Innovation: ‘The introduction of a new idea into the marketplace in the form of a new product or service; an improvement in organisation or process.’
Mind Map 1: “Effective Innovation – John Adair” (click map for a bigger version – will open in a new window) A Mind Map® overview of the key points and learning from the book.
Creativity: ‘Creativity (or creativeness) is the mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts.’
Mind Map 2: Elements of Creativity (click map for a bigger version – will open in a new window)
Take a look at this list of statements and think about which statement you either Agree, Want to Debate or Disagree with. Consider how you think the statements would help make innovation in an organisation happen:
Want to Debate
|Have rules; lots of them. In fact, have books full of policies and procedures with small text, lots of paragraph headings and make sure everybody abides by them|
|Ensure your people are all the same; when you recruit a great one, make sure you recruit more just like them|
|Make it clear that you believe that there are only a few people who are naturally creative|
|Only allow thinking time outside work; if you ever see someone doing ‘‘nothing’, sack them straight away|
|Do not spend any money on prototyping stuff or trying the first stage of something new out; only ever do all or nothing|
|Require a business case for anything outside your core activities, and carry out a critical review before allowing any investment in a new idea|
|Ensure you have a few ‘catchphrases’ in the culture of the organisation, for example: “We do it this way, best practice, it works really well”, and, “but the problem with that is…”|
|Instantly criticise any new idea|
OK, so you’ve probably ticked mainly ‘disagree’ with perhaps a couple to debate. When the choices are made as stark as this, spotting unhelpful processes or behaviours isn’t too difficult. But, in reality, over time unhelpful patterns of work and behaviour DO develop, and it takes a concerted effort to replace them with productive practices and habits.
|Tools, techniques and processes
‘Vision’ has become one of those words that is a central contender in Business School ‘lingo bingo’. However, having a direction or purpose for the future has been motivating humans for millennia; whatever you call it. Know where you’re headed; be pulled and magnetised towards it; make it such an emotional pull that everyone is proud to wear the T-shirt! It actually works. Jack Welch, ex-CEO of GE said: “Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”. Have a look at the box opposite for some great visions.
|Goals and Targets
One of the ways innovation will happen is when impossible and stretch goals and targets are set, together with big expectations. This forces people to re-invent how they do things because they simply cannot achieve the new goal by doing what they’ve always done – but better. They have to innovate. Our example tells the Boeing stretch target story of the 747. The most common way of setting targets and goals – whether stretching or not – is to look backwards, for example: “Our target is to increase our revenue by 30%, or our profit by 3%”. This does not make any sense at all. It doesn’t take account of what is out there in the near future, what the market or competitors are doing or what the customer trends are.So set targets and goals:
Have a vision based on that gap, and make the vision compelling, passionate and energising.
Have your best people on the job! So what do we mean by ‘best’? Technically? Creatively? With the best knowledge? Well, no! One of the most important aptitudes in a person for the innovation process is their attitude. What do I mean by attitude? I mean people who believe in themselves, and have a positive, ‘can-do’ approach. People who see obstacles or set-backs as a challenge rather than giving in. People who are tenacious and persevering. People who are constantly questioning all sorts of things. People who are not afraid to try things out.
In leadership terms there is a huge contribution to be made. There will always be a few people in the organisation who already have this attitude, and these are great to get on board. What can a leader, who would like to mobilise more of the people in their organisation, do to help promote this attitude amongst others? Give permission, give great feedback, show your support, tell others about successes, and expect and allow some failure. See our top tips for employee engagement here.
This list sounds easy. Most leaders find political, rational and emotional obstacles in the way of making these things happen.
Harnessing and sharing the knowledge in the organisation is vital. Most great innovation starts with combining two things that haven’t been combined before; that is one of the definitions of creativity. So getting together different parts of the organisation, removing the barriers to communication, getting away from ‘silos’, proactively setting up for creativity and innovation, using other departments as ‘naive experts’ (another creativity technique), getting the customers and their knowledge involved can all bring different perspectives together and ignite the generation of new ideas.
From our work through employee engagement surveys, we have learned that sharing knowledge doesn’t just happen; it has to be made to. When successful, it has a massive impact when people feel that their ideas have been taken seriously.
Tools and Techniques: Reverse Brainstorming
There are many creativity tools and techniques. One of the simplest and most effective is reverse brainstorming. This is when you brainstorm the opposite of what you are trying to generate ideas about, then reverse again.
Another technique involves participants taking the different roles of the relevant stakeholders. For example, if it were a new design of nappy, then one of the people in the session would be the baby, the next person would be the mother, then the salesperson, the marketing person, the designer, and so on.
Whilst recognising that tools and techniques are essential building blocks, they also need to feed into working practises in the organisation so that sustainability can be achieved. Our clients are most successful when the addition of new tools is aligned with the existing relevant and great attributes in creativity and innovation.
The key to using these techniques successfully is in practise, tenacity and handling the process that precedes and follows their use so that innovation can actually happen. This is the way to sustainability and getting a return on your investment.
The reason why innovation is close to the top of the majority of CEOs’ priority lists is obvious. If you don’t change, you won’t be in business tomorrow. If innovation was easy, simply going on a course to gain the tools and techniques would be sufficient. Courses are great starting points and, to ignite and sustain innovation, much more is needed. This is where we can help. We work with leaders and organisations to create the right climate for change, to overcome resistance, to encourage people to use the tools, techniques and processes they learn on the courses and, when successful outcomes appear, spread the word about that success. We use ‘live’ business issues, and facilitate people’s learning. We do this one-on-one with leaders, with whole departments, with change agents, with Boards of Directors; always in a tailored and bespoke way.