I suspect that often, the logic sequence of an organisation looks something like this:
We need to be innovative > we need people who are focused on innovating > we need to create an innovation department for these people
I don’t think this is wrong or bad, I just think it’s incomplete.
Rather than worry about whether to have a distinct innovation department or not, what I think is more important is that the organisation acts with the mentality of having a distributed innovation department i.e. the responsibility to innovate is delegated to each and every person in the organisation. If an organisation wants to be truly innovative, rather than just restrict itself to producing innovative products and services, innovative people and activities must exist throughout. This way of working not only puts the responsibility of innovating on people who are in the best place i.e people ‘on the front line’, but also helps to open up the spectrum of innovation and helps more stuff actually get realised.
Following on from this, I would suggest that an innovation department is indeed a very good idea, if one of the principle objectives of the department is to nurture a culture throughout the organisation that actively encourages innovative activities and behaviour.
So, perhaps the logic sequence should look more like this:
We need to be innovative > we need people to innovate > we need to create an environment that allows people to innovate > we need an innovation department to champion this cause