Innovation Management Standard Update

In a previous blog post, I have described the European Innovation Management Standard. Based on this standard, we developed the INNOCULTURE board game. The business case for systematic innovation management is clear. This has also been realized by the ISO organization, who is in the process of developing an international ISO standard for innovation management.

The scope for this project is:

Standardization of terminology tools
and methods and interactions
between relevant parties to enable innovation

The ISO/TC 279 working group, who is responsible for developing the standard have written a Business Plan for this project, which I have summarised here:

It’s a Long and Slow Process

The approval process for ISO documents is pretty complicated, involving 9 main stages and 46 substages…

Browsing through the ISO homepage, I note the following:

  • The work has been underway for quite some time, and the documents are still at a very early stage.
  • Most of the members of the working group are from Europe. No members from Denmark (!), almost none from Africa.
  • The structure of the document is rather similar to the European Standard.
  • There are a number of national standards (Brazil, Colombia, France, Germany, Ireland, Portugal, Russia, United Kingdom, Spain) – can this be a stumbling block?
  • Is the reason for the delay that national competitiveness is a higher priority than international collaboration and sustainability?

The ISO standard is very much work in progress, and at present, only two draft documents are available:


Document ID Title Stage # Stage ID Status Pages
Idea management 20,00 Preparatory New project 0
Fundamentals and vocabulary 30,20 Committee Committee Draft study initiated 0
Innovation management system – Guidance
40,20 Enquiry DIS ballot initiated: 12 weeks 34
Assessment – Guidance
30,99 Committee Committee Draft approved for registration as DIS 0
Tools and methods for innovation partnership – Guidance
40,60 Enquiry Close of voting 20
Strategic intelligence management – Guidance
20,00 Preparatory New project 0
Intellectual property management
20,00 Preparatory New project 0

Many Similarities Between European and International Standard

The structure of the standard is pretty similar to the European Standard:

The two documents that stand out are “Innovation Thinking” in the European Standard – which primarily deals with design thinking, and “Fundamentals and vocabulary” in the ISO Standard, which has to be there due to ISO requirements.

When Can We Expect an International Standard?

I wrote to the ISO Editorial Programme Manager, to get an insight as to when we can expect the standard to be published. This is the answer I got:

This document is under process and I unfortunately cannot give you an estimate date, but the document will be processed as soon as possible.

I subsequently wrote to the ISO Committee Secretary, and got this reply:

ISO 50501 is currently under international enquiry until the end of October.

ISO 50502 and ISO 50503 are in the final phase of the process.

ISO 50500 in the middle phase of the process.

ISO 50504, ISO 50505 and ISO 23249 at the beginning of the process.

So it will probably be a while. Fair enough. The European Standard also took a long time (around 8 years, It think) to finish. And it does not become easier when you go international. One could argue that the process would be faster this time since the European Standard seems to be a good foundation to build on.

The Main Problem is Communication

It’s a bit a hen-and-egg problem: On the one hand, innovation management standards seems to be a tough sell, since it by many is perceived as “nice-to-have”, not a “need-to-have”. On the other hand, the standardization agencies don’t really do much to promote this standard. And it is not (and probably will not become) a requirement that you must follow. And it’s not a high priority standard.

Of the 21.991 international standards and standards-type documents, ISO standards related to business management and innovation only contribute with 0,2% or 44 documents. So in spite of the visionary tone of the ISO/TC 279 Business Plan, I don’t think that the push for a standard will come from ISO. And probably not from businesses either, since they see innovation as a proprietary competitive edge rather than a global imperative.

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