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Responsible Innovation: Opportunities and Strategies

In the context of innovation, the meaning of responsibility is fuzzy. This ambiguity can be partially attributed to the involvement of philosophical concepts. Discussing ethics and morality in business can feel a bit like mixing oil and water. In part, this is because many companies invoke the name of ethics in vain.

When a phrase or concept is frequently misused, it eventually loses its meaning. This article aims to sidestep this issue by making the concept of responsible innovation tangible. By the end, you should be able to identify relevant opportunities within your organization. Then, you can determine the best way to implement a responsible innovation plan of your own. 

Responsible Innovation Defined

Ethical responsibility is often cited in training materials to discourage employees from insignificancies like taking breaks outside lunch. Ah, yes, the villainous urge to eat a snack on company time. Can your conscience bear the weight of your crimes against humanity? 

Responsible innovation addresses much bigger issues—specifically, sustainability. 

When most people think of sustainability, they think of environmental consciousness. This association puts you on the right track, but it doesn’t cover all the necessary bases. The criteria set forth by Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI), however, does. 

What is the RRI Method?

The purpose of RRI is to align scientific and technological advancements with societal values. RRI aims to encourage responsible innovation through the following methods: 

  • Holding research to a high standard of ethics: Technology, processes, and labor implications must align with ethical values. 
    • Promoting systemic changes for the security of society and the environment: Many of the harmful effects of innovation are preventable. RRI aims to change the policies and procedures that lack the proper evaluation of potential social and environmental impacts.
  • Encouraging open access to scientific results: Public engagement during the innovation process is necessary to preserve transparency. In other words, people have a right to educate themselves on the issues that could affect them. 

RRI methodology plays a significant role in any responsible innovation plan.

Who Is Responsible for Being Responsible?

Often, responsibility is shifted upwards. Employees expect managers to implement procedures that alleviate their responsibilities. Accordingly, managers look to executive leadership for responsible policy implementation. Pinpointing the source of responsibility is like searching for the end of the rainbow. 

But instead of a pot of gold, you’ll find inadequate governance methods. I’m sorry, but I think that leprechaun may have ripped you off. A responsible innovation plan weaves responsibility and reflection into every step of the process. Shared responsibility nurtures healthy accountability.


What Does a Responsible Innovation Framework Look Like?

When delving into the subject of responsible innovation, you’re likely to find lots of insight and maybe a few general guidelines. A certain level of ambiguity is required to apply its principles across a diverse range of industries. To maintain this broad applicability while also providing concreteness, let’s break down responsible innovation further.


At this stage of a responsible innovation plan, your focus should be on anticipation. A good innovation strategy assesses the following factors:

  • Technology: Disruptive technology is integral to innovation. No matter what path you embark on, technology supports your every move. Anticipating the effects of technology usage helps businesses identify and avoid adverse environmental and social impacts.
  • Processes: Examining the side effects of the process rather than just the results is essential to the development of a responsible innovation plan.
  • Labor: One of the most important social aspects to monitor are the labor implications of your innovation practices. For example, if you decide to use a particular technology, what does the upkeep entail? Can the organization afford to pay fair wages to the employees tasked with its maintenance?

Executing this phase of responsible innovation requires a significant amount of scenario building. The foresight stage is all about pausing to ask, “What if?” 


Ideally, there should be time for reflection after every action. There are inevitable repercussions to absolutely everything. If you executed the foresight stage correctly, you know what most of them are already. The reflection portion of your responsible innovation plan should focus on solving the problems your potential scenarios created. If foresight asks, “what if?” reflection asks, “What now?”


Diversity has a place in several different areas of responsible innovation. Your company should be inclusive work culture regarding different races, ethnicities, gender identifications, and age groups in every department, including the executive level. Diversity of board members, partners, and employees demonstrates your ability to conduct a fair hiring process based on the principles of equal opportunity. 

Diversity has another role in responsible innovation. It is a vital component of research—specifically, during feedback collection. Surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals is an excellent way to gain insight into specific areas of expertise. Unfortunately, if you aren’t careful, you could be inadvertently caught in an echo chamber. Seek diversification to eliminate the possibility of losing valuable insight to exclusionary research practices. 


Reactivity is all about adaptability. Collecting diversified feedback is one-third of the battle. Two-thirds are fulfilled when you actually take that feedback into account. The last third calls for you to take action regarding what you’ve learned throughout the previous 3 phases. 

If you play your cards right, damage control doesn’t have to be about saving face. Instead, it can be viewed and acted upon as an opportunity to improve. Reactivity requires a receptive company culture to function. If yours isn’t quite there yet, don’t worry. There are innovation management solutions that make cultural shifts approachable.


Implementing the Responsible Innovation Approach

A responsible innovation plan touches on nearly every facet of an organization. Innovation processes, the technology used to uphold them, and the people involved with carrying them out must all work together towards the common goal. Those in leadership roles may find it challenging to launch a responsible innovation plan because of its exhaustive nature. This predicament gave rise to comprehensive innovation management tools like the rready KICKBOX

Ok, time for a reading break, don't you think?  Check out this viral video about how the rready KICKBOX boosts sustainability in Switzerland through public transportation. (Ok, ok, the video is not viral yet, but it should be.)




Responsible innovation occurs when responsibility is shared and acknowledged. To ensure your organization has the checks and balances sustainability requires, your processes must reflect this principle. Getting employees to understand their role in the innovation process takes more than a company-wide memo. 

We believe the easiest way to achieve this is to provide them with a roadmap. This roadmap not only shows them their role (or potential role) in the process but helps them understand your company’s innovation aspirations. Providing people with concrete direction solidifies concepts that can be lost to abstraction, like innovation, ethics, and morality. Many of our clients use the rready KICKBOOK as their guiding light to intrapreneurship. 

Technological Support

Methodology serves as the foundation for a responsible innovation plan. However, without the right technology to support it, your company may still fall short of its goals. Implementing an innovation solution without the technological component is similar to grocery shopping without a list. The ideas are there somewhere, but you may lose a few to the human error known as forgetfulness.

An innovation management platform not only holds all those ideas in one place but makes them measurable. Workflow automation cuts back on the need for administrative duties so employees can focus their efforts on tasks that require human intervention. Imagine what your company would be like if the brains behind it actually spent most of their time thinking and collaborating. Automated record-keeping also eliminates the possibility of bad data due to common human errors like the one mentioned above. 

Innovation Culture

Innovation is inspiring. It can be easy to miss with all of the roadblocks that may hold it back, like the lack of employee engagement. Contrary to popular belief, no amount of pizza parties or casual Fridays will inspire intrapreneurship. Employee engagement comes from a place of authenticity.

If you want genuine feedback and the willingness to share responsibility, your workplace culture must reflect that. Implementing inspiration is something many businesses rely on rready to deliver. 

Check out the Implenia case study which is a perfect example of the impact engagement has on innovation.


Getting Started With rready

Whether you are launching or scaling your responsible innovation plan, rready is here to help. Contact us through our website or schedule a demo to discover what responsible innovation management can do for your business. You bring the ideas, and we’ll make them attainable and sustainable. We also promise not to do any more cheesy rhymes. Puns are still on the table, though.


rready has been helping organizations create and sustain responsible innovation programs for years. Get in touch with us today, and together we can build an innovation solution that works for you.

Get started today