gen Operating Modelmore effective. They want to deliver great customer experience, take advantage of new technologies to cut costs, improve quality and transparency, and build value.

Yet, while most companies are trying to get better, the results tend to fall short. One-off initiatives in separate units do not deliver big enterprise-wide impact. Improvement methods that were adopted almost invariably yield disappointing results.

Senior leaders have a crucial role to take in making things happen. Business Transformation cannot be a siloed effort. A Next-generation Operating Model is essential to break through organizational inertia and trigger step-change improvements.

Understanding the Next-gen Operating Model

Companies need to commit to a Next-gen Operating Model if they want to build value and provide compelling customer experiences at a lower cost.

pic 2 Next-gen Operating Model

  1. Integrated, Organization-wide Operational Improvement Program. This approach is focused on Customer Journeys and distinctive customer experience. The Integrated, Organization-wide Operational Improvement Program is a holistic approach towards how operations can contribute to delivering distinctive customer experience. It cuts across organizational siloes in both customer-facing and end-to-end processes. This approach is a preferred organizing principle. Having multiple independent initiatives within separate organizational groups can deliver incremental gains. However, the overall impact can be underwhelming.
  1. Holistic Customer Journey. This is an approach that makes use of multiple capabilities instead of individual capabilities to achieve greater impact.

The holistic Customer Journey is achieved when the 5 core capabilities are utilized.

Discovering the 5 Core Capabilities

There are 5 core capabilities essential in unlocking the most value in the shortest possible time. Two of the 5 capabilities are Digitization and Advanced Analytics.

Digitization is the process of using tools and technology to improve journeys. It has the capacity to transform customer-facing journeys by creating the potential for self-service. It has the power to reshape time-consuming transactional and manual tasks that are part of internal journeys more so when multiple systems are involved.

Another core capability worth knowing is Advanced Analytics. This is the autonomous processing of data using sophisticated tools to discover insights and make recommendations. It provides intelligence to improve decision making and enhance journeys when nonlinear thinking is required. This is very useful in claims triage, fraud management, and pricing.

There are 3 other core capabilities that are essentially important in these days of Digital Transformation. These are Intelligent Process Automation, Business Process Outsourcing, and Lean Process Design.

Intelligent Process Automation is an emerging set of new technologies that combine fundamental process redesign with process automation and machine learning. It can replace human effort in processes that involve aggregating data from multiple systems taking a piece of information from a written document and entering it as standardized data input.

Business Process Outsourcing works best for processes that are manual. It uses resources outside the main business to complete specific tasks or functions. Back-office processing of documents and correspondence is an example of BPO.

The Lean process Design is one capability that helps companies streamline processes, eliminate waste, and foster a culture of Continuous Improvement. It is considered a versatile methodology as it can be applied in multiple processes.

Organizations can use these capabilities to achieve the greatest impact. The maximum effect, however, can be achieved when specific implementation guiding principles are followed.

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Warehouse 3As the last decisive step in customer service, a warehouse ensures cost effective distribution.  Latest technological innovation has turned warehousing into a competitive advantage.  It offers untapped potential for improvement. However, warehousing is a hugely neglected part of global supply chains.  There is inconsistency in picking, packing and shipping orders, storing receipts, and managing inventory and logistics operations.

These and the following roadblocks in the way of smooth warehousing operations and Lean Management exist in every traditional warehouse:

  • Lack of focus on acquiring technology to facilitate in improving efficiency and quality.
  • Inability to utilize a structured approach to ascertain the reasons for poor performance.
  • Lack of a big picture viewpoint pertaining to processes, costs, or external supply chain partnerships.
  • Absence of a continuous improvement culture to achieve warehouse operations excellence.
  • Lack of communication, organization, and proper training of resources.

These shortcomings call for implementing Lean Warehousing methodology to unlock improvement opportunities and savings in operational, efficiency, and maintenance related costs.  First initiated by Toyota, the Lean Warehousing approach has a deep emphasis on eliminating 3 basic limitations: waste, variability, and inflexibility. The Lean Warehousing methodology focuses on the following 3 improvement areas:

  1. Cost Reduction
  2. Customer Quality
  3. Service Levels

Cost Reduction

The Lean Warehousing methodology concentrates on increasing productivity and reducing operating costs.  This is achieved by:

  • Cutting undue walking and searching
  • Preventing needless replenishment, reworks, waiting times, and double handling
  • Upgrading demand and capacity planning and manpower allocation

Customer Quality

A Lean Warehouse seeks to take the customer quality to the next level by avoiding:

  • Order deviations
  • Picking errors
  • Damaged goods

Service Levels

Improving service levels is at the center of a Lean Warehousing methodology, which involves:

  • Reducing lead times
  • Enhancing on-shelf availability

Lean Warehousing Transformation

Lean Warehousing Transformation entails streamlining operations to identify waste, know how to increase service levels, implement standardization and innovative ideas, and learn to evaluate and manage performance.  Such transformation becomes a reality in an experiential learning environment and by developing organizational capabilities in 3 critical areas:

  1. Operating System
  2. Management Infrastructure
  3. Mindset and Behaviors

Operating System

The organizational capability to configure and optimize all company physical assets and resources to create value and minimize losses.  The focus areas under operating systems include eradicating variability, encouraging flexibility, and promoting end-to-end design.

