Companies know they need to innovate. That includes coming up with new processes, products, and offerings constantly to stay ahead of the pack. The fear is that if you sit idle and offer the same things year after year, you will become irrelevant or be eaten by those that innovate. So then why don’t more companies invest in innovation? It’s been proven that innovative companies’ stock sells for a premium. (Dyer & Gregersen, 2011) So, I’ll ask again. Why don’t more companies invest in innovation?
One issue is that a lot of companies don’t know how to define innovation. Though about another topic altogether, I often think of United States Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart when he said, “I shall not today attempt further to define… but I know it when I see it.” I think a lot of us are in this boat when it comes to innovation. We don’t really know how to truly define innovation, but we know it when we see it. Part of the hardship in defining innovation is that it has become such a buzzword. It’s been applied to so many things that we’re not sure who or what is right. We’ve lost sight of its meaning.
For me, innovation should be a term we apply to a process, product, or an offering. Innovation should not be applied to a person or team. Innovation should not be applied to an idea. Whoa. Let’s pause for a second. Aren’t new ideas what we’re after with innovation? No! Helen Keller once said, “Ideas without action are useless.” An idea is just an idea. I can come up with the greatest idea in the known universe, but if I just think it and move on, it has no value and is meaningless. Yes, it all starts with an idea, but innovation occurs in the doing, not thinking. As I said, the term innovation should be applied to a process, product, or an offering.
Not knowing how to define innovation isn’t the main issue though. If you have an idea of what you feel innovation is and are applying that to what you do, you’re on the right track.
Another problem companies and people face when it comes to innovation is fear. Fear is an all-consuming emotion. Fear blinds us from getting to what we need and want to be doing. With fear, nothing can be accomplished. So how do we remove fear? We accept it. We inspect it. We call it out! Let’s call these fears “death threats,” because that’s what they feel like at times. “They could kill my accomplishments, my budget, my company!” If we look closer, though, those fears, those death threats, are only constraints. It’s okay to have constraints. If we only have a certain amount of time, budget, or what have you to put towards an innovation mindset, then call those out and stick to them. What we cannot do is let those fears put us in a box. We cannot let those fears blind us or bind us into doing nothing.
The list could go on and on about issues we face when coming up with innovative processes, products, or offerings. What’s the real issue? What’s the main thing we are doing wrong with innovation? We’re letting things like a definition or fear stop us from even starting. So, let’s inspect what we do at every level. Let’s apply some Design Thinking principles to our every day. Design Thinking is a creative process used to solve business challenges. There are many different flavors of Design Thinking, but most have five main pillars: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Let’s use these pillars with everything we do. Let’s empathize with our users, define the issues our users face, ideate on different ways to meet those needs, explore those new ideas with prototypes, and prove out those prototypes by testing them. Creativity and this mindset are a skill, and practicing it will only make us stronger. Stop thinking about it and start creating!
If you are unsure of how to get started or would like to discuss, please reach out. I would love to help! Sogeti has some great people that can help integrate this mindset. Looking for a quick start for just one project? Ask me about our Thinkubator, our six to nine-week process for creating a minimum loveable product for your users.
Dyer, J., & Gregersen, H. (2011, 10 20). The Innovation Premium: Our Methodology. Retrieved from forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/innovatorsdna/2011/10/20/the-innovation-premium-our-methodology/#7f82c6785c48
About Joseph Langley
Joe Langley is a manager-consultant with Sogeti Southwest Ohio Unit in the USA. Joe’s focus with clients is on delivery. With training and certifications in Scrum, Kanban, and SAFe as well as utilizing his knowledge in Design Thinking and Innovation Engineering to help take clients projects to the next level. Internally, Joe created and leads The Epiphany series. An education-based business challenge series to help teach consultants new skill while creating innovative solutions to challenges that different industries face.
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