Before deciding whether or not an innovation department is a strategic organizational shift for your business, you must define what an innovation department is—and what it is not.
Innovation departments give structure to the innovation cycle with documented processes and dedicated resources. When time, budgets, and incentives are dedicated specifically to innovation, teams are in a better position to harness the power of artificial intelligence. This is essential, as Launchpad.AI predicted in 2018 that “everything invented in the past 150 years will be reinvented using AI within the next 15 years.”
The innovation cycle likely begins with AI-backed research, trend analysis, and predictive analytics. The data and insights uncovered in this stage inform innovation teams’ next steps, from encouraging collaboration to creating a competitive advantage. Strategic oversight can remove internal barriers to cross-team collaboration and allow innovators to gather ideas from multiple stakeholders. Isolating these pieces of the innovation process from other business functions gives teams the ability to create transformational, rather than incremental, technologies.
Having a team dedicated to these tasks can better align these pieces of an innovation strategy with an organization’s intellectual property strategy and overall business strategy.
The Growing Popularity of Innovation Departments
Innovation departments are likely rooted in the much more common R&D department. Their rise can be roughly gauged by the growth of Chief Innovation Officers (almost a third of Fortune 500 companies had one by 2017) and Chief Data Officers.
While innovation departments may have originated from research and development operations, they do not perform the same functions. However, the division between R&D and innovation is different for every company. Some organizations see innovation as a broad process that encompasses R&D, as well as production, marketing, and other elements of an IP strategy. Innovation looks at potential across an entire entity, rather than just its products and technologies.
Do You Need an Innovation Department?
The answer to this question is different for every company. For some, having a team dedicated to the strategic implementation of cross-team collaboration, artificial intelligence, and resulting inventions could boost overall company performance. Others may find that “delegating innovation” simply degrades a flourishing company-wide culture of innovation.