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The very purpose of innovation is to change things up, move processes forward, and disrupt the status quo. “Innovation for the sake of innovation” is a misuse of a very powerful and beneficial tool. Innovating in a vacuum can lead to an empty shell, leaving behind wasted human and financial resources, demoralized company morale, and a potentially counterproductive if not downright destructive outcome in its wake.
Innovation is more than just generating the next big idea—it involves how you both implement the ideas that make it out of the gate and build the culture to sustain the creation of those ideas. Thus, innovation’s ability to modify strategy is critical.
With that said, the implementation of innovation must exist separately and distinctly from your overall corporate strategy. Within the history of an organization, there are typically moments when the need for innovation becomes crystal clear—perhaps it may be catalyzed by a long draught of revenue growth, a succession of lost bids, or a competitor’s new product. Whatever the tipping-point, the first step toward creating a sustained culture of innovation is to lay the groundwork for building the organizational capability for innovation. The climate for innovation can only thrive when every aspect of the organization promotes the creativity, engagement, and acceptance of the change that is required.
The original Robert’s Rules of Innovation laid out a fundamental framework of 10 Key Imperatives to help everyone from novices to experts Create and Sustain Innovation in order to Innovate and Thrive in this competitive marketplace. These 10 imperatives conveniently spelled out the acronym I-N-N-O-V-A-T-I-O-N.
If there is no plan for implementing innovation, the biggest and brightest innovative ideas will dim and ultimately go dark. Why does all the hard work and energy directed toward creation of innovation efforts so frequently end up going down the drain? The predominant reason: the inability of the organization to implement the innovation plans. Innovation without implementation is mere ideation—don’t get stuck floating aimlessly in the clouds with your ideas. It takes more than a brainstorm to drive innovation success.
Innovation is both art and science—to get results, you need the structured repeatable process such as the framework set forth in Robert’s Rules of Innovation’s 10 Key Imperatives. A key to successful, long-term innovation implementation is the willingness and effort to break down this daunting goal into structured areas of focus. Hence, Robert’s Rules of Innovation II: The Art of Implementation (available on Amazon and at bookstores starting December 8, 2015 and available for preorder now). Generally speaking, implementing innovation has three parts, and you will find that the topics covered in Robert’s Rules of Innovation II naturally fall into three distinct areas:
- The “Big Ideas” of Implementation
- The “People Aspects” of Implementation
- The “Process” of Implementation
The “Big Ideas” of Implementation
“Innovation” as a term began taking root in the 19th century alongside the Industrial Revolution. At the time, it was an acronym for invention. While the meaning of term has evolved, one thing remains constant: innovation is just as much of a competitive necessity now as it was then. As discussed in RROI II, when it comes to enabling the big ideas and execution, for the best chance of success, it’s critical to:
Create your innovation mantra (and stick to it!): The best mantra’s inform a company’s everyday decisions and are actionable statements of intent. I advise leaders to set corporate and/or group goals and create a motto that communicates this common purpose. For example, at one company I led, we boldly stated our innovation mantra as “One Innovation per Year”—and most importantly, we doggedly stuck to it. Other examples of innovation mantra are “Be Relentless” and “Inspire Innovation”.
You get the idea. Build your organized work culture of innovation step-by-step, stone-by-stone. Build consensus, reinforce ideas, underscore the need for accountability, follow the rules of innovation, and watch out for and then counter innovation assassins, which are yet another barrier to making your innovative culture stick. When your team feels insecure, whether that insecurity is justified or not, they are more prone to Innovation Assassination. Resistance can take many forms: from open dissent to covert subterfuge. But in any form, it is a threat to innovation implementation.
The first step to countering innovation assassinations is by acknowledging its existence. Second, is to understand why. Lastly, it can be hard to mitigate these would-be assassins, but the best approach is by reinforcing a culture that accepts and even encourages disruption and risk. One of Pixar’s mantras is “Be wrong as fast as we can”; Google’s phrase is “Fail well”; and as discussed in RROI, I’m a fan of the saying “Fail fast and fail cheap”. Risk often translates into failure, so make sure failure is seen and experienced as a “Learning Experience”.
You just read Part 1 of a three-part series on Innovation and the Art of Implementation. Check back on the blog soon for Part 2 (“The People Aspects of Innovation”) and Part 3 (“The Process of Innovation”).
Read more about Innovation Implementation in Robert’s Rules of Innovation; The Art of Implementation. To pre-order this book: see Amazon.