Innovation

I was recently asked this question

“What would you do to encourage innovation in Australian organisations?”

The question ‘What would you do to encourage innovation in Australian organisations?’ is in and of itself part of the problem. We continue to focus on ‘what’ we need to do and ‘how’ it should be done, but forget to ask ‘why’ should we be innovating.  Companies struggling to drive innovation have been focusing on the what (which is usually reflected in the P&L) and attempting to justify the expense whilst experiencing downward pressure in demand for their goods and services within an overall flattening of the economy.

A shift in our thinking is necessary. We need to view innovation as an asset, and potentially a long term asset, which may only bear its fruits in the years to come. But clearly if the seed has not even been sown then the chance of fruit is nil.

Einstein said the “conscious mind that identifies a problem, can’t solve it” –therefore pushing aside the processes and mechanisms that got us to where we are and opening our eyes to new opportunities and ideas wherever they may come from is essential. Defining your ‘why’ is paramount and while your leaders don’t themselves have to be gurus of innovation, they do need to drive the importance and believe in the process. Sharing the why becomes infectious, but remember that creativity is only novelty + utility while innovation is the execution of creativity and applying it to achieve an objective.  We still need people to execute on the ideas and where would we find such creative / innovative people?

 

You only have to look within!

 

The ideas and skills you have within your workforce are undeniably  underutilised. Most often employees are fitted into boxes within the organisational structure and are encouraged to only do the work they are employed to do. What a waste of talent!

 

Rather than encouraging people to be innovative, let’s shift our thinking and inspire them. Create flexibility to allow for individuals to self-nominate onto projects that interest them. Drive a culture in which everyone has line of sight to the mission and vision of the company and allow them to share their ideas within the broader community.  Recognise that failure is part of the innovative process and support it. And when you have success, even if it is small, celebrate! The infectious feeling it creates will continue to inspire others to be part of it. It will also open up the discretionary effort we all have and will ultimately influence our choice as to where we are going to utilise it.

They may as well spend it on you.