$Those Little Sparks Are Worth Money!
1.Know your mission.
If your organizational mission is out of date or you don’t have one, get it updated or written, and approved. You can only evaluate new ideas if you have a clear set of values to compare them to. Your mission helps determine which sparks are useful and which ones you should ignore.
2.Understand the true nature of innovation.
Innovation takes many forms, and comes naturally to human beings. It’s not a mysterious black box that’s understood only by super-brains or fancy consultants. Sparks can fly from any area of your organization, from the boardroom to the loading dock.
3.Recognize the value of sustained innovation, whether it’s planned or spontaneous.
New ideas can either save money or make money. They are the lifeblood of any company. Whether they’re incremental, breakthrough, or disruptive, you need to keep the pipeline flowing, because your competitors surely are.
4.Make the commitment.
Don’t rely on luck or happenstance! Your Innovation Mandate needs to be sustained, evaluated, funded as necessary, and part of your long-term strategy for success. Even incremental innovation, when pursued consistently over the long term, can produce startling results and keep your company at the forefront. You can’t afford not to do it!
Make Innovation REAL
1.Know your company.
Review your capacity for innovation versus where you should be. Get input from a wide range of stakeholders. Be honest: Are you sitting on your hands because your market seems stable and your customers happy? You should not feel so comfortable! Industry disruption is happening more quickly and more deeply than ever, and if you fail to create a culture of innovation, you’ll find your market position eroding.
2.Design your own Innovation Mandate.
While this book provides guidelines and key insights, no two companies are alike. An Innovation Mandate that works for CSAA IG isn’t going to work for Apple—or for your company. You need to identify and nurture your organization’s innovation strengths to match your mission and financial goals.
3.Launch your minimally viable organizational transformation to become an innovation leader.
Don’t wait until it’s perfect! Remember, innovation is a process that will become an integral part of your company, not a short-term project. Get it up and running. Evaluate it and make adjustments. Get feedback from stakeholders. If an idea looks promising, fund it and demand results. Spread the news when you have a success. Don’t worry about crazy ideas—let them go and focus on the good ones. Make your employees a vital part of the innovation pipeline. Don’t stop!
Smart vs. Stupid Innovation
1.Be judicious: Just because you can do something new doesn’t mean you have to.
Ideas are good, and the more you have, the better! But choose carefully. At Toyota, each employee reportedly submits forty-eight new ideas from each employee every year, of which nine are adopted. This means thirty-nine are not adopted—and the employees still love the program because they know each idea is given a fair hearing.
2.Remember, your customer decides.
You probably think the shiny gimmick you’re adding to your product or service will wow your customers. Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. At the end of the day, you need to let them decide. If they don’t like it, either figure out how to make them see the value (like P&G did with Febreze) or pull the plug.
3.Spark an organizational transformation to become an innovation leader.
Avoid the Potemkin village syndrome. Too many “innovation centers” or “idea labs” are nothing more than empty showplaces. Innovation is happening—and needs to be recognized and nurtured—in every corner of your organization.
The Innovation Mission
1.Commit to your Innovation Mandate.
Innovation is just as important to your organization as sales, production, finance, or any other area of activity. It needs to be a part of your organization’s DNA. Remember—if you don’t innovate and seek ways to do your job better and better, you will fall behind and ultimately perish, just like the dinosaurs.
2.Customize your approach to fit your organization.
Just like DNA, which is different for every human being (even, according to new evidence, identical twins), your company’s DNA is unique. While there are clear concepts for creating a culture of innovation, which is what this book is all about, the exact expression of those concepts is different for every organization. Beware of innovation consultants bearing boxed one-size-fits-all solutions—they may not work for you!
3.Create a positive, happy environment.
The human mind is most likely to innovate when it possesses a positive outlook. The spark of innovation can come at any time, and when it does, one of two things can happen: it can be allowed to fizzle out and get cold, or it can be captured and its energy put to good use. New ideas that aren’t captured and evaluated are a form of waste and missed opportunity cost. Keep them working for you!
