For Part 2 go here. For Part 1 go here.
The Innovation Task Force of the Wisconsin Society of Association Executives (which I chair), is trying to develop an assessment tool for association executives to use in determining the "innovation readiness" of their associations. As part of our effort to develop an evidence-based model of innovation for the association community, we want to provide a way for associations to determine where they are on the continuum of innovative practice, and plug them into a set of proven strategies tailored for their own position.
Our draft tool consists of three questions. The first, discussed in Part 1 of this post, is "Does your leadership embrace innovation as one of the strategies necessary to achieve your goals?" If you can confidently answer "yes" to that question, you get to move onto the second question, discussed in Part 2, which is "Do you have a defined process for how innovation will function in your association?" If you've got both the culture for innovation and a defined process for how it will occur, you're ready for the third question:
Is that process working?
A simple question, but perhaps the toughest of the three to answer in the affirmative. This is where the innovation rubber really hits the road. Like all successful business processes, innovation does not happen without the appropriate resources to support it. As we observed in the for-profit case studies we examined, successful innovation meant, among other things:
1. Time in employee schedules for engagement in the innovation process;
2. Money allocated in the necessary budgets to allow the process to move forward and to capitalize on the ideas it generated; and
3. Management personnel that were in place to oversee the process and make sure it ran effectively.
There are certainly other factors that may keep an innovation process from working, but these three are among the first to look at if you're having difficulty. And if your process is suffering, then give your association a "readiness score" of "3". You've got the necessary culture, and you've defined a process, but something isn't working as effectively as it should. If that describes you, then we'd like to hear about your challenges and work with you to identify the strategies that can help your association and associations like yours to overcome them.
Please comment if you'd like to get plugged into our process.