Towards a new standard for innovation

The International Standards Organisation (or ISO for short) have been working towards a set of standards for innovation management since 2013 and these standards are getting close to the review stage.

Why is this significant?

The standards provide for a common language to describe innovation, a defined process, some common tools and an assessment process for innovation. Whilst these artefacts do not, by themselves, make organisations more innovative they certainly help to ensure we all know what we are talking about when we discuss innovation.

Standards set the bar

Standards organisations have been criticised for failing to lead in important areas yet Innovation Management could be one area where the advent of standards sets the bar for organisations to develop their internal capabilities to match the definition provided by the standard.

Consider, for example, the ISO quality standard ISO9001.

This was first developed by the US military in 1959, before being adopted as an ISO standard in 1987. Today there are well over 1 million ISO9001 certified organisations across the world and the concept of a quality management system is well understood by millions of managers worldwide.

However, the origins of the modern Quality Management System are usually credited to Deming whose work dates back to the post-war years in Japan (1947 onwards). Quality experts will usually refer to the work of Deming, Juran and Shewhart yet without ISO9001 it is possible their work would be less well known.

So it may well be with innovation.

An Innovation Management System, as described in an ISO standard, may well persuade more organisations to go out and invest in formal education around innovation. This can only be good for innovation and, we hope, for the organisations involved.

Thus we warmly welcome a new standard for Innovation Management.

What do the ISO standards for Innovation Management cover?

The standards are under the control of TC279, which is a Technical Committee with 33 participating and 15 observing members (none of which are Australia).  The participating members write and review the material, comprising 6 standards.

These are:

ISO/NP 50500   Innovation management — Fundamentals and vocabulary

ISO/CD 50501   Innovation management – Innovation management system – Guidance

ISO/NP 50502   Innovation management — Assessment — Guidance

ISO/CD 50503   Innovation management – Tools and methods for collaborative innovation – Guidance

ISO/AWI 50504 Innovation management — Strategic intelligence management

ISO/AWI 50505 Innovation management — Intellectual property management

The initials NP, CD and AWI refer to the stage of development, where NP indicates a New Project, CD indicates a Committee Draft and AWI indicates a working draft.

ISO has a defined process and structure which, when combined with multiple participating members, does make for a relatively slow process but it is thorough. I believe nations, organisations and individuals all stand to benefit from this process once it reaches publication stage and I warmly welcome the results.

I would note that whilst all nations may benefit I consider it likely that those nations most closely involved have the greatest chance of advancing fastest.

It is also worth noting that most European nations have already published their versions of the standards as part of the EU initiative (numbering is slightly different).

For more details please visit the ISO website:

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