Part 1 of this series introduced the concept of innovating within a business and explained the benefits of establishing an innovation mindset within company culture. Part 2 was about understanding why is innovation so difficult for some organizations?
For another look at Part 1: Why Innovate? click here.
For Part 2: Why is innovating difficult for some organizations? click here.
For an innovation project to be successful companies must understand the following:
· Innovation is messy, ambiguous, and has many unknowns
· Innovation requires more insights than data to create the value that end consumers need
As discussed in Part 2 of this three-part series, bringing something to life is more complicated than keeping something up and running. By definition, innovation means bringing something new to life. Businesses must understand that the process of building something new is more complicated than that of keeping something running, and therefore the mindset is different. Innovating involves learning on the go. Because there is not enough data, people will be required to make assumptions, test them, and learn from the outcome, whatever that may be. It involves a complete reorientation of the way most companies operate.
Innovation is not crazy, it just requires a different way of thinking that is often overlooked by companies in the search for certainty. Companies must cultivate a culture where people feel comfortable dealing with the unknown because real life questions rarely have black and white answers. However, that doesn’t mean there is no direction. For example, when a CFO asks how much x is going to cost, an innovator may not be able to give an exact figure, but he or she will show the CFO how she would prioritize the budget to experiment and “go ahead” or “fail fast”- the concept of killing an idea fast so as not to consume additional resources.
Innovation is ambiguous, especially when trying to arrive at a life changing disruptive concept. It involves making decisions under a scenario of uncertainty where data might not be readily available for necessary future assumptions. Employees tend to feel safer within the expected (and controlled) environment most companies create. At one end of the spectrum, organizations love numbers. They quantify everything and measured results with KPI’s. At the other end, they expect people to seek growth by gaining new understanding and re-inventing the future. Doesn’t that sound illogical?
That is why the starting point to innovate should always be nurturing an environment for innovation to flourish in your workplace. Doing things differently requires a lot of elements, such as learning to take risks, and navigating uncertainty. Mitigating failure by starting small increases the organization’s confidence before rolling out a big innovation project. It is also essential to gain support from potential naysayers.
Once the organization is less burdened by status quo thinking, start with a simple project that will allow collaborators to explore and make decisions under a more ‘relaxed scenario’.
Innovation does not need to be a moonshot
Organizations (and employees) love big ideas for various reasons. Firstly, big ideas are perceived to drive greater results and if successful, have a larger impact on revenue. Secondly, most organizations incentivize competition over collaboration, which means that coming up with the bigger, more ambitious idea is perceived as more valuable. Thus, creating something truly innovative will feel much more rewarding than going for the low-hanging fruit.
Nevertheless, innovation can be a big idea that tweaks a low hanging fruit. Quick wins with minimal investment are a way to gain results and boost creative confidence before rolling out for the moonshot
Yet, it is important to know that quick wins are not the main drivers for innovation, and constantly chasing low-hanging fruits will not make you an innovator. It is a great starting point but innovation truly happens when people challenge assumptions and dream bigger. One of my favorite quotes puts it succinctly: “It’s easier to tame down a wild idea than it is to invigorate a weak one”.- Alex Osborne.
Innovation is fun and exciting. It employs a sense of discovery as people seek different perspectives to ideate solutions that solve concrete problems before finally reaching the new, unique idea.
Believe you can get there. You might not know how, but you can get there.