Blog – Esther Gons: Governance as key to innovation

Governance is key for company wide innovation

“A lot of organizations I am working with today recognize the innovation rhythm and the difference
between searching and executing. The rhythm of innovation is different and less linear than that of
other corporate processes. Innovation is a search for a business model that we do not know will
work yet, whereas corporates are used to execute on a model that is already proven. The
necessity to start with a framework and some form of process or unique governance for this
innovation, however, is almost always looked upon as being counter intuitive.
Innovation is something that needs free reign, something you cannot control or measure so why
do we need a new process. It is an argument I frequently encounter. Although I agree with the fact
that innovation is not something you can control, it is also not true that it needs to live in a void.

Corporates have processes ingrained in them. Decisions are made by processes and governance
that have long been determined and out there. Sometimes we do not even realize anymore that
these processes throughout the company define culture and way of working. It is what is needed
to scale certain ideas and agreements across a company. Without it, how would people know
what decisions to make and why? Purposely not putting a process or governance in place will
result in people interpreting how to deal with innovation on their own. Most will look to other
processes or governances in place. Reverting back to a process or governance that might not be
relevant is always easier than not knowing how to deal with something. Not creating a common
understanding of innovation will create a void that will only lead to confusion and
misunderstanding. Voids are not possible within an organization. Automatically existing
governance will fill the space even if it is not suited for the occasion.

There needs to be a common understanding of not only why a company is innovating in certain
areas, but also on how to deal with this and with what form of governance, thus creating clarity
rather than confusion. Ensuring a sustainable environment for innovation throughout the company,
with a clear framework and common governance. Aligning this with the business strategy will
make it possible to effectively scale innovation across the entire organization.”

Esther Gons is Founding Partner of NEXT Amsterdam and has over 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur. She is co-author of The Corporate Startup book, which has just won the 2018 Management Book Of The Year Award for Innovation & Entrepreneurship. This is her second blog on our website.

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