In our previous article, ‘the future is the crab, the chicken and the dog on a slide or how to keep innovation alive’ we discussed the case of an innovative product team. They spent precious time and energy fighting internal procedures that limited them in their endeavor to develop innovative solutions for the customers. Their message was: ‘ we are not pirates or rebels for the sake of being rebels. If we want to keep innovation at the core of what we offer to our clients, we have to keep it at the core of our culture and our way of working.’ So where do you start?
Acknowledge that you can be a driver of innovation
You start by asking: What are all the possible ways that I can be a driver of innovation for the business? Is that it ? Yes that is it. Asking that question is acknowledging that you have an impact, that you have to play a role that you can be a driver of innovation.
Let me tell you the story of the CEO of a biotech company that develops innovative solutions for producing vaccines. He brought together people from different departments in the company, HR, legal, IT finance and operations and put precisely this question in front of them: What are all the possible ways that you can be a driver of innovation for our business ? They started by generating more than 100 ideas and ended up selecting those ideas that would really make a difference. During that discussion they also realized that in order to implement those ideas they would have to work together, be aligned and challenge each other to make sure they would really make a difference and more importantly that they had to introduce a mindset shift within their own teams to get them motivated. They realized that making an action plan would not be sufficient. And yet.
Use a structured process to stimulate creative thinking or use a good facilitator
Did they not just make this mindset shift themselves by starting to answer the question on how they could be a driver of innovation and discussing the ideas that would make a real difference for the business?
Is it that simple? It is and it is not. There are some hiccups.
Number 1: Answering the question ‘what are all the possible ways that I can be a driver of innovation for the business, is not just a brainstorming. It has to be done in a structured way: Start by generating and writing down a lot of ideas(not 10 or 20 but at least 50), wild, new, original ideas. Only then, start evaluating and choosing the ideas that you want to further develop and test. Make sure the ideas you choose are really going to make a difference, are really going to drive innovation for the business. That is the key to success. So don’t ‘just’ launch a brainstorm but be very deliberate about the way it is set up. Ideally, let an external facilitator take care of the process, so that you can focus on the content.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating – make it happen
Number 2: Once the key ideas are identified, the real innovation process starts: you have to start developing it into a workable solution. You have to test it out, change some features, retest without ever losing sight of the main purpose: implementing something, even something small, that really makes a difference, something that is driving innovation for the business.
That is it, you started with innovation and once you are caught up in it, you will experience the power of it, exactly as the team of the biotech company:’ it is learning by doing so just start (and make sure somebody keeps an eye on the process).
This text has been written by Sarah De Greef
Sarah is partner at Ouzia. She is highly regarded for her efficient facilitation sessions that bring participants where they would never dared to dream about. She believes in a deliberate, structured and collaborative approach to innovation. You have the expertise, let Sarah manage the process.