Innovation means change—sometimes disruptive, sometimes incremental. Consequently, every organization needs someone who has the authority and responsibility to encourage and manage innovation. This could be the CEO, team leaders, or a dedicated chief innovation officer (CIO).
The Six Commitments of Your Innovation Mandate
To ensure a strong Innovation Mandate, make these Six Commitments:
Your employees need the time to experiment and brainstorm new solutions. Whether it’s on a fixed schedule or built into the day, consider their time spent innovating as an investment in your organization’s future.
To start and stay consistent, earmark a line in your budget for the support of innovation. Keep it there even during lean times, because that’s when you need it most.
Your employees need to be the best and the brightest. Promote and facilitate lifelong learning, make sound business decisions, and the return on investment will be significant.
The companies with the lowest rate of employee turnover also have the highest employee-engagement rates and are seen as being happy places to work. People who are unhappy or bored are not innovative. Keep spirits high by making the emotional connections everyone wants yet can’t always find.
As the leader, you need to provide the time, the money, and the resources to create a sustainable culture of innovation. Resources include the physical space and the necessary equipment.
Many conventional problems are solved by asking, “Could we make this existing process incrementally better?” There’s nothing wrong with that! But for real innovation, it works better to imagine a perfect world, and then ask, “How would we create our solution? What would it look like?”
Get started today!
The Innovation Operating System (IOS)
To create your innovation operating system, follow the six steps:
This is your compass that keeps you pointed toward your goal. Do not start until you know exactly why innovation will benefit your organization.
“See” the innovations you want to create. Not the innovations themselves, of course, but the problems you want to solve and how your organization could make a difference.
What kinds of innovation are you looking for? Incremental or breakthrough, or a combination? Process or product? Remember, innovations don’t have to be directly experienced by the customer. For example, significant innovation is happening in logistics and human resources.
Innovation is created and championed by people. Your leaders and your employees must be ready and willing to embrace innovation in all its forms.
Do you need defined teams to work on projects, or are you looking for every employee to offer ideas? Be sure to identify—and empower—as many innovation champions as you need.
Establish the structure of your innovation program, with clear procedures and processes. These need to be both structured and flexible. Ensure buy-in from every relevant stakeholder.
The Innovation Pipeline
Set up your innovation pipeline, ensure that’s it’s filled to capacity with sparks of innovation, and then rigorously measure your input, output, and process.
Here are some of the elements that you need to be able to check off your list:
1.An active and engaged innovation champion.
This person is responsible for the performance of the innovation pipeline. Just like in any other senior position, this individual must have responsibility, authority, and accountability. He or she must also have the appropriate resources to get the job done.
2.A robust structure.
Formalization promotes stability and reduces uncertainty. The operating rules of the spark generator process should be clear and communicated to all members of the organization, characterized by transparent decision-making accountability, and contain specific performance measures. It also needs to be flexible enough to handle disruptive ideas.
3.Efficient idea sorting and screening.
The organization needs one or more mechanisms to separate good ideas from bad ones, and evaluate ideas by means of both business and feasibility analysis.
4.Internal cooperation among functions and departments.
A new product or process concept must be able to endure scrutiny from different functional perspectives. This necessitates functional cooperation in the screening and evaluation of new ideas. Close coordination among functions and departments ensures preservation of value for a new concept and facilitates the subsequent development phase.
Long-Term Innovation Success
1.Know and serve your customer.
Everything you do must be focused on bringing more value to your customer—and, to do that, you need a steady flow of new ideas.
2.Perform a self-assessment.
Take an honest look at yourself, your people, and your organization, and judge how prepared you are to ramp up your innovation pipeline.
3.Identify and empower an innovation champion.
The buck must stop at someone’s desk. Innovation is a people-powered activity, and you need people to take responsibility for it.
4.Plan, build, and deploy your innovation operating system.
Innovation is the transformation of ideas into reality. Start by taking your idea of an innovation operating system and making it real.
5.Review, review, and review again.
Persistence is the key to success. Innovation is a numbers game—there will be many sparks, but few will ignite. That’s okay!