I just read a great post from Sid Lee’s JF Bouchard (Ideas eat the status quo for breakfast) about the need to free time in our agendas to IDEATE.
So true, mankind’s every great achievement started with a “What if?” But when I read texts like this one I can’t help noticing that we often only speak of one side of the innovation coin. I would venture that when we dare go beyond the What if?, we rapidly hit an other hurdle of innovation composed of a myriads of small bricks which create an impassible brick wall… the innovation wall.
Believe it or not, it looms taller, stronger and more imposing then the “What if” hurdle can ever be and is often expressed in the “But how?”.
So you dared make time in your agenda to change context and actively seek out new ideas and inspirations. Some of those actually turned up as good ideas to strive for and start producing. Fully engaged in your new ideas, you run back home to share the great news and how these new concepts will change the way we do business!
And then, you are faced with the bricks of the wall:
- “Oooh, this sounds risky, I don’t think we can venture in that direction”
- “Great idea, but sorry, all our resources are tied down on our important projects”
- “Sounds like a creative way of offering our product, can you validate with our internal regulations and intellectual property laws?”
- “Super concept, do you know how it will cost and what is the potential ROI?”
- “That’s crazy stuff, so much so, that I have no idea what you are talking about exactly”
- “Ok, you can try it, but for your sake, it better work!”
Ever seen some of those bricks lying around in your home town?
You are stuck with a great idea in an unfavourable context, you are trying to plant a seed in a sterile ground, and you are hitting your nose on the infamous innovation wall guarding the fertile fields of tomorrow.
So how do we chip away that corporate edification of the status quo?
Because I am sorry to inform you that until you start to tear that wall down, innovation will be a hard thing to materialize in such an environment, regardless of the amount of titanesque ideation efforts that you may put in.
Innovation is a by-product of the sum of a few things. Starting the process with the idea is like climbing Everest from the top. You need to start at sea-level and work your way up.
And sea-level in an innovative organisation is its LEADERSHIP.
Is it solid, anchored in strong values and a shared mission? Does it gather great people and more importantly trust them and develop them so they can achieve their best? And finally, does it foster a style of communication which is candid and transparent?
Without this type of leadership, you are off to a bad start.
Because from that leadership, stems your PERFORMANCE as a group. Are you intrinsically being proactive in a constant search for efficiency? Performance is how you measure the important things which will generate appropriate and wanted behaviours which in turn will able your to foster an environment conductive of innovation.
And then, you must become OPPORTUNISTIC, this capacity to see in situations, options that are not conceivable by others. Your attitude will be your most important factor here. Are you one to see problems or challenges? To get thrown off by a set-back or get energized by it? Real innovators are always on the lookout for unforeseen opportunities.
And finally, when you have put into place these elements will you gradually start seeing the emergence of real INNOVATION in your enterprise. People will be willing to take risks because they know how to measure them, they will not be thrown into every directions as the opportunities pop up, because strong values and mission purpose will guide them.
Your ideas will be met at face value, discussed, examined, compared and improved upon. And most importantly, they will be made real.
And in doing so, you will have most probably surpassed yourself as an individual and as a team, you will have excelled in your work.
Innovation is ladies and gentlemen, the by-product of excellence, this thing which we all strive for unknowingly.
Making time for ideas is an important part of innovation, but I would argue as important if not more, would be to make time to foster cultures of excellence amongst today`s businesses.
It is the only way I know of, to tear down the innovation wall and help great ideas grow into full blown awesome new products and services.