‘Innovation’ is everywhere these days. When you Google ‘innovation’ you get more than 40 million results. There are more than 400,000 books that deal with ‘innovation’ available at Amazon.

Whether you play in this space or you have been exposed to the concept for the very first time, you will sooner or later be in touch with like-minded individuals at innovation agencies, centres, consultancies, clubs, happenings, hubs, or summits.

After a while, you’d come to believe that you must innovate, lest you, your company, or country, will lose its mojo and probably die…

I have been wondering, in view of all this hype, if anyone has considered properly what is required for innovation to happen.

Robert Hurley and Tomas Hult (1) have applied their minds to this and derived a set of innovation characteristics through comprehensive review of extant literature.

While I am not touching on definitions of innovation per se, I have used their findings to frame a set of questions relevant to the ‘innovativeness’ of organisations. Each of these can be read as a strategic choice that any organisation can make in forging an innovation path, ‘or die’.

Do you think your organisation is ready for the innovation journey?

  • Organisation size & resources: Does your organisation provide ample resources to overcome innovation barriers or are you struggling to find the bare essentials for getting your job done?
  • Age: Is your organisation old and bureaucratic or young and agile? Are you pushing paperwork or making swift decisions?
  • Differentiation of the organisation: Does your organisation promote diversity of worldviews or is it rather subscribing to a single dominant logic?
  • Low formalization  Is your organisation very formal or more like a shape-shifter?
  • Loose coupling, autonomy, and lack of hierarchy: Is your organisational structure hierarchical and rigid, or does it allow for adaptive self-organisation?
  • Market intelligence & market focus: Is your organisation responsive to the outside, or does it subscribe to a ‘must-invent-here’ and inward looking state of mind?
  • Planning: Does your organisation look far into the future or is its perspective rolling over from one year to the other?
  • Status differential: Is your organisation occupied with status and the fancy office for the executive, or does it put its attention to the task at hand? Is it ornamental or rather practical?
  • Learning & development: Does your organisation promote personal growth and development or does it treat you like a physical asset class?
  • Power sharing: Does power rest with one individual, or a few, or is information flowing freely, allowing dissenting opinions?
  • Participative decision making: Are you involved in planning and decision making or are these activities reserved for a privileged group of people and happening behind closed doors?
  • Support and collaboration: Is your organisational culture one of collegial support or is everybody out on their own?
  • Communication: Is information flowing freely across functions or is all you get ‘memos’ on a need-to-know basis?
  • Tolerance for conflict and risk taking: Is your organisation afraid of making mistakes or does it have the confidence to make decisions in the face of uncertainty? Does it encourage you to test a new idea or does it rather tell you ‘to shut up and do your job’?


1. Robert F Hurley & G Tomas M Hult (1998) Innovation, market orientation, and organisational learning: An integration and empirical examination. Journal of Marketing, 62, 42-54.