How to Innovate: A Self-Improvement Guide
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How to Innovate: A Self-Improvement Guide

As a firm, Plante Moran has always been interested in innovation. What is it, really? What do we mean when we talk about it? How can we measure and encourage it within the organizations we serve?

A year ago, we set out to answer these questions, resulting in our inaugural Innovation Quotient (IQ) survey. Plante Moran has recently released the results of its second IQ survey, which transforms the results of more than 550 surveyed innovators into a valuable self-improvement guide for the leaders of businesses, not-for-profits, and public sector organizations.

Conducted once again in partnership with NewNorth Center in Holland, Mich., the survey report identifies four tiers of innovators who demonstrate how organizations can move up the innovation ladder and improve their revenue by adopting the proven practices of innovation-driven companies. Those tiers are:

  • Accidental innovators. This group dabbles with innovation; when a unique idea hits and they have a champion to promote it, they propel the idea on to commercialization. Accidental innovators were able to generate 11.1 percent of revenue from new products or services and typically initiate new products, services, or processes in response to comments from customers and constituents or a need to improve quality, rather than from a culture of innovation.
  • Disciplined innovators. This group establishes systems such as cross-functional work teams, budgets, work plans, and inclusion of innovation in their strategic plans. Their innovation ideas are more likely to be driven by strategy, entering new markets, and increasing operational flexibility and capacity. The disciplined innovators generated 15 percent of revenue from new products in the past three years.
  • Top innovators. This group generated 21 percent of their revenue from products or services that were introduced in the last three years. Top innovators embody innovation throughout the organization, starting with corporate strategy, and they had more registered innovation (trademarks, copyrights, and patents) and types of innovation (products, processes, and systems).
  • Superstar innovators. This elite tier adopts deliberate innovation practices, budgets for innovation to meet strategy goals, and publicly rewards ideas that emerge. This select group innovates in all methods — processes, products, and services — with new products/services in the last three years that accounted for 23.3 percent of their revenue.

Bottom line:
when organizations make a deliberate choice to build and nurture innovation, the payoff can be significant.

This year’s survey also asked specific questions of health care, financial, manufacturing, government, education, and not-for-profit institutions. Readers can put the statistical findings of the report into perspective by comparing their own innovation experience with the real-life stories of others in their industry. Among the leaders who tell their stories are:

  • The global sustainability director at business furniture maker Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Mich., and the executive director of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Greater Illinois Regional Chapter, who talk about using innovation to fulfill the missions of their organizations.
  • The presidents of two Indiana banks who discuss the importance of sharing ideas and the need for better products from their software vendors.
  • An innovation consultant from Detroit, Mich., and Barcelona, Spain, who introduces collaboration in innovation ecosystems as a way to assemble the talent and resources needed for breakthrough innovation.
  • The CEO of a senior care provider, with locations in Michigan and Illinois, who addresses the inevitability of change in healthcare.
  • An innovation trainer from Cincinnati, Ohio, who explains the importance of a process that includes rules for when to abandon an idea.

To read the complete survey report, go to If you’re interested, you can also take the survey. You’ll receive a customized report that ranks your opinions on innovation with the four categories of innovators.

Want to Learn More? Check Out Our Recent Webinar

In addition to our survey report, we recently held a webinar, “Become an Innovation Superstar: Double the Return on Your Investment,” which you can access at Learn how top innovators budget and reward staff, whom they depend on for research, and how they handle front-office topics like organizational structure and strategy as well as marketing concepts.

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Jeff Mengel