The essential ingredients of innovation
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The essential ingredients of innovation

Mike Clark
  • Mike Clark
  • Business Partner

As the world becomes more complex and interconnected we are told more and more that we must innovate. We should try to break new boundaries and make the impossible, possible. Management looks to the new ground breaking products, which enter the market as almost a benchmark to follow. The cultural aspects, and foundations which make these possible are often ignored, as management focus on the final products rather than what it takes to get there.

Organisations struggle to be innovative

Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns

Senior management realise that they need to make significant changes if their organisations are to respond to market pressures to innovate. In short, the business survival strategy for a market where technology now tops the list of external forces impacting organisations is a simple mantra: “Innovate and collaborate.” Why is it that so many organisations fail, regardless of how good their ideas are and why do our teams struggle to deliver, no matter how clever they are? Is it because we don’t have the right mix of people, is management failing us, or is it just that the wider business does not get it, and we should just accept it?

Focus more on the "doing"

At this point it’s tempting to describe what innovation means and how you do it, but a lack of understanding is not the reason attempts at innovation fail. There are plenty of white papers available on the subject, and they all focus on the same things. Most go through in detail what it takes to perform innovation and all the points raised are totally valid. However they all have one thing in common, they focus on the “doing” rather than what it takes to make it part of the organisation’s DNA.

Lack of management empowerment

People are often told they should be creative and embrace innovation, but are then punished by management for failures. No matter how creative your staff want to be, without management support and a platform to fail (within reason) innovation is unlikely to succeed.

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work

Involving internal customers encourages cross functional alignment.

Lack of understanding in how to manage diverse teams

We are told that, for innovation to work, we need diverse teams of people – it’s these different mind sets which bring out new and fresh ideas. However what we are not told is how to manage these groups of diverse personalities and point them in the same direction.

No matter how many highly skilled individuals you have, they will only be successful if they pull together as a team. Like any good sports team, it’s the manager that unites the team and instills a sense of purpose.

The best know how to reward their teams but also know each and every team member, what motivates them and how to get the best from them. Different people respond to different motivational methods

Struggle to sell ideas

Even with a strong leadership team and an environment which empowers staff to fail, we are still, often, unable to sell our ideas. In most cases it’s because we spent so much time on the content and forget the message we wanted to put across, – most importantly what outcome we wanted to achieve. In some cases we even assume that people will understand our way of thinking and will immediately see the value of the idea. Conversely – through telling a story that enables the audience to come on a journey with us, we are able to hide off putting complexity and gain buy-in from a diverse group’

If a story touches you it will stay with you, haunting the places in your mind that you rarely ever visit

Build the Foundations

When management thinks of innovation, they usually think of inventions, such as the smart phone, or wearable’s. While these products are indeed the outcomes of innovation, they are not the essential ingredients that make these companies masters of managing change. Innovation is not a product It is a way of thinking and acting, and requires the right foundations to be in place. Building the right culture and giving people a platform to learn, ensures our staff have the confidence to try new things. Strong leadership and an ability to sell new ideas to diverse groups enables us to get our message across. Combined with a view of our current and future business model, this means we can deliver new ideas to people, in ways, which they never thought possible.

Innovation becomes part of the organisation rather than a ‘nice to have’

The problems we face each day will become more complex and the needs of our customers will become more demanding. To meet these needs, new thinking is required. To be successful we must look beyond the doing and put the foundations in place to make innovation successful.

The best organisations are able to put these core building blocks in place, make it part of the DNA, and continually wow us with the endless innovative ideas they are able to bring to our lives, time and time again.

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