Innovation is a mindset. Do you have what it takes?
Here’s a few simple thoughts on how to get out of your innovation rut!
Reward failure, and tone down the “I told-you-so’s”
Too many people think when times are volatile, that it’s not a good time to focus on big ideas. Not true! Consider history: many people stuck their neck out in the 1990’s and tried out new ways of doing business, new technologies, and innovative methods of dealing with markets and customers. Yet many of those efforts collapsed in spectacular fashion due to the dot.com/technology meltdown, and a dangerous sense of complacency set in. Back then, innovators had to hang their head in shame, and the nervous nellies who dared not innovate reigned supreme! Yet those who took risk excelled — they invented Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Instagram…. When times are volatile and fear reigns, that’s the best time to make big bold moves.
We live in a time of unprecedented feedback and communication – and yet few organizations are prepared to listen! Customers are telling you, loudly, what they want. Young people are defining a future that is different from anything we’ve dealt with before. Competitive intelligence capabilities abound. And yet most or- ganizations ignore these signals, or don’t know how to listen – or even where to look. Organizations should reconsider the many effective ways of building effective digital feedback systems, in order that they can stay on top of fast-changing events, rediscover markets, and define opportunity – which will help them understand how and where they need to innovate.
Let your customers in the building
Don’t just listen to your customers – lead them in through the front door! The vir-tual building, that is. Global connectivity now provides an unprecedented opportunity for interactive design and innovation. Customer-oriented innovation should be your guiding phrase — les customers become intimately involved in the overall design and evolution of your products and services.
Encourage frivolous education
“Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st century” – that’s a phrase that neatly captures the reality of the fast pace of change that envelopes us. Yet, how can employees innovate if they are restricted to formal education programs? Why not establish some “playtime” where staff can try out a multitude of new technologies, go shopping in a mall, or surf social networks – and then share what they’ve learned? Set them out onto frivolous activities with a goal in mind – to measure customer service, examine competitive activities, take a look at new products, or simply come up with some cool new ideas. Maybe you’ll get some unique insight that doesn’t come from traditional, boring, staid educational programs!
Promote offbeat time
Don’t stop at sending them to the mall – send them to the beach! Don’t restrict innovation into the organizational structure. Some years back, a mobile device company developed rainbow-colored cell phones, popular with young people, after some executives decided to hang out at the beach one day. It’s by promoting “whacky time” that organizations can come up with great ideas.
Destroy organizational sclerosis
It’s been said before, but needs to be said again – hierarchy is the enemy of inno-vation. Everyone knows that the big challenge in many organizations are silos, uncommunicative departments, and a culture that doesn‘t promote openness. To improve the ability of an organization to innovate, communication barriers need to be broken down.Today, there are countless methods to destroy “organizational sclerosis,” particularly through frivolous employee communications. Establish informal innovation idea channels, and magic will flow!
Throughout the next year, take the time to listen to young people — anyone 10 years younger than yourself, or even more. They’re building the future right now, and you’d do well to understand it. Their future is hyper-active, interactive and multi-tasking – this generation gets bored quickly, and they are beginning to dominate your workplace. They are also becoming your new competitors. Don’t expect them to subscribe to the same old beliefs as to structure and rules, working hours, and corporate culture, or business models. You won’t survive in their future if you don’t take the time to understand what they are doing, talking about, and thinking.