Happy holidays, innovation enthusiasts, and welcome to Mindjet’s 12 Days of Innovation! This 2014 spotlight series features hand-picked resources, upcoming events, webcasts, thought leadership pieces, and more to give you an inspirational boost for the coming year. Enjoy!
On the fifth day of innovation, we’d like to share with you: 5 things the experts say not to do in your innovation program.
1. Don’t Hold Fast to the Hierarchy
“Existing hierarchical organizations are rarely nimble enough to innovate at speed and are rarely able to both deliver against the demands of today AND think about the opportunities of tomorrow.
- Innovation is enabled by and depends upon the connection of strategy, process, structure, and capability.
- Execution is the multiplier of innovation — meaning that an organization that can execute well on a few good innovations is more powerful than one that has lots of great ideas with no way to execute.
- Growing complexity, accelerating pace, and increasing demands are creating a capacity issue for our existing resources — and these resources are the best sources of great ideas.
- Employees want to work on “stuff that matters.” If you give people some freedom to contribute and think outside their box, they will amaze you.
- Recognition of wins and communicating progress is critically important.
- A critical enabler or significant barrier to an organization’s ability to innovate remains its culture.”
2. Don’t Micromanage Creativity
From Innovation Excellence:
- “[If] you want a guide on ‘How NOT To Innovate’, try this approach…
Manage by committee, make slow deliberate decisions, make sure everyone knows to get approval for each stage of invention Ensure all new ideas are very “smart”; when someone creates a “far out” idea, scrutinize it publicly so everyone knows what’s creatively de rigueur.
- Ensure politics are in place around who the “idea” people are, know your place Discourage desires for new, cool things by subtly labeling them “a bit out there.”
- Make sure people who roll out new ideas feel most comfortable when they’re sure it will have support from everyone.
- Don’t tolerate ambiguity, make sure you’ve got it pretty much figured out before you proceed.
3. Don’t Undervalue Your Employees
“While it should be obvious that human talent is the most important ingredient for true innovation, many organizations struggle with and cannot seem to shake a business outlook that views people as interchangeable parts or as mere job descriptions. As organizations dance around and debate the issue of how employees should be esteemed and treated, few innovative souls will suffer waiting for someone to appreciate their value. There are too many great opportunities out there. Besides, innovators do not necessarily want or need what organizations have to offer, and we can make ourselves available where we feel most capable of doing our best and most inspired work.”
4. Don’t Put the Cart Before the Horse
“While the tendency is to leap into action as soon as a possible killer app is identified, it is crucial to take the time to step back, assess where the organization is and identify possible impediments to change. One challenge is to understand who wins and who loses if the envisioned innovations succeed. If an innovation has to kill the core business to succeed, it won’t be possible to get everyone to embrace it. Those in the existing business will always try to kill rather than be killed. In some cases, you can delay an uprising by being discreet. In other cases, where those not on the same page can’t cripple you, you can be overt and simply pit a new business against the existing one (while protecting the new efforts sufficiently).
Another challenge is to understand the cultural implications of the desired innovation. Many executives believe they can change a culture to suit a strategy, rather than try to make the strategy fit the culture. That route is possible but usually takes longer than most are willing to admit. Sometimes it is better to work with what you’ve got. The key is to understand that there is no silver bullet to managing change. Instead, you must form a cleared-eye view of the particular circumstances that must be addressed and manage accordingly. Remember Nelson Mandela’s admonition, ‘Lead from the front but don’t leave your base behind.'”
5. Don’t Dismiss the Importance of Scalability
From Innovation Management:
“Getting scale at front-end, ideation focused activities is already partly dealt with, supported by various organizations and vendors running activities such as innovation challenges / campaigns. But what else can an innovation program do to drive scale across the organization:
- Partner with other initiatives or groups within the business: Given that innovation underlies pretty much all competencies and groups of an organization, seek out areas that can support and scale your impact across the organization. Some examples of corporate initiatives include quality efforts, cost cutting programs, business integration teams, etc.
- Senior leadership committees provide not only support to efforts, but also a sense of ownership and access to resources.
- Identify and retain stakeholder support: I am constantly surprised at the number of innovation groups that don’t have senior leadership committees to provide not only support to efforts, but also a sense of ownership and access to resources. These can be a lot of work to manage but are essential to ensure the long-term success (and scale) of your efforts.
- Build networks of connected employees: I have written about these networks in the past, but these days I believe it is essential for organizations to develop networks of employees that are connected around innovation concepts. Call them what you will, Intrapreneurs, Catalysts, Champions—it doesn’t matter. What is important is to empower these individuals as a collection of resources empowered to drive additional business value (beyond their day-to-day role).”