ISO has produced a Committee Draft (CD) version of ISO 56001 “Innovation Management Systems — Requirements.” This standard is being developed by ISO Technical Committee 279.

The standard aims to provide management system requirements specific for “innovation” but — strangely enough — the standard never defines the term. The standard does reference another document, ISO 56000:2020, but then includes other definitions from that standard. “Innovation” isn’t one of them, leaving the core concept of the standard undefined. It’s clear that authors know what they are talking about, but have little interest in making sure their readers do.

Because it is a CD draft, it will still undergo at least two revisions: a major revision to reach the Draft International Standard (DIS) stage, and then a minor one for the Final Draft International Standard (FDIS) stage. After that, it would be published.

As it stands now, the ISO 56001 standard is a dense, complicated document that was clearly written by specific consultants — apparently largely by Peter Merrill of the UK — and would either have to be edited heavily to become approachable by ISO’s usual readers, or face very low uptake if released as-is. (Merrill has been selling books on the ISO 56000 series since at least 2020, so is already cashing in.)

Interestingly, despite being a management system standard, ISO 56001 deviates fairly strongly from the mandated Annex SL text. ISO has demanded that all such standards align this “core” text (called “Annex SL”), and to date most such standards have. This CD version of ISO 56001 follows the clause structure of Annex SL to some extent but then edits the text itself so that much of it is unrecognizable. As a result, the ISO headquarters is likely to object to the current draft and force a revision that aligns more closely to Annex SL.

The standard also begins talking, at one point, about innovation principles. It claims that such principles will be supported by rationale statements and examples, but then never actually provides them. It could be interpreted that the standard is suggesting that the user define these as they apply to their organization, but it’s not clear at all.

The principles, and the entire text, rely on a lot of complex and alienating c-suite terminology, such as “value realization” and “innovation portfolios.” Translating this into non-English languages will be a challenge.

Interesting side note: the CD version’s PDF metadata shows that the “innovation” standard was written by Merrill using… get ready … MS Word 2016. Ouch.

My sources tell me the behind-the-scenes environment at TC 279 has been contentious, with a small amount of in-fighting and a lot of disagreement. This appears to be because the TC is comprised of various “published authors” who each see their own view as being the correct one, leading to stress. In fact, the CD was delayed because of this struggle, albeit only slightly.

The public commenting period on the CD draft has already closed, but users should watch for when commenting on the next DIS draft is announced.

The CD version of ISO 56001 is currently for sale on the ISO website.

About Christopher Paris

Christopher Paris is the founder and VP Operations of Oxebridge. He has over 30 years' experience implementing ISO 9001 and AS9100 systems, and is a vocal advocate for the development and use of standards from the point of view of actual users. He is the author of Surviving ISO 9001 and Surviving AS9100. He reviews wines for the irreverent wine blog, Winepisser.


ISO 14001 Implementation