Management Infrastructure                                                                   

The organizational capability to strengthen formal structures, processes, and systems necessary to manage the operating system to achieve business goals.  The focus areas under Management Infrastructure are performance management, organizational design, capability building, and functional support process.

Mindset and Behaviors

The organizational capability to manage the way people think, feel, and act in the workplace individually as well as collectively.  The target areas to focus on here include a compelling purpose, collaborative execution, up-to-date skills, drive to improve, and committed leadership.

Model Warehouse Implementation

Lean Warehousing Transformation necessitates developing a “Model Warehouse,” which presents facilities for supply chain people to practically experience state-of-the-art warehouse operations in a modern warehouse and shop-floor environment.  The Model Warehouse incorporates newest technology and systems, and offers real-life conditions for building capabilities—i.e., optimization of storage, pick and pack, and dispatch processes.  Newest technologies—e.g., Smart Glasses and HoloLenses—available at the facility help improve the performance of pickers significantly and execute multi-order picking efficiently.

Such a setting allows people to observe and analyze the performance of an exemplary warehouse and implement this knowledge at their own premises.  Leading organizations organize a week-long rigorous knowledge sharing workshop—in an experiential learning environment of a Model Warehouse—for their people to have a hands-on experience to learn Lean Warehousing, actual picking, packing, root cause analysis, and performance management.  The participants of the Model Warehouse Knowledge Sharing Workshop are excellent candidates for “change agents” to implement Lean Transformation.

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design-learn-pattern-247819

Organizations need to persistently improve the way they do business to stay ahead of the curve. New ideas trigger organizational improvement and build the foundation of a Learning Organization.

Scholars have defined a Learning Organization in many different ways. Some suggest it as an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights. Marlene Fiol and Marjorie A. Lyles describe organizational learning as “the process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding.” Barbara Levitt and James G. March define organizations as “Learning Organizations when they encode inferences from history into routines that guide behavior. Chris Argyris categorizes organizational learning as “a process of detecting and correcting error.” According to Peter Senge, “a Learning Organization is a group of people working together collectively to enhance their capacities to create results they care about.”

Being a Learning Organization offers several advantages. A perpetual influx of insights and new experience keeps the organization dynamic and ready for transformation; assists in better management of investments, improves efficiency; and helps in developing cost leadership and differentiation strategies. Learning Organizations tend to be more innovative by encouraging people to learn, develop, and by generating a more innovative environment. Shared learning builds the corporate image of the organization and increases the pace of change within the organization. Learning Organizations provide their people the ability to think insightfully about complex problems, take coordinated action, improve decision making, and instill a sense of community in them.

Despite efforts to improve continuously and creating new knowledge, organizations cannot simply become Learning Organizations. They employ various approaches but what they actually need is to become proficient in translating new knowledge into new ways of doing things, and actively managing the learning process so that it gets ingrained into the organizational culture.

Becoming a Learning Organization necessitates mastering 5 key activities. These 5 activities form the building blocks of a Learning Organization and should be integrated into the organizational core to transform your company into a Learning Organization.

  1. Systematic Problem Solving
  2. Experimentation
  3. Learning from Experience
  4. Learning from Others
  5. Knowledge Transfer
5 Building Blocks of a Learning Org

Applying these practices to some degree or in isolated cases isn’t enough. To ensure continued success, these practices should be complemented by distinct mindsets, support systems, and processes.

Let’s now discuss the first 3 building blocks in detail.

1. Systematic Problem Solving

Systematic problem solving is based on scientific methods for diagnosing problems, e.g., the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) cycle or “hypothesis-generating, hypothesis-testing.” The technique employs fact-based management, relying on concrete data instead of assumptions for making decisions and utilizes statistical tools—such as Pareto charts, histograms, correlation, and cause and effect diagrams—to consolidate data and draw conclusions.

For a real Learning Organization, people need to become more disciplined, pay more attention to detail, assess underlying causes, and analyze data before reaching decisions.

