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Innovation is not simple. Implementing innovation in your organization is also not simple. There are many challenges around ensuring successful adoption, and in this blog I will be exploring this topic in more detail, as well as inviting you to join our new social learning group so you can learn a lot more about how to successfully adopt innovation in your business.

The Meaning of Innovation

Do a search for “innovation” on the internet, and you will see many and varied definitions. Perhaps the simplest is wikipedia’s: “Innovation is a new idea, device or process”.

There has been a lot of research into innovation, and how to measure it. Despite attempts to measure and standardize what it means, the reality is that innovation and the value of innovation are completely subjective concepts. What is a new, exciting, and valuable innovation to one person might be simply considered an expensive waste of time by somebody else.

This does not only apply at the individual level, but also for organizations. SAP is driving a great deal of innovation in the market: cloud, big data, in-memory computing, the internet of things. And these amazing innovations have captured the imagination of many organizations, who can see incredible benefits from these new technologies. But these are big steps, and not all organizations have a culture which can be comfortable with that level of change: for some organizations a new photocopier is a big innovative step! Innovation and the value of innovation are subjective.

Regardless what the innovation is, in order for it to be a success it must be adopted. Is an innovation still an innovation if it is never utilized? Driving innovation from the top can only succeed if you’re bringing everyone else behind you. If it’s your neck on the block when an innovation needs to be rolled out, having a good understanding the process of adoption is essential. This is where an understanding of the theory can be helpful.

You might recognize the Diffusion of Innovations model by Everett Rogers, where terms like “early adopters” and “laggards” were coined. This is an excellent example of the theory I mentioned, and a basic understanding is very helpful when trying to drive adoption of innovation in your organization. I’m not going to jump into diffusion research in detail here. There is a hyperlink above which provides a good explanation, and if you are particularly interested, there is plenty of research available online. I do, however, want to talk about Rogers’ Diffusion of innovation in very simple terms, so that we have a reference point for later discussion.

Why do some people queue for hours to get the latest gadget, while others are happy to wait? Clearly there is some decision being made by the individual. Rogers describes adoption as a decision-making process, with defined stages. He divides consumers of new technology into five separate groups, and explains that that classification is dependent on those decisions they make to adopt the innovation. So Innovators make their decisions very early – they’re the initial drivers of the spread of innovation. The largest groups are the Early- and Late Majority – those of us who will adopt the innovation after some time, and aren’t necessarily resistant to it. Laggards are the late adopters, who may be actively resistant to the change, and may even never adopt it. Of course, with any new innovation there is a risk of failure, and this is also discussed in the research.

Geoffrey Moore, in his book “Crossing the Chasm” suggests a variation on this diffusion model. For disruptive, non-continuous changes, Moore suggests that there is a large gap (his “chasm”) between the first two adopter groups and the early majority. This is very interesting in the SAP context.

How Does This Apply in the SAP World?

When I looked for a dictionary definition of innovation, I found a couple of very interesting synonyms.  One is “upheaval”. While innovation is often considered a positive term, upheaval normally invokes a lot of negative feeling. Another, “disruption”. Again, this word normally invokes negative feelings, but disruptive technology is often now talked about in positive terms. With regards to the management of change, I see disruption as a positive force. The adoption of a new innovation is a change process, and like any change process, there needs to be some trigger, some reason to change. Disruption can be that trigger.

What Rogers’ research can tell us is that innovation isn’t going to be adopted by all people equally, but that individual decisions to adopt the innovation soon become group acceptance.  But Moore reminds us that the gap between those first adopters and the rest, and therefore mass adoption of the innovation, may well be a big one.

Implementation of an SAP solution is a classic example of a ‘non-continuous disruptive change’ – one where innovation is key and we can identify a start and an end point to the change process. So the idea of different speeds of adoption is very important. Once you get the initial buzz of excitement out of the way, there is likely to be an invisible, but real, barrier to adoption which you will need to address. People drive innovation in business. Employee engagement is a key issue. Innovation is change and like any change process you need change agents.

We’re Taking our own Advice

If you are reading this, you have probably also read the many blogs and posts in SCN that relate to SAP Education’s own innovative new product, SAP Learning Hub. I am particularly excited about the new social learning platform offered within the Learning Hub – our Learning Rooms. We have a wide variety of learning rooms available across the full range of our portfolio, and for almost all of our certifications.

During January, we are going to launch a new variation – an innovation of our own. We will launch a new Learning Room focused on the topic of this blog – Innovation Adoption. So rather than using a Learning Room to learn about SAP products, we want to use a Learning Room to encourage social learning around a key business issue; in this case, ensuring the successful adoption of innovation within your business.

SAP Education have more than 20 years’ experience in helping organizations to drive innovation and increase user adoption.  We can help you find ways to bridge the chasm between your adoption groups  that work for your organization and ensure that your disruptive changes produce the better business outcomes you’re planning.

We will be moderating the content, and will have our own experts  available in the room to answer questions, get involved in discussions, and to post content based on their own experience and expertise. You will have the opportunity to interact with our experts directly, as well as listening to them in live and recorded sessions, discussing some of the topics I have raised in this blog in more detail. The SAP eco-system has a wealth of expertise in this area, and the Learning Room is a superb mechanism which will let us share information and gain some real business benefits.

The Learning Room is now available to register, with some basic introduction information. We will start posting additional content from 27 January, once the live sessions get underway. To access, you will need to complete two simple steps:

  1. Sign up for the SAP Learning Hub Discovery Edition (free of charge). Not sure how?
  2. Book the Learning Room

So I’m very interested to see where you fall on Rogers’ diffusion model. Are you going to be an early adopter of this new innovation? Or a laggard? Remember though that the Learning Room will only be open for about 8 weeks, so don’t be too laggardly…