The Real Work of Innovation

by Michael Graber

The Real Work of InnovationBeing creative. Generating thousands of ideas. Making employees feel heard, valued, more than a cog in a machine. These are the superficial by-products of an in-depth discipline.

Unto themselves, these tiny crumbs of the vast buffet of genuine innovation methods are not an Innovation effort. They represent mere pacification. Any board member or C-Suite executive who believes they have the Innovation boxed checked because they have an online idea submission forum and a committee that ranks ideas needs to resign. Enough with lip service. Stop the confusion of New Product Development and Innovation.

You must commit. Otherwise, close down the parade of ideas and quit the charade. Your innovative competitors will buy you in a fire sale.

The real work of innovation is real work. The Studio has had to reframe and then reboot entire innovation efforts at clients after they got a bad taste in their mouth outsourcing whole projects and failing to embrace them – an expensive learning experience.

There is a better way. Instead, embed several team members inside your organization with project-based consultants who can help set up An Innovation Framework and Process that works for your culture. Learn processes and methods. Do not stop until you get results—then, you will find no compelling business reason to stop.

Already you have begun developing a culture that embraces Innovation. Otherwise, you will never reach a point of sustainable market leadership.

The same lesson can be applied to service firms and non-profits playing with innovation. To innovate you have to do the work. As the old saying goes, “No one can do your push ups for you.” You can hire a coach, but you have to do the work.

The real work of innovation means having your employees working alongside deeply trained experts to build muscle by completing real projects that can dramatically improve top-line growth while signaling that real innovation is part of the fabric of this culture—not just toyed with or outsourced.

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Michael GraberMichael Graber is the co-founder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis, Tennessee-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis. Follow Michael @SouthernGrowth

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