Most of us that have traveled on the undergrounds around the world and are well used to the announcement as a train pulls into the station of “mind the gap” between stepping off the train and the platform. The reminder is to make us aware there is a gap and we need to be ready for this. We need to be consciously aware.
Innovation nearly always suffers some form of “mind gap” and we tend to ignore the obvious and stumble into these gaps or fail to recognize them completely. These ‘gaps’ comes in so many different ways and guises.
Do you have gaps in your thinking?
We are in a need to constantly “mind the innovation gaps”, these are everywhere.
- Firstly innovation is meant to bridge the growth gap found in organizations, it needs to have clear plans to manage the core, seek out new adjacencies and investigate the white space opportunities for making up the growth plans, so as to meet the strategic goals and aspirations of the organization. We fail to think across different innovation horizons and not allocated dedicated resources and the time to each of these as we should.
- Our leaders have within themselves a real innovation gap as well. They spend less of their time on being involved with facilitating and guiding innovation than is ideal in many organizations, and this is often why we get such disjointed, underwhelming innovation results. Our leaders want innovation but fail to recognize they contribute significantly to having this innovation gap on required performance because they are not as engaged as they should be. They fail to put in their personal legwork and leave it to others. I am a real advocate for having in place a clear well-articulated innovation framework from the leadership of the organization
- We have gaps in the current enabling innovation practice, these are either not integrated into the organizations or piecemeal, rather held in silo’s and pockets of knowledge, that don’t achieve the organization connection needed to get the ‘full force’ of momentum from the innovation efforts.
- We lack gaps in how we reinforce innovation, in how we integrate it into our organizations and alongside all the other systems. We have gaps in the way we construct our cultures and environments for innovation to thrive. Far too often it simply struggles to survive. It stumbles from one innovation event to another, lacking a sustaining approach.
- We have generation gaps in understanding and practices. Far too often the middle managers within organizations fail to bridge the gaps of understanding. How we can create a better common affinity as it would help to close some of the knowledge and communication gaps if it was consistently recognized and worked upon. Diversity of opinion or approach should be valued.
- We have such an innovation gap as we often lack a common language within organizations to reduce misunderstandings, to extract all the necessary synergies that innovation does require. This lack of a common language is for me one of the biggest gaps to why innovation does not achieve its true potential. We need a more transparent environment where a common goal can be seen and all can collectively work upon.
- Then we have the performance gaps where the impact of the innovation efforts are less than initially stated, the impact expected falls short or the execution was lacking. All can be serious gaps often understated or understood. Metrics often have yawning gaps that fail to capture the true value of innovation.
- Then we have the gap of simply just not knowing. Innovation is often argued as a mystery, it needs to be left to chance, it is full of serendipity, and it is constantly dealing with the unknowns and untested. Yet there are so many gaps in this view in my opinion to be challenged and challenged hard.
So where do we start in reducing our gaps?
- We have to raise our awareness. The amount of training, of repeating routines, of practice, of incremental improvements often makes the difference between a good sports-person and a great one. We need to be well aware of our performance but we need to ‘see’ our shortcoming first
- Innovation needs constantly working upon. How we go about improving, in striving to understand what actually happens. The more we work on improving the performance and reducing the gaps the better.
- Innovation relies often on interactions between a wide diversity of interested parties. It is structuring these interactions and exchanges of knowledge that gives us not just the new production of products but into the value adding areas of new services and new business models.
We also need to raise our social awareness
- We must extend our thinking beyond immediate challenges. We do need to lift our thinking out into broader social and economic challenges to bring more meaning into our innovation activities.
- We need to bridge the gaps of real social challenges. There is incredible room for organizations to bridge the social challenges of our time in health and welfare with innovative treatments, preventative solutions and diagnostics.
- Getting our businesses to connect to these social challenges is critical. Our business organizations need to connect far more to the social challenges all around us to help in reducing the inequalities or advance the solutions needed.
- We also need to reduce the gaps in our existing education shortfalls. We need to protect our environment more, to educate, to help in stress relief, age related solutions, working conditions, poverty reduction, in disease prevention and making basic essentials available to everyone (water and electricity).
The innovation gaps are everywhere if we care to look.
Striving to introduce truly life-changing innovation that is needed may not be so possible for many of us but we do need to address the many innovative gaps we find in our everyday lives. Those that will support our collective capacity to initiate, absorb, support, organize, manage and exploit innovation in its many forms.
Often innovation is hidden in plain sight. We need to reorganize the DNA genetic code of the organization for innovation. We need to identify all the innovation impediments and gaps we can work upon to strengthen our innovation DNA.
As we are about to step off the underground train and hear the message “mind the gap” perhaps you should ask yourself “how can I lessen our innovation gap today?” Keep well-focused, determined to reduce those innovation gaps that are all around us.
image credit: keepcalmstudio.com
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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.