Improving Innovation Decision Making

A New Approach to Identifying, Evaluating, and Selecting Innovations for Leaders in Agriculture, Health and Other Critical Sectors

How might we enhance organizations’ ability to make innovation decisions?

Challenge

Getting from challenge to impact is almost always a story of innovation: building from what is known and available, and daring to act differently to achieve positive change.  For AGRA (an African-led Agriculture Alliance), positive change means achieving the goal of reducing post harvest food loss by 50% in Tanzania by 2050.  AGRA realizes that a solution to this challenge isn’t found through a linear, easy journey.  Rather, the road to innovation is often messy, confusing, and characterized by moments of success followed by failures.  More times than not, this journey requires practitioners to make a series of tough decisions, often with insufficient information and amidst complex factors.  The importance  of these decisions — where creative ideas are sourced, how options are weighed, who engages in the process — can heavily  impact the intended outcomes.  Recognizing the imperative of learning to navigate the problem-solving journey, AGRA engaged GKI in helping practitioners to unpack and refine the decision making process that underpins improved innovation outcomes.

Solution

Working in close collaboration with AGRA through our work as the Innovation Partner on the Yieldwise Initiative, GKI launched an Improved Innovation Decision Making (IIDM) Toolset. The IIDM Toolset is designed as a guide for organizations and individuals seeking to build the capacity of problem solvers to innovate and collaborate more effectively. The Toolset addresses two key components: (1) cultivating an innovator’s mindset, and (2) improving the processes that support decision making along the journey from idea to impact.  GKI asserts that both of these ingredients are vital for decision making to yield improved innovation.  The Toolset offers users practical approaches that map to each of the 6 stages of decision making, including adopting the right mindset, generating insights, reframing challenges, developing and testing new ideas, and determining a course of action.

Technology adoption amongst farmers isn’t low because farmers don’t understand technology, but because farmers haven’t been consulted in the design process and the technology might not meet their needs. These [IIDM processes] are helpful for an inclusive conversation on design.
– Elizabeth Maeda PhD, Tanzania Course Participant

Since the toolset’s launch, GKI has run eight in-person and online innovation decision-making trainings for approximately 215 key actors in the U.S. and Tanzania, with demand growing.   Additionally, to help guide practitioners in determining what approaches and tools to take up, GKI also constructed an Innovation Culture Assessment that helps people benchmark their organization’s openness and aptitude for innovation.  Taken together, these resources help partners cultivate an innovator’s mindset, better understand the systems in which they operate, and more effectively generate and evaluate innovative ideas.  A 2017 rollout of the improved innovation decision making support package is occurring in Africa and Asia through a number of GKI partnerships that will advance long-term adoption of these resources and approaches.

 

Results / Outcomes

Result/Outcomes

  • Building from recent MIT research on the frailty of most organization’s processes for innovation decision making, created a framework for improved innovation decision making that clarifies the key decision points in the innovation journey
  • Developed an innovation decision-making toolset with field-tested resources to support decision-makers’ ability to identify, evaluate, select, and act upon innovation opportunities
  • Trained approximately 215 key actors working in the US and across Tanzania through in-person and online innovation decision-making workshops and trainings
  • Invited by AGRA and partners to engage in a multi-month rollout of the innovation toolset within the post-harvest sector of Tanzania through 2017
  • Prior to the course, only 41% of participants considered themselves innovative whereas upon course completion, 71% of participants considered themselves innovative.
Photo Credit: Antony Njuguna, The Rockefeller Foundation (KENYA)