Take the Innovation Self-Test

Take the Innovation Self-TestEver wonder why some companies seem to effortlessly come out with one great innovation after another while others struggle to get even one new product or service out the door? There’s a reason for it.

Innovation is a complex process that involves a lot more than just throwing money at an R&D department and hoping for results. Specifically, it requires certain ways of thinking and behaving that open people up to considering possibilities and prevent them from getting stuck in the past.

Companies that innovate on a regular basis practice these behaviors on a regular basis. Companies that struggle to innovate rarely engage in these behaviors, or not at all. Then they tend to blame their lack of success on outside factors rather than what is (or is not) happening within the organization.

To find out where you stand on a continuum of these behaviors, answer the following questions.

In our company:

1. New ideas are…
A. Encouraged
B. Tolerated
C. Frowned upon
D. Discouraged

2. Risk taking is…
A. Encouraged
B. Tolerated
C. Frowned upon
D. Discouraged

3. Challenging the status quo is…
A. Encouraged
B. Tolerated
C. Frowned upon
D. Discouraged

4. Expressing conflicting points of view is…
A. Encouraged
B. Tolerated
C. Frowned upon
D. Discouraged

5. Failure is…
A. Accepted as a necessary part of the innovation process
B. Tolerated
C. Blamed on outside circumstances
D. Punished

6. Seeking out new sources of data (especially those outside our business or industry) is…
A. Encouraged
B. Tolerated
C. Frowned upon
D. Discouraged

7. Interdepartmental communication…
A. Happens most of the time
B. Happens some of the time
C. Rarely happens
D. Never happens

8. Collaborating with customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders on new ways of doing business…
A. Happens most of the time
B. Happens some of the time
C. Rarely happens
D. Never happens

9. New projects and initiatives…
A. Almost always receive sufficient funding and resources
B. Sometimes receive sufficient funding and resources
C. Rarely receive sufficient funding and resources
D. Never receive sufficient funding and resources

10. People are recognized and rewarded for coming up with new ideas/innovative thinking…
A. Most of the time
B. Some of the time
C. Rarely
D. Never

Give yourself 3 points for every A answer, 2 points for every B, 1 point for every C, and 0 points for every D. Then visualize a straight-line continuum with zero anchoring the left side and 30 on the right.

How did you score?


25 or more
Congratulations, you’re in the innovation zone. You have a solid foundation in place for ongoing innovation, and most of the attitudes and structures needed to support it. This doesn’t mean that you’ll succeed every time. But you should succeed enough to keep you ahead of the competition and develop a reputation as an innovation leader. Senior managers should focus on continually nurturing that culture so that innovation remains an expectation rather than a “nice to have.”

15 to 24
You’re in the improvement zone. You may have the occasional success but probably struggle to sustain innovation over time. Leaders should identify which people, processes, systems, and behaviors support innovation and which ones get in the way. Then create a plan for improving the problem areas, and focus on tweaking the culture so it will allow innovation to flourish.

14 or less
Danger zone! Your customers and markets are probably already leaving you behind. Leaders need to ask some hard questions: Why is innovation not a part of our long-term strategy? What is preventing us from innovating? How can we shift the culture from one of focusing exclusively on protecting past successes to becoming open to new possibilities?

Keep in mind that innovation needs to be a long-term process, especially if you’re used to reacting to change rather than creating it. It also requires a culture that approaches it as a way of life rather than a short-term band-aid for current business problems.

So don’t expect to radically change your ability to innovate overnight. Instead, identify where you stand on the innovation continuum, then set small, achievable goals for gradually moving from the left to the right. Get everyone involved in thinking about how to improve the business, and make it safe for people to push the envelope. Over time, you’ll become the company that has everyone else in the industry wondering how you do it.

Call to action: For a REAL eye-opener, have leaders and front-line employees answer these questions, and then compare their answers.

image credit: sapphire

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Holly G GreenHolly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast, will change your thinking.

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One Response to Take the Innovation Self-Test

  1. Braden Kelley says:

    To dig a little deeper and help identify specific actions you can take to improve your innovation culture, you might want to try doing a cross-departmental survey using the free innovation audit from my book ‘Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire’, available here:

    http://bradenkelley.com/thought-leadership/stoking-your-innovation-bonfire/free-stuff/

    Braden
    @innovate

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