Most organizations are structured around control and predictability; thus, innovation can trigger a negative response at many levels.
Strengthen the “driving forces” that can help an innovation project survive obstacles and make it to the finish line.
For innovation projects to stay on track and survive the many obstacles that inevitably arise, the “driving forces” that support the continuation and completion of the project need to be at least as strong as the many opposing forces.
Below are some approaches you can use to strength support for your innovation program:
1. Annual Report on Innovation
Publish an annual report on innovation with a complete round-up of all efforts and their outcomes. Be sure to name participants and also recognize those who provided ancillary support.
2. Link to Performance Management
Leverage your organization’s performance management system by adding innovation goals for project participants as well as for managers and leaders.
3. Innovation Awards
Consider some kind of formal award mechanism for innovation; how about an annual innovation banquet in Hawaii (I offer to be your guest speaker!) with stories, lessons learned, and awards.
4. Innovation Council
Create a formal structure to oversee innovation efforts and communicate results. This Council can also intervene when obstacles arise.
5. Case Studies
Every innovation project should be documented in a case study that covers outcomes as well as process (activities as well as team dynamics). Knowing of the impending case study helps nudge a team along through any rough spots.
6. Social Investment
Create a mechanism by which all employees can vote for, “like”, or even “invest” a form of currency in innovation projects; charge the project teams with maximizing this support and creating some form of returns.
7. Constant Communication
Create a mechanism by which the innovation teams and others (leaders, sponsors, Council) can “tweet” or blog about their experience on a regular basis. The more people know about what’s going on, the more they will want to help if approached.
8. External Exposure
One former client used to invite customers to visit his factory; he confided that the main reason he did it was to force his team to keep the place clean. Create the same driving force for innovation by welcoming writers, clients, best practice researchers, industry groups, and other outsiders in to take a look at your innovation efforts.
image credit: lucasfilm.com
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Andy Beaulieu helps organizations improve their capacity to innovate and change, applying a “results first” approach which builds confidence and competence. His practice, Results for a Change, is located in Washington DC, and he also works in partnership with innovation and design consultancy Motiv.