As we end the first six months of 2009, one thing is clear: people are realizing that innovation is more than a buzzword. It’s a critical component of an organization’s success: it’s the lifeblood that makes the organization tick and survive a world of high-velocity change.
As someone who spends a lot of time helping some of the world’s largest organizations adapt to and understand the new high-velocity economy, I’ve long realized that there are big, creative-stumbling-blocks that have restricted the type of thinking that is necessary to “doing-things-differently.”
Yet, I am encountering a new group of leaders who know that the emergence of the high-velocity economy means that they must have a a team that can constantly adapt and evolve, coming up with a regular stream of new ideas on how to better run the business, grow the business and transform the business.
There are several reasons why innovation will be the primary area of focus for every business, going forward:
- people are finally “getting it“: They are realizing that innovation isn’t just about new products ; it’s also about looking at what you do, how you do it, and how you can do it better.
- people are realizing that innovation isn’t optional: They have come to realize that in the fast paced world in which we find ourselves, with multiple competitive threats and unprecedented new opportunities, those who can think differently and who can do things differently will be those that make the leap from potential failure to massive success
- people are realizing they can “do” innovation: they’re realizing that innovation isn’t some dark, mysterious ancient ritual: they’re realizing that it simply a mindset that involves constant probing to see how we can fix things, find new things, or transform things: whether those things be business processes, customer service methods, new products, marketing and distribution channel concepts, or just about anything else.
- people know that innovation is driven by extreme velocity: In every industry, the certain minimum expectations which have long existed are now constantly rising. Whether it is issues of cost/price, customer service/support, logistics/delivery, brand coolness or new products, the rule is simple: to compete today, you have to keep up with high-velocity change. If you don’t innovate to maintain the same velocity as everyone else, you get left behind. It’s that simple.
- people know it becomes easier to be innovative if you plug into the global innovation idea loop: What has happened in the last decade is quite simple: there is now a huge and massive global discussion underway. If you can learn how to tap it, you can discover a wealth of innovative ideas and thinking, new knowledge, wonderful insight and creativity.
- people know that demographic change brings about more innovative thinking: quite simply, as change adverse baby-boomers begin to retire, they are being replaced by change-adept Gen-Connects: individuals who view innovative opportunities in the context of connectivity. They are always asking themselves, how can I do something cool with this business problem if I layer connectivity on top of it? Whether it’s supply chain reorganization, collaborative tools or something else, they bring a whole new innovative perspective to the game.
- people are learning that innovation is not a one time thing: when it comes to innovation, the idea of a “suggestion box” is just so “20’th century.” There is now an understanding that a company must live a culture of innovation: everyone must be completely and fundamentally focused on the new things we need to do to stay in the game, and excel at what we do.
- people know that innovation has gone mainstream: Everyday people are starting to use the I-word in conversation, and it’s becoming natural. Innovation has left the realm of the esoteric, and has become the next natural area of focus in business.
- management is now focusing on the attributes of an innovation team: agility, insight and execution have become their guiding principles. They know that they must have agility to respond to the rapid change that constant innovation demands; they know they need depth of insight to discover where innovative ideas can work; they know that it isn’t just coming up with the ideas, but making them work, that is so critical to their innovation success.
- people are seeking a head start on how to make the leap to innovation: A guy like me, who makes his living helping organizations understand innovation, now finds his agenda heavily booked. Management everywhere has put innovation on the agenda for the upcoming months, and they’re doing what it takes to get a kick-start on the process.
The most important thing? People are discovering that if you focus on innovation, you can break away from the dull, restrictive, boring routine activities that shackle you to the past. Instead, by focusing your energies on ideas, creativity, challenging the status quo, constantly seekling how you can do things better, grow things, or transform things, you ended up having a lot more fun — and see a lot more benefits.
People have come to realize that being innovative is just plain fun.
That fact, more than anything else, signals that innovation is becoming critical.