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“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
– Winston Churchill
You don’t need me to tell you why innovation is important. The Status Quo is boring, and no great fortune was ever built by playing it safe. To step out of the pack and escape the average and mundane, companies of tomorrow need to bring something new to the table. Peter Drucker once said that the purpose of a business enterprise is “to create a customer.”
When innovation efforts fail, the culprit is usually culture, or people-related issues. Inspiration and Ideation need to be driven by the CEO, who should acts as the chief innovation officer (CINO). Successful innovation facilitation requires patience, restraint, intelligence, and good-natured shepherding.
According to A.G Lafey and Ram Charan (co-authors of the book, The Game Changer: How every leader can drive everyday innovation), “innovation leaders have an entirely different set of skills, temperament, and psychology”. It is universally agreed that they must challenge the status quo, inspire, lead, and drive the process.
Past the personality and skill of your CINO, supporting the CEO in the drive to succeed in Innovation, all comes down to the Vision, Mission, and Strategy. All three need to be aligned with innovation.
- Develop your vision:by defining the desired culture.
Culture can enable or kill innovation. Define innovation so the entire organization is moving in the same direction. Quantify your goal, whether it’s a sales figure or number of new products you hope to achieve, and this will help justify the resources to be allocated. Every company has their own unique definition of innovation and how it pertains to their business. By defining your culture, you will help everyone in your organization understand the look and feel of innovative behavior, and how to work together to achieve it.
- Create a Mission: to establish the foundation.
Communicate day-in and day-out what you expect from your team. Within the vision, identify where structures are needed to frame an innovator’s activities. For example, create monthly innovation days, or put together a fund to recognize innovative brainstorming. You can also create an identity, values, or brand for innovation; which will become the overarching theme for future initiatives, programs, and products.
Conversant is a powerhouse in the online advertising industry and they are dedicated to pushing the envelope. Innovation is built into the very foundation of how they run their business; and the message comes straight from their President and CEO, John Giuliani. Every corporate employee knows the 4 core values: Innovation, Ownership, Integrity, and Teamwork. “People are the primary differentiator for successful digital companies like ours. A corporate culture needs to unlock people’s potential and reflect the values a company believes will drive the business forward,” says Mr. Giuliani.
- Engineer sustainability: with strategy.
Develop a structured repeatable process, or a standardized guideline for the new product development strategy that examines quality, capability, and capacity for managing projects. Once you’ve clearly defined the stages and tasks for the NPD process, stick to your strategic vision for sustainable Innovation. Due to the fact that innovation is not always immediately tangible, it is important to continually re-evaluate the role and adapt to change in order to stay relevant.
Other ways to inspire sustainable innovation: Get your teams fired up! (From Michelle Greenwald)
o Create and disseminate regularly scheduled newsletters; provide examples of relevant industry news & innovations from other competitors and industries.
o Send employees to hear inspiring experts outside the firm, such as TED Talks, a relevant business summit, or by bringing successful innovators into the workplace.
o Create a central repository that’s easily searchable, so employees know where and how to access the information. This could involve dedicating a room, and hiring a librarian or information curator, and/or creating a searchable, digital database.
o Expand the profiles and work experience of new hires to bring in fresh thinking and unique views.
Innovation and ideation are pointless without buy-in from top management, and the support of your team; be sure to engage the senior leadership team, employees of organization, and key external stakeholders in the development of a shared vision and the path forward.
You can learn more about creating and sustaining innovation by reading “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival”. In 1876, H.M. Robert created “Robert’s Rules of Order” to use a system that brings about order from chaos in meetings (see http://www.robertsrules.com/history.html). Just like meetings, Innovation requires rules and order to succeed in Creating and Sustaining Innovation. Based on years of hands-on experience, research, surveys and numerous interviews with business leaders, Robert’s Rules of Innovation captures the imperatives to not just create, but most importantly sustain innovation.