Apologies for two weeks off. Now to pick up on the practical work of promoting innovation I mentioned at the end of last posting. First three principles:
- Innovation is not about what is new. In a result frame it is about what is better. Novelty without improvement is of very limited value.
- Innovation comes from individuals and small teams far more often than from committees, plans, or budgets. In particular, innovations almost never come from consensus. When all persons are on the proverbial same page, they all think alike. Literally, no one thinks differently.
- Innovation is different from creativity. Creative musings are common. People who put them to use are not.
So, here’s the good news. You do not need structure or process to become an innovator. You just need to answer three questions:
- a) Do you see something in your work or work context that does not work well? Best if a pain point you personally feel.
- b) Can you think of a better approach? Best if quite different from what you now do rather than a small refinement.
- c) Can you devise a small scale test project to test (not prove) whether your approach will outperform present practice? Best if short and as simple as possible.
The first response makes you a critic. The second makes you a suggester. The third makes you an innovator! See the Results1st website for the article called “Assumptions for Innovation”.
While innovation is about the use of suggestions, it is very helpful to create a culture of inquiry. It begins with the question “What if?” This leads to a constant flow of ideas generated by persons that see a problem or an opportunity and a way to deal with it. Research shows that high achieving companies have a constant flow of ideas from each employee available for consideration and testing. A book called Ideas Are Free by Robinson and Schroeder summarizes the evidence and the practice.
Individuals are the best instruments of innovation. They lead change by example. See something that does not work well? Go for it!