I have been reading quite a lot on innovation lately. Books and blogs. But it looks to me that there is too much theory and too less practice.
I have read about many ideas to organize innovation, to do scouting, idea management, incubation, internal/external challenges, brand recognition programs. Grand theories about innovation in the core or beyond the core, or about innovation TO the core. About cultural change. About leadership and executive sponsorship.
All these are important components of a company wide Innovation Program, but all this ignores something very fundamental.
Does your company REALLY want to innovate ?
It’s more than wanting.
You must LOVE innovation
As mentioned elsewhere on my blog, i have something with “stage”. Well, maybe you do not know, but it just happens that Flanders is the host of the worldwide leader of stage-builders. The company is called STAGECO. They build the stages for U2, The Rolling Stones, Rock-Werchter, etc, etc. Oh boy, those guys are passionate about what they are doing ! So, i went to their site and look what i found:
The keyword is “loves”
Just this week, i stumbled upon this book from Jeanne Bliss.
The book is a bit off-topic with respect to innovation “pur-sang”, but ask yourself the question:
“Do you love innovation
more than your dog ?”
And love is about a relationship. In my previous life at Microsoft, we once had a consultant Max McKeowen. At that time we were discussing “Love/Hate Relationships” with customers. How did it come that people love Apple and hate Microsoft ? It ended up in a very interesting write-up and in the end a company wide program to create these Love-relationships with customers.
So, i went back to that write-up, and there was something about
HOT or NOT
Imagine the same HOT or NOT questions about your Innovation.
Is your Innovation HOT ?
I also suggest that we all turn-on our bullshit-detector. To find out what Guy Kawasaki calls the “Bull Shiitake” of your Innovation Programs.
Such a detector comes really cheap. Every human with some basic intelligence has it just built-in. In essence, your need a reality check-out your love for innovation
So, ask yourself the question:
“Does my company LOVE innovation ?”
So, ask yourself:
“are we really shooting for the innovation that Guy Kawasaki had in mind at Sibos 2009 when he spoke about “Jumping the next curve” ?
So, ask yourself what you did with
“Don’t let the Bozo’s grind you down”
I am also a big believer of “Radical Innovation” as described in Rowan Gibson’s book “Innovation to the Core.
Radical Innovation is not the same as “Risky” Innovation. By Rowan’s definition, an idea is truly radical if it passes one or more of the following three tests:
- Does it have the power to dramatically reset customer expectations and behaviors?
- Does it have the power to change the basis for competitive advantage?
- Does it have the power to change industry economics?
If an idea does not meet the test of being truly radical, it is not going to have very much impact on either the top line or the bottom line. It still may be something that is perfectly worthwhile to do, but it’s unlikely to make much of a difference to revenue growth.
For many executives, the word radical is too, well . . . radical. It makes them feel nervous and uncomfortable. Sometimes they feel more comfortable with “Impactful” rather than “Radical” Innovation.
This is very much related to the thinking of Mark Raison from Yellow Ideas. I already mentioned Mark in my previous blog on Google and Finance 2.0 when i wrote:
…especially the implicit push for extreme – even “impossible” innovation. Last week, i was attending the 11th European Conference on Creativity and Innovation. One of the keynotes came from Mark Raison, titled “The Power of Impossible”
One of his slides really summarizes this to it’s essence:
So if you’re really serious about innovation, here is a checklist of do’s and don’ts (non exhaustive list 😉
Here are some good recipes for failure
– Don’t recognize your failures of the past
– Never invite your innovation guys to the company’s leadership off-sites
– Do invite external consultants who will say what you like and ideally repeat what you’ve been hearing about innovation the last 5 years. Everybody will feel proud on how much (old) innovation thinking is going on.
– Make sure that you always insert at least one of your most conservative guys from the past in any of your innovation strategy teams to ensure there are enough brakes on innovative thinking
– Focus your innovation on incremental changes
– Make sure that you “detach” your innovation resources to help supporting this year’s business priorities
– Ask your innovation resources to help selling.
And here are some suggestions for “real” success
– Keep yourself honest. Make sure you feel 100% ok when telling your innovation story to yourself. Try it: talk to yourself in the mirror. I hope you don’t fool yourself.
– If you are serious about innovation, be bloody serious about it: put at least the same budget and resources as for your Six Sigma, Quality, or other Efficiency programs.
– Make sure that your innovation efforts are exclusively and rigorously focused on radical innovation. All the rest is just window dressing and peace of mind and “peace of board”.
– Have a monthly 1/2 day quality time slot with your full Executive Team ànd your full Innovation Team to discuss and progress your Innovation program.
– Hire lots young people. Let them incubate and propose radical innovation. With some exceptions, innovation will NOT come from the 40+ years old.
– Build an Innovation-Force of young (< 35 years) high potentials (HIPO’s)
– Make sure that your HIPO Innovators have a seat on ALL your decision bodies and committees.
– Have an HR program that focuses on building the creative and innovative skills in your company. Consider setting-up an Innovation University together with other innovators from within or outside your industry.
– Have innovation exchange programs of your HIPOs with other companies.
– Protect innovators in your company. And be VERY vocal about this protection. And do something with the appraisal of those who have the courage to stick out their neck.
– Create the annual “stick-out-your-neck” Award. With a hefty monetary prize attached to it.
– Celebrate Innovation Achievements
And last but not least, forbid any of the following 29 Idea Killers to be used to challenge any idea in your company:
Keep yourself honest. Look in your mirror, and ask yourself “How real is our Innovation ?”