Innovation takes an orchestra

In the four years since we launched Sogeti’s Thinkubator for Applied Innovation, we’ve supported dozens of organizations to deliver high-impact innovations in record time. At the start of every engagement, we teach our clients’ teams what’s needed to achieve applied innovation success.

One of the most significant – and common – misconceptions that we come up against is that innovation should be ‘done’ by one dedicated team only.

Effective innovation is never a solo pursuit. Thomas Edison owed his success to a team of engineers working in his California lab. Steve Jobs was emphatic about the importance of hiring people smarter than himself. Meanwhile, business history books are littered with examples of successful companies brought down by the misguided innovation ambitions of their leaders.

Impactful innovation requires a cast of players all performing a distinctive role – just like musicians in an orchestra.

Why is engaging a range of stakeholders important for innovation, and who should you invite to the table?

Instrumental to innovation

Often, enterprises hand responsibility for innovation to a standalone team that’s independent from the wider organization, lacks diversity, or is disconnected from stakeholders.

This is a recipe for poor results. Without a range of voices, innovation falls flat.

If end-users aren’t involved in the innovation process, then the products or services delivered – no matter how technologically impressive – are unlikely to be adopted because they fall short of what users need.

If IT teams aren’t consulted, then innovations are unlikely to be aligned with the organization’s wider tech architecture, and the IT team will struggle to implement and support the innovation.

Then there’s the question of divergent perspectives. If the members of an innovation team surround themselves with people who think like them and share the same concerns as them, then they’re unlikely to challenge their thinking. The potential for new and surprising innovation is stifled, and the team is likely to deliver low-risk, unoriginal innovation that sticks closely to what the organization is already doing.

Symphonic selection

Effective innovation should be a symphony, where key stakeholders are invited to contribute value at the right moment to help create an impactful outcome.

So, who should be involved in your innovation process?

The mix of individuals should change according to your aims for the project and the stage in the innovation process. For example, the stakeholders required in an experimental innovation process will be different than in a project aiming to operationalize a new product or service.

In every instance, your guiding principle should be to bring together those doing innovation with those using the innovation, to ensure a high-quality delivery and that the innovation works. As such, your innovation practice should involve:

  • The business owner with responsibility for the problem that needs solving, who will be measured in terms of the success of the process and the value delivered.
  • End users who best understand the day-to-day problems that you intend to solve, and who can offer feedback throughout the innovation process.
  • IT teams responsible for implementing and maintaining your innovation in line with your organization’s existing systems.
  • A project manager able to bring the right individuals to the table at the right point in the innovation process, including those outside the innovation team. This is especially important in large organizations.
  • External technology experts that understand and can provide insight into what’s possible with the technologies you’re interested in, in terms of technology potential and how technologies will work in the context of your organization.
  • Other necessary stakeholders, depending on the type of project proposed. For example, data-focused innovation projects will require guidance from your data or legal teams. 

Crucially, not all these stakeholders should be involved at every stage. End users, for example, should be interviewed at the very start of the innovation process to give delivery teams a clear understanding of the problem to be solved. During the prototyping stage, they should be asked to give feedback on designs before time is spent on development. Then they should be involved in testing. End users do not need to be involved in ideation, which is a skilled, conceptual process that requires some distance from the actual problem.

Different types of stakeholders will need to be engaged in different ways. End users, for example, are often unable to articulate the problem that they need solving. A skilled innovation practitioner will know what questions to ask to elicit this information or will observe their behavior or seek feedback on a prototype to gather this insight.

Equally important is to think carefully about the number of stakeholders you should involve from each group. For example, we typically invite three to five end users to join the innovation process. This is enough to deliver a rounded view of the problem to be solved, but not enough that feedback becomes distracting and overwhelming. Seeking feedback from five end users is optimal, as this provides 99% of the necessary insight. Adding a sixth end user is unlikely to add significant valuable information.

Music to your ears

Sogeti’s Thinkubator service for applied innovation is designed to help organizations strike a balance between project speed and agility, service adoption and scalability, and delivering real business value.

We support teams to deliver a working, high-quality Minimum Loveable Prototype (MLP) in weeks, through a guided, three-phase innovation process. This way, organizations learn how to innovate effectively by delivering a market-ready innovation at pace.

At the start of the process, we work with business owners to get to the bottom of your innovation challenge and to develop your innovation brief. Then, we document who should be involved in your innovation process – and their responsibilities – at each step.

This way, we ensure you engage the right stakeholders at the right time, to deliver insightful, original, practical and effective innovation.

Think of us as the conductor in your innovation orchestra, who interprets the piece of music (your innovation brief), picks the players (your stakeholder mix) and decides when each contributes their part (management of the innovation process). After all: innovation should be a symphony, not a sonata.


To find out more about Sogeti’s Applied Innovation practice and how our Thinkubator could unlock your innovation ambitions, click to read more or contact us today:

Joleen van der Zwan
Joleen van der Zwan
Global Community Manager, Sogeti