Innovations about Innovating
post # 233 — November 6, 2006 — a Managing post
Recently I had the privilege of participating in a workshop in Denmark on the topic of innovation in professional services. It was organized by Stefan Lindegaard, who has been responsible before for bringing me to
Denmark and organizing conferences for me. (Thanks, Stefan, keep up the good work!)
On Stefanâ€™s November 2 blog post, he summarises the results of our discussions on innovation. They included:
â€¢ Most firms (and individuals) have lots of innovative ideas — thatâ€™s not the shortage. Rather, the problem is lack of follow-through in diverting the time away from current production to get the innovative projects done. At the individual and organizational level, we just forgive ourselves for not investing in our future — especially if the reason we are able to give is that we â€œmade more sausagesâ€ (ie increased current production.)
â€¢ To get more innovation going in a professional environment, you need to pull, not push. The truth is that people do things for themselves, not for the glory of the company. So, you need to find out what innovative experiments people would want to pursue for their own reasons, and figure out which ones would benefit the company most if they worked out.
â€¢ Messy, self-selected teams or networks are better at driving change and innovation than teams hand-picked by top management. Stefan points out that, in many organizations, there is a tendency to keep teams going forever. He says you need to dissolve teams of all kinds when a mission is accomplished and then form new teams or networks for new missions.
â€¢ Innovation wins through its portfolio of experiments, not by being super-geniuses at spotting in advance the one that is going to work. So, you need to stimulate a large number of experiments.
â€¢ Start out with small innovation projects that have a chance to pay off early — small scale, quick payback projects. Get the early wins. They will help build the confidence, change the culture and over time create a larger and longer-lasting impact.
Stefan reports on more lessons than these, and Iâ€™d recommend looking at other posts on his blog if innovation is your interest.
And it should be. One of the first lessons I was taught at business school was: â€œMost innovations fail, but companies that donâ€™t innovate die.â€ The same is true for individual careers.
What have you tried in the past three months that gave you a shot at building your capabilities? What plans do you have for the next three months to try something radically different?
I really want to know. Letâ€™s share here. What experiments are you trying? Iâ€™m not asking you to betray confidences and give away your secrets — just help others in this community, as individuals or in firms, get better at innovating.
Whatâ€™s working to stimulate innovation where you work?