2. Experimentation

Experimentation involves systematic exploration and testing of new knowledge. Experimentation has 2 fundamental configurations; both forms transfer knowledge and yield new insights, capabilities, tools, techniques, and processes:

  1. Ongoing programs
  2. Demonstration Projects

Ongoing Programs

Ongoing programs entails a chain of small experiments aimed at yielding incremental gains in knowledge. These programs maintain a steady flow of new ideas by sending workforce on sabbaticals at different places to learn new work practices and tools from industry and academia, and applying that knowledge to their daily routines. Such programs foster risk taking and a feeling of “benefits of experimentation far outweigh the costs.”

Demonstration Projects

Demonstration projects are one of a kind, large-scale initiatives that include holistic system-wide transformation targeted at a single site. These projects are executed with a goal of developing new organizational capabilities using a “clean slate” approach.

Self-managing, multi-departmental teams; high level of employee autonomy; considerable “learning by doing;” course corrections; implicit policy guidelines, precedents, and decision rules are the key characteristics of demonstration projects.

3. Learning from Experience

Learning Organizations gain valuable knowledge from their past experiences, by doing an exhaustive and systematic appraisal of past successes and failures. However, not too many managers pay attention to past experiences or reflect on those, eventually losing valuable insights. To inculcate a culture of learning, lessons learned should be recorded and made readily accessible to all employees.

A handful of companies have laid out processes for their managers to contemplate on their past actions and incorporate those in their learning. At the core of this approach lies the belief that distinguishes productive failure from unproductive success. Productive failure delivers knowledge and understanding whereas unproductive success goes unnoticed where nobody knows what went well and why. Learning from experience approach isn’t that expensive—case studies and project reviews can be compiled with little cost.

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Over the last decade, companies have made greater strides in retooling their innovation intelligent innovation1engines. Leaner and faster, products are developed from concept and delivered to customers in record time. But even a Ferrari does not know where to drive.

There are plenty of opportunities to enhance execution. Yet, inspiration and insights are increasingly getting to be a challenge for innovation executives. Innovation executives know that a new approach is needed. To boost performance to the next level, executives need to simultaneously loosen and tighten approaches to innovation management. We must start looking outward and opening ourselves to customers, collaborators, and our own creative side. At the same time, we need to tighten it through continuous improvement by attempting to embed an innovation culture to the organization.

Intelligent Innovation is considered a comprehensive approach that can support the next phase of Innovation Performance Improvement. The practice of Intelligent Innovation must complement the strengths of the current control regime to achieve innovative excellence.

Why Intelligent Innovation

Innovation Performance Improvement has been driven by initiatives that are highly analytical, inward-looking, and focused largely on retooling the innovation engine. There are 3 Stages of Performance Improvement. First is Management Control where innovation was treated like any other process and controlled with traditional management techniques. The second is Cost Control where innovation is redesigned to minimize cost. And the third is Profit Control where innovation was managed as projects with each project needing to be profitable in its own right.

Each successive stage built on the previous one. These stages are called “control regimes.” While these have built a critical foundation for future progress, they cannot deliver the desired results on their own.

To boost performance to the next level, Intelligent Innovation must be put in place. Intelligent Innovation completes the 4 Stages of Innovation Performance Improvement.

Intelligent Innovation and its 4 Dimensions

Intelligent Innovation cuts across 4 critical dimensions. It complements the strengths of the current control regime with excellence in 4 dimensions.

1st Dimension: Customer Insight
Customer Insight is considered the most important performance improvement level. It improves customer understanding with regards the evolving needs and critical priorities of customers. It can also increase customer participation in the innovation process.

Understanding what the customers want is important to drive ideation and execution.

According to Henry Ford, “If I’d only listened to customers, I’d have developed faster horses.”

By listening to customers, the more we learn what our customers need or want. And by knowing what our customers want, our organization will be in a better position to uncover tacit priorities that will fuel the most attractive development and innovative options.

2nd Dimension: Global Network
Global Network allows intelligent innovators to leverage dispersed knowledge across the globe. Each site or external partner is integrated into a seamlessly managed innovation network.

By having a Global Innovation Network, our organization will have the impetus to grow faster than its market.

3rd Dimension: Future Foresight
A well-tuned future trends capability can be a powerful strategic and competitive weapon in today’s global environment. It can identify tomorrow’s market opportunities and risks to drive innovation. Detailed and imaginative, this envisions the future competitive environment which better prepares our organization how to approach it.

4th Dimension: Innovation Organization
A critical element of success is the way organizations foster an innovation culture. An Innovation Organization carries within its DNA the intelligent innovation principles – senior management commitment to innovation, knowledge sharing, cross-functional teaming, freedom to pursue ideas, and innovation-friendly incentives. These are all embedded in the organization.

Intelligent innovators must work hard to unlock the innovation potential within the organization and use the tools available to direct organizations to take advantage of market opportunities. With a clear destination in mind, an innovative organization can accelerate its potential to gaining the winning edge when it comes to innovation, customer excellence, and profit.

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