ISO 56001 is now underway

The new innovation management standard is coming in requirement mode

The task force for ISO 56001 of the ISO 279 technical committee on innovation management system (in which I am a Swedish representative and expert) had the first full-week meeting the other week to go through the first pages of comments from the participating countries. At this stage we are not yet discussing much of the content to be included in the standard, we are working sincerely to ensure that the ISO 56001 is well aligned with other management systems standards.

Let me clarify why this is important.

ISO 56001 is built on the Management Systems Standard (MSS)

ISO 56001 is the (forthcoming) standard for “innovation management system”, and as we can read from the title it is a management system standard. To ensure alignment with other management system standards, ISO has defined a common nomenclature, syntax and structure for all management system standards called the Management Systems Standard (MSS). The purpose for all management systems is to follow the same overarching baseline and thus easily integrate. Consequently the innovation management system standard (IMS) inherits its structure from what in the MSS is called the High-Level Structure (HLS). All management systems follow the HLS to some degree (most of them very strictly), so if you have already introduced a management system into your organization you may already have conducted much of the work.

So basically the structure between management systems are the same, it is the content that varies. As we are stringent with the high-level alignment, we minimize the effort required by you to institute a new management system. If you have worked with (or perhaps even fully implemented) i.e. a quality management system (ISO 9001), an information security management system (ISO 27001), an environmental management system (ISO 14001), etc. the barriers to entry will be low. This is why we are taking those extra turns to ensure alignment. We want to make the future application of the standard as friction-free as possible.

ISO 56001 will be a “Type A” MSS standard

There is another implication with the use of a new number for the new standard as we shift from 002 to 001. ISO 56002 is a “Type B” standard, what is also generally known as a “guidance”. This type of standard is created for support purposes, so any organization that wishes to improve its systematic capabilities in innovation management can follow the best practice directives of the standard – voluntarily. The decision to make the innovation management standard a guidance was made by the technical committee several years ago. Because as it is the first time an international standard in innovation management is published we preferred not to put too much pressure on the content from the offset. The ISO 56002 contains recommended practices for innovation management.

With a “Type A” standard an organization will be able to get ISO certified to it. Where the guidance standard is for support, the requirement standard is enforced. 56001 will contain requirements that an organization’s innovation management system must fulfill and maintain. Compared to a guidance it will contain required practices for innovation management. In order for an organization to become certified, an accredited body will conduct audits to verify that those required practices are followed to a satisfactory level. As a consequence, the content of a Type A standard must be meticulous, itemized, and exhaustive, so it is easy to understand that the strain on the ISO committee is grander than with a guidance standard.

So what should I do right now?

First of all it is important to know that ISO 56001 will not be a replacement for ISO 56002, it will be a complement. So you will be able to chose paths – either follow the guidelines and adapt to best practices where you see fit (with 56002) or go hardball on innovation and update your procedures and structure to an innovation management system and pass the audits (with 56001). What you will need to ask yourself is how important innovation success is to your business’ survival.

There are generally two incentives for organizations to certify themselves to an ISO standard – either for internal reasons because they really need to be innovative and are sincerely keen on adapting to best practices, or for external reasons because they wish to promote themselves as “innovative” because it is an important marketing and branding tool.

Regardless of driver, my recommended approach is as follows. Begin to align your organization to the ISO 56002 standard. It is already here and you can start to apply it asap. Then when ISO 56001 is published you are already up and running with your innovation management system, so the transition from 002 to 001 will be fairly straightforward. There are two concerns to be aware of that will impact your choice of approach:

  1. ISO 56001 will not be identical to ISO 56002. As previously explained the content of 56001 must be further scrutinized to be prepared for auditing, so the two standards will not be completely identical. Yet, there is no purpose of completely re-writing the entire content of the standard, since we spent almost five years perfecting 56002, so very much will be the same or similar. My personal opinion is that it will not be identical, but it will be tantamount. So using 56002 to prep up for 56001 will be a safe card.
  2. ISO 56001 will not be published for at least another three years. Developing an international standard takes time, runs through a certain bureaucratic process, and has certain stages it needs to iterate over. The normal time for a standard to become approved by ISO is three years and we have just started with ISO 56001. So don’t panic because you are not on top of ISO 56001 yet. If you are reading this, then you are already better prepared than most innovation managers out there.

In short, you have about three years to start implementing and aligning your innovation management system using ISO 56002 for guidance. So when ISO 56001 becomes published you will just need to make small adjustments to be fully aligned with the new standard, thus becoming ISO certified will be a breeze.