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Innovation = Insights x Ideas x Implementation

Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it, Gary Hamel, a leading business strategy writer and consultant, has written. You’ve got one option now to shoot first. You’ve got to out-innovate the innovators.

Unfortunately most organizations have an in built defence mechanism against new ideas. People don’t like change so immediately find reasons why ideas should not be considered. The problem is that if you don’t start anticipating the future you could be run over by it.

In last weeks article we looked at what innovation is and what makes it tough to execute. Many SMEs would acknowledge that they need to become more innovative but just don’t know how to start or where to begin.

We look the four ways companies can generate ideas, capture insights and successfully implement a game changing innovation strategy.

1. Make innovation a priority

As a business owner or manager you cant delegate innovation to someone else or relegate it to a department. Company owners and management teams MUST develop an “all-in” mentality towards innovation that builds commitment and collaboration and makes it pervasive throughout the organization. Managers must lead the innovation process by actually doing it and not talking about it.  Start with allocating time and a budget; if you dont get past this step nothing will actually happen.

Train the innovation process on the priority issues so that ideas that are sparked are focused on the key areas of consideration. Be sure to set strategic objectives and define the parameters of the playing field before jumping into the fun of generating new ideas. Remember, when it comes to ideas it’s about quality and not quantity.

2. Look at things differently

If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you always got. Innovation requires us to think differently and have a passion for the possibility of change. Don’t encourage a culture of conformity. Seek input and insights from the periphery, from new recruits, from outside your organization and beyond your personal frame of reference. One of the biggest problems in organizations is that things are built around the company and not around the customer. Although a mechanistic approach to management builds efficiencies it can often stifle creativity because the focus is on duplication and not innovation. Every human being has powerful creative potential yet companies are very bad at cultivating it.

We need to put aside the negative voices and make a conscious choice to be creative. Creativity comes from insights and the best insights usually make you feel like you should’ve known them all along. So engage with your environment – ask your customers what you can do better, observe how they use your products, see complaints and difficulties as opportunities, watch the competition intelligently and challenge and reward staff for generating new ideas.

3. Inspiration comes from people

Innovation comes from ideas and ideas come from people with the right ‘innovation attitude’. Organizations where innovation flows more easily really leverage the power of purpose. They manage to tap into people’s innate desires to be part of something bigger. At Apple, Steve Job’s challenge to his team is to create and sell products ‘so good that you’ll want to lick them.’ Successful innovation companies are able to galvanize and rally their people around a common purpose linked to performance. Its critical to make people feel as if they are fighting for a cause instead of clocking in to a job.

Get people to believe that innovation is needed and the confidence that innovation is ‘something I can do.’  Not everyone can be a super-innovator. Start by identifying innovators and connecting them together in purposeful ways. This is the secret sauce that will drive business model and organizational level change.

4. Create space for innovation

Some of the worlds most innovative companies like Google dedicate work time and space towards innovation. Google adopts a 70/20/10 model where 70% of efforts are focused on the core business, 20% are focused on related but new areas and 10% is allocated to developing crazy ideas which may not turn out but could potentially lead to a disruptive or major innovation breakthroughs.

Its also no coincidence that some of the innovative companies like Lego, Google and Oakley all work out of some of the most creative environments. Attention to design, space, light, colour, smell, sounds, views – all help to trigger ideas and new associations and build collaboration and greater employee engagement and satisfaction.

Highly innovative companies also actively encourage PLAY and experimental behaviour where people are rewarded for taking risks instead of being punished for making mistakes. By doing this you develop an adventurous mindset where people are not constrained by whats been done in the past but are free to come up with fresh new ideas for the future.

Change is the only way to turn innovation into opportunity. There has never been a better time to innovate. So start by trying stuff out and having some fun. You’ll soon see how the innovation multiplier can energize your business and benefit the bottom line.

Jonathan Amm is the Co-Founder and Marketing Director at ThinkTank -a catalytic consultancy specialising in strategic marketing, branding and innovation.

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