Today, it’s hard to find an organization that hasn’t adopted innovation in some aspect of their business. CEOs claim it in their annual reports, and product marketing is awash in claims of innovation. But few are truly successful at it.
Why so many claims of innovation? It’s easy to do it once. The difficulty comes in trying to repeat it—continuously—exactly what’s required to be considered innovative. It requires both participation and resources, and the commitment to dedicate the time necessary to ensure success. The creation of a successful innovation management program is the combination of business processes, accountability, tools, and a bit of art.
While innovation and creativity are critical to an organization’s success, it cannot be forced or even demanded of people. Many organizations mistakenly “push” innovation onto their employees by setting up idea submission websites or building elaborating brainstorming areas, however, they rarely yield success because they force rather than ask for innovation.
Instead, the appropriate environment and processes need to be crafted, such that an employee’s innate creativity are naturally forthcoming. This entails addressing logistical, psychological, technical, and managerial aspects of the organization with our proven best practices and systems.
We’ve worked with hundreds of organizations and thousands of people to refine our processes. Through trial and error, we’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work. Step by Step Innovation is the result of this work and in plain and simple terms—it works!
In this book, you’ll read the story of one person’s task to create innovation within his company. Although the characters are fictitious, they represent real successes—and failures—garnered from thousands of interviews, training sessions, and system deployments in organizations around the globe. You’ll recognize the issues that arise in engineering, marketing, and deployment, and how they’re solved. In this, you’ll find your key to success.
Much of the inspiration for this book came from my exasperated attempts at getting “innovation to work” at companies around the globe. One of the biggest frustrations was the observation that everyone believes that they know how to innovate. After all, it seems simple: get people to give you good ideas—and everyone is always more than willing to give you good ideas, right? Not quite. There is a complex psychological contract that must be established between the idea submitter and the recipient. This “contract” contains provisions important to the submitter, such as “Will I be promoted or demoted?”, “Will I get credit if the idea is successful?”, “Will you spend the time reviewing the idea if I spend the time submitting it?” and so on. From the recipient’s perspective, there are conditions as well, such as “Will you provide me with ‘good’ ideas?” “Have you considered the political, economic, etc. implications of your idea?”, and “Is someone really going to come up with a better idea than me?”
One might attempt to brush these off as selfish thoughts that would never come up in your organization, but that would be wrong. We seem to believe that innovation is a byproduct of a “happy” organization, and that “happy” employees will give us a bounty of relevant, implementable ideas. The hard truth is that innovation is not an employee requirement. No one gets fired for failing to come up with a good idea. However, many more employees get ridiculed for coming up with ‘bad’ ideas, that is, bad ideas in terms of the people who review them. It is interesting to note that nearly 90% of successful entrepreneurs took their bad idea with them and started a successful business. So, in many ways, the desire to innovate is suppressed by the organizational structure and overwhelmingly negative consequences for trying to innovate.
So, what am I driving at? If it was easy, everyone would be successful. You’d simply send an email, or post a note on the bulletin board, and a flood of good ideas would come pouring in. In reality, “real” innovation is difficult. It is a carefully crafted recipe that combines culture, economics, psychology, tools, and serendipity to produce demonstrable results. Real innovation solves issues that the organization struggles with and it enables growth. It creates competitive advantage. It is repeatable.
As much as open innovation is important for your organization, ultimately it demands financial justification of its usefulness. Send your email address for a free overview copy of Step by Step Innovation, or call us right now at 412-489-5900 x4.