The secret to innovation is …. that there is no secret! There are a few things to consider but these are definitely not secret.
Also, please do not believe that Innovation is the preserve of a select few, the Innovation Gurus that have sprung up everywhere. As the great Charles Handy once said ‘guru is just an American word for charlatan’.
Once you have worked out what works for you, simply practise and repeat. There are however a couple of things to remember.
To start with you will need:
A strategy – Innovation is enhanced greatly by a clearly articulated and communicated strategy. Innovation is not an end in itself, rather a means to an end.
A process – You can ‘wing it’ or adopt some sort of process. I must admit to being a fan of the former as long as there are guidelines. Beware of rigid processes though as you can end up just copying what someone else has done. If you don’t completely understand the context you may get nowhere fast. It matters less what the process is and more that there is a process. This means everybody has to know what happens next and what role they must play to make innovation happen. Communication is key as with Strategy.
To be Cross Functional and Team Based – Innovation is not the responsibility of any single department or individual. Innovation touches every part of a company (hence the link to strategy) and needs the broadest possible understanding from every part of your business.
To have Customer Focus – Winning companies are tuned in to the needs of their customer. There is a huge difference between providing a customer with what you think they want and what they actually need or want. You need to step into their shoes.
And here are four top tips for anyone getting to grips with Innovation:
1. There are no short cuts, the world is littered with those who have tried something similar to you but have tried the short cut. .
2. Complacency is your enemy. If you are doing something ground breaking, don’t stop when it ‘sort of works’. You will be optimising mediocrity. Be willing to experiment to get what you want.
3. Life will get uncomfortable (very). Thomas Edison’s quote regarding the ratio of inspiration to perspiration within genius. Be ready to perspire once you have been inspired.
4. To succeed you will need a lot of ideas. In my workshops, I find that out of every 10 really crazy ideas there is only one weird idea that is worth thinking about further. And out of every 10 weird ideas, there may only be one worth devoting resources to. In reality, the overall ratio might be nearer 1000 to 1 than 100 to 1.
I hope that none of the above has scared you at all. You can do all of this without the help of ‘gurus’. A sounding board might help though!