Innovation is not just a matter of getting new products out the door. It is often just doing things in a different way or, even better, doing different things. Some of us are in-novator in that our innovations stay within our organization. It is not an easier process though. We want things to change, people to move on, teams to try on new processes or products but stuff gets in the way. Sometimes even the best of us get weary. Sometimes the best of us get tired of having our ideas rejected. Often we are left pondering: Will we ever get people to do anything differently? So, right in time to include on your Christmas list, here is my selection of popular culture books, film and videos to help us realign with our goal and give us a mental kick in the pants, making us ready to innovate… again.
Innovation means change and most of us hate change. Michael Bungay Stanier wrote an insightful book on doing more great work instead of just waddling along. He emphasizes that doing truly great work implies making some people unhappy. It is then a matter of picking an A-list: people who matter and whom you want to keep happy, and learning to ignore people not on the list. Yep. That’s the bottom line. You don’t innovate without living some in your wake. Are you ready for that?
Not everything that counts can be counted but chances are, you’ll have to go through people who can only understand numbers. Patricia Pitcher in her prize-winning book Artists, Craftsmen and Technocrats: The Dreams, Realities and Illusions of Leadership divides leaders in three types: (1) Artists, (2) Craftsmen and (3) Technocrats. The latter are generally the ones that won’t consider anything new unless it has positive metrics attached. Find numbers and communicate them boldly to those who need them, that’s what PowerPoint is for. Are you ready for that?
The electr(on)ic slide
Speaking of PowerPoint, there is nothing like a few well designed slides to persuade people. Do you think Al Gore would have been so effective in delivering his message if he had used 30 bullet points per slides and was reading off of them? No. Do you still communicate 75 slides at a time delivering more information than we can find in Wikipedia? Shame! Pick up any book by Nancy Duarte or Garr Reynolds and within hours you’ll go from Bill Gates circa 1990 to Steve Jobs announcing the Macbook Air. Are you ready for that?
A Ted talk a day keeps the innovator’s blues away
Innovators get inspiration from anything but freshening up sources of inspiration is often necessary. Subscribe to TED podcasts where the best communicators and innovators deliver compelling messages in 5 to 15 minutes. Some will move you to tears while others will start you scribbling notes frantically. Ted has a great website, iPhone/iPad apps and HD video podcasts so there is no excuse. They organize TED conferences all over the world, maybe there is one near you in the coming weeks. Even better,you could yourself host a TEDx conference which are independent conferences. Time to get registered. Are you ready for that?
Find your follower
One of the most watched Ted talk is Derek Siver’s five-minutes presentation on how to start a movement. His theory is that the leader of change does not matter as much as the one who follows that leader. Of course, we remember innovators’ names, we often have their pictures and in some companies corporate stories remind us regularly of those in-house innovators who changed the organization. Ask anyone who invented the post-it… Now ask that question at 3M… However, the first one to try on something new is less important than the one who will follow, and the third, and all those others who take a leap of faith, follow their intuition and jump into an innovator’s footsteps.
If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear the noise, does it really make a noise? If you innovate but no one follows you, is that really an innovation? It is the follower who makes YOU the innovator. So, start searching, across departments and hierarchical levels, a few good men and women who will follow when you need them to. You can’t just pick anyone though. You need to find those who are seen as influencers. David Duchovny’s character in the 2010 movie The Jone$es is the perfect example of how important it is for an innovator to be followed. Otherwise, you’re just a guy or gal doing something weird all by yourself.
So, are you ready for that?
Stephanie Baron is a business PhD in the making, and a strategy mercenary with a generalist approach. After traveling the world, she has settled down in Montreal, where she learns, teaches, consults, writes, speaks and edits a new eMagazine.