Structuring sustained innovation

Innovation can be a tricky subject for some large companies, especially those which suffer from siloed teams, a lack of agility, structural inefficiency or inconsistent internal communication. However, being large can have its advantages when it comes to improving innovation, especially when senior teams are empowered to properly harness the potential within their corporation.

It’s necessary for large companies to structure themselves in a way that fosters the innovation needed to stay competitive in today’s global marketplace. While it’s true that innovation can, and does, spontaneously occur as the result of other activities, it’s not an ideal strategy to simply wait for it to happen.

Introducing the conditions under which innovation can flourish is often a puzzle for large companies – especially those with staff across several international locations. The challenge can be addressed from a number of perspectives, and companies should take a holistic view of how they can adjust their operations to have the greatest impact.

Corporations can use international standards to structure such transitions, as they take control of innovation. Standards play a crucial role in derisking investment and  accelerating the adoption of new technologies, as well as knowledge gained from research and development.

The first of these areas is quality management. ISO 9001 is the world’s most recognized quality management standard. A wide-ranging and powerful business optimization tool, it helps organizations benchmark quality levels so they can recognize and measure when, how and why creativity is having an impact. Using ISO 9001 to develop a robust quality management system also supports wider  implementation of new innovations across the business.

Ensuring that the working conditions and environment available for your staff are safe, comfortable and inspiring is another important component for embedding  innovation. Unhappy staff are less likely to be engaged and creative; their wellbeing should be a priority for businesses looking to have a positive impact, as well as foster innovation amongst employees. ISO 45001 addresses occupational health and safety, enabling organizations to build an optimal working environment to protect staff, while ISO 45003, currently under development, will focus on psychological health in the workplace.

In addition to keeping teams happy and engaged, it is important to protect the data and information they create as a result of their creative research or innovations. Your workforce can become your greatest cybersecurity asset if employees are properly supported with the right guidelines and structures. There are several helpful standards designed to build organizational resilience. An ideal starting point is the ISO/IEC 27000 series which focuses on information security management. 

Another way to unlock innovation is by looking outside the organization to other groups with whom you can build mutually-beneficial research and development connections. It’s essential in these situations to ensure a smooth and efficient working relationship between all parties.

ISO 44001 addresses collaborative business relationships and can be used by organizations to optimize interactions at all levels with innovation partners. 

Closely related to this are supply chain relationships. Companies can use ISO 28000 to secure their supply chain arrangements and prepare them for future innovation.

Beyond these key practical elements, there are other areas in which standards can contribute towards innovation – especially those which relate to the customer’s overall brand experience.It is here that a company can communicate the innovations which encompass the ethical, socially responsible (ISO 26000) and environmentally sustainable (ISO 14001) elements of its operations. 

Today, many companies focus innovation in areas which allow them to evolve new business models. Their primary goal is to develop and combine products and services to form new solutions for customers. These businesses think in terms of outcomes, recognizing products and services are simply a means to an end for consumers. 

However, the top innovators also treat innovation like any other business process. They define the sort of innovation they want and how to measure it. Then they establish disciplined research and development structures, with rigorous processes that can be reiterated and scaled up. In effect, they encourage innovation that’s both radical and methodical.


  • International standards help set companies up for structured innovation. ISO 9001 helps benchmark quality levels and recognize and measure when, how and why creativity is having an impact.
  • Your staff are your innovators, so it pays to keep them happy, safe and engaged. ISO 45001 helps you build an optimal working environment to protect staff from a health and safety perspective, while ISO 45003,currently under development, will focus on psychological health.
  • Protect data and information around innovation and research with standards designed to build organizational resilience. An ideal starting point is the ISO/IEC 27000 series which focuses on information security management.
  • Build mutually-beneficial research and development collaborations with ISO 44001 and secure supply chain arrangements for future innovations with ISO 28000. A company can also communicate the innovations which encompass ethical, socially responsible (ISO 26000) and environmentally sustainable (ISO 14001) elements of its operations.