How to establish an organizational structure that fosters innovation: 5 tips from WFP’s experience

WFP Innovation Bootcamp participants in Munich, Germany, 2019. Photo: WFP/Joerg Koch.
  • Define your core identity
  • Build with your organization’s DNA in mind
  • Stay lean
  • Learn to navigate the corporate structure of your organization
  • Seek out and be open to feedback

1. Define your core identity

The first step in creating an innovation structure is identifying what kind of innovation process you need in your organization. Ask yourself: What problem do you hope to solve? What role will your innovation structure play in solving the problem? For example, your innovation structure may serve as an incubator for developing employee-led projects — or it may focus on investing in external startups that contribute to your goals. Consider how potential projects will be developed and which stakeholders will be involved in the process. The key is to determine what you can do best to create value for your organization and your clients, and then start with a single product or service. Once you have a clear picture of your core innovation process, you can grow from that point on.

2. Build with your organization’s DNA in mind

Before devoting time and resources to creating an innovation structure, it is important to make sure that its goals and services fit the overall strategy of your organization. Because organizations have varied missions and needs, there is no one best approach to organizing innovation. Instead, rely on your organization’s mission, culture and current priorities to help you focus and optimize your innovation structure.

WFP trucks around the world come in every shape and size, covering all terrain so food gets to where it needs to go. This truck is fully stocked with food parcels being delivered to Aweeneya, mountainous western Libya. Photo: WFP/Khayal Productions.

3. Stay lean

You don’t have to create a fully-fledged innovation structure from the start; in fact, it is not even advisable to pre-design all elements of your innovation framework at once. Developing an innovation structure is an iterative learning process in which you can continue building different parts around your core identity (see tip 1). You should leave room for failure and eventual improvement.

In February 2022, the WFP Innovation Accelerator hosted a hybrid Pitch Event with innovation teams and guests joining in-person in Munich as well as virtually from across the globe. Photo: WFP/Lukas Atzert.

4. Learn to navigate the corporate structure of your organization

From day one, core business processes and back-office operations such as legal, procurement, and finance enable the continuous running of your projects. As the backbone of your innovation structure, these business processes can have a big impact on how successful your innovation structure is.

Fenik is one of the projects supported by the Accelerator that offers innovative mobile refrigerators that run on water. Farmers are able to increase the shelf life of fruits and vegetables in the hazard-prone Southern Region of Malawi using Fenik cool boxes. Photo: WFP/Badre Bahaji.

5. Seek out and be open to feedback

WFP’s H2Grow innovation project uses low-cost hydroponics units to grow food. A farmer at a hydroponics garden in Kibera, Kenya’s largest urban slum, says the project provides a reliable source of food and income for women and young farmers. Photo: WFP/Gulia Rakhimova.

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WFP Innovation Accelerator

WFP Innovation Accelerator

Sourcing, supporting and scaling high-impact innovations to disrupt hunger.