Moreover, thanks to a growing body of knowledge about how innnovation works, these plans are more likely than not to be well thought out, well structured and include tried and tested innovation tools. Nevertheless, most innovation initiatives fail to achieve the expected results. In my experience, this is because medium to large organisations are making at least one of these three mistakes. Many companies are making all of them.
Mistake no. 1: Innovation is not aligned with strategy and values
Have you announced to employees and other stakeholders that innovation is a priority to your company? Have you asked employees to share ideas? Have you assigned staff to innovation management positions? Have you installed idea management software? If these are the actions you are taking to promote innovation in your company, you are unlikely to see impressive results.
Innovation needs to be aligned with your company’s strategic vision and corporate values — and your employees need to know this so that they can develop suitable ideas that they know are relevant to business needs. Simply asking for ideas and hoping for the best is asking for trouble!
Asking for ideas that are in line with strategy and values is asking for innovation — with useful instructions.
Mistake no 2: Too much emphasis on ideas
Ideas are not innovation. They are simply ideas until you implement them and they generate value for the company.
Unfortunately, too many innovation initiatives focus on brainstorming, idea management software, crowdsourcing and other idea collection activities that lead to 100s and 1000s of ideas — but no implementation and, hence, no innovation.
One implemented idea that is benefiting your bottom line is worth far more than 1000s of ideas sitting in a database.
If you are suffering from idea overload, you need to focus less on ideas and more on building idea implementation processes that work — so that ideas generate income rather than waste database space.
You might also be interested in anticonventional thinking, the only collaborative creative thinking process that focuses on building a big idea and an action plan rather than generating lots and lots of mediocre ideas and no action.
Mistake no 3: Not acknowledging that your people don’t like creative ideas
Most people do not like creative ideas. Really! Even though everyone says they love creative ideas and admire creative thinkers, the truth is the opposite. By and large, people hate creative ideas and dislike creative thinkers. In practice, this translates into problems such as:
- Managers selecting incremental improvement ideas over more creative ideas in brainstorms and other ideation events.
- People giving unnecessarily negative feedback on ideas in order to prevent their implementation.
- People, often subconsciously, obstructing the implementation of innovative new ideas that might affect their work.
- Managers being overly critical of their subordinates’ suggestions and creative thinking.
- Human resources and division heads choosing moderately creative job candidates over highly creative job candidates.
Needless-to-say, none of these actions will do your innovation initiative any good.
In order to overcome this issue, you need to:
- Acknowledge that people do not like creative ideas, sometimes they vehemently dislike creative ideas.
- Use evaluation methods that measure an idea’s innovation potential rather than its likeability.
- Give employees a sense of control over the changes brought about by the implementation of a highly creative idea.
image credit: failure analysis image from bigstock
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Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to brainstorming.
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