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The Official Baldrige Blog

The Baldrige Approach to Innovation


The Baldrige Excellence Framework, as a systems perspective, has taken a holistic approach to the important topic of innovation. This perspective comprises a Core Value and Concept, Managing for Innovation, and numerous considerations within the Baldrige Criteria. Together, the Baldrige approach to innovation emphasizes both cultural/people aspects and process aspects of achieving successful innovation and provides the linkages to ensure process and people are aligned.

Baldrige defines innovation as making meaningful (breakthrough) change to improve products, processes, or organizational effectiveness and create new value for stakeholders. Managing for Innovation, as the words imply, requires a combination of people and process. Your organization should be led and managed so that identifying opportunities for innovation become part of the learning culture. Systematic processes for identifying those opportunities should reach across your entire organization.

The Baldrige Criteria start the focus on innovation by asking how senior leaders create an environment for innovation (culture) and a focus on action to achieve innovation. In Strategy Development, the Criteria ask how your strategy development process stimulates and incorporates innovation through identification of strategic opportunities and selection of those that are intelligent risks worth pursuing. Next the Criteria ask about the use of organizational performance review findings as a mechanism for identifying opportunities for innovation and how you manage organizational knowledge to stimulate innovation. How does your workforce performance management system reinforce intelligent risk taking to achieve innovation? What is your operational process for managing innovation? What are the results of your innovation process? The outcome of the Baldrige approach to innovation is obvious. Innovation takes a systems perspective that involves leaders, all employees, and processes in coordination.

So, you might ask what led to this blog post? It was triggered by a recent HBR post entitled, "Is Innovation More About People or Process?" Andrea Ovans concludes that it is both after giving some good examples from IDEO, Procter & Gamble, Intel, and others. She also cites a number of resources for people starting innovation efforts. Take a look at "Build an Innovation Engine in 90 Days," to see how to rapidly bring people and process together. (And for a very different approach to innovation, not recommended by me as the approach of choice, check out Political Activism and Innovation.)

Happy reading!  

About the author

Harry Hertz “The Baldrige Cheermudgeon”

I am Harry Hertz, the Baldrige Cheermudgeon, and Director Emeritus of the Baldrige Program. I joined the Program in 1992 after a decade in management in the analytical chemistry and chemical sciences laboratories at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the home of the Baldrige Program. I started my career at NIST (NBS) as a bench analytical chemist.

My favorite aspects of the Baldrige Program are: (1) the opportunity to interact with leading thinkers from all sectors of the U.S. economy who serve as volunteers in the Baldrige Program, who participate in the Baldrige Executive Fellows Program, and who represent Award applicants at the forefront of the continuous journey to performance excellence, and (2) the intellectual challenge of synthesizing ideas from leading thinkers and from personal research into Insights on the Road to Performance Excellence and other blogs that tackle challenges at the “leading edge of validated leadership and performance practice,” and contribute to the continuous revision of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Framework.

Outside of work I spend my time with family (including three beautiful granddaughters), exercising, baking bread, traveling, educating tomorrow’s leaders, and participating on various boards and board committees.

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