“We’d love to innovate, but we just don’t have the resources – everyone’s just too busy on more important projects”…. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve recently heard this from both clients and prospects that I’ve been put in front of in the last few months. There’s a general impression that Innovation in itself is a separate project that you do in addition to your other workload – “PHOOEY!” I say (not sure on the spelling of that word btw – but am sure you get the point).
What I don’t understand is how clients get to thinking like this. Innovation is not a goal in its own right – it’s a methodology, a discipline, and a strategic tool to achieve your corporate goals – not a goal in its own right. You’re most successful when you’re using it as a way to help the company to find new, novel, and better ways to achieve what it’s already motivated to do – not when you’re floundering along trying to swim against the flow that the company is trying to go in.
Ah – but what about companies like Nokia, for example I hear you say. Companies that have changed and morphed through time (in Nokia’s case from forestry, to rubber, to mobile communications so far) by being constantly innovative? What people fail to acknowledge is that Nokia was actively trying to change – it was part of its strategy to be open to and drive new business models away from their core business – business models that eventually proved more profitable than the previous ones and quite rightly became the main focus for Nokia. Innovation you see, can change the entire company in many weird and wonderful ways – IF your company WANTS to change in those directions. It’s no use trying to force change that the organization isn’t open to – you’ll just waste a lot of time and effort that will ultimately fail and will not be positively recognized by your leadership.
Instead – take the company strategy and identify the direction the company wants to go in and the goals that it has set for itself. Identify the people working on projects aimed at progressing the company towards that goal and offer them a different and better way in which to achieve the work that they’re already trying to get done. They’ll already have the desire, enthusiasm, commitment, and more crucially – resources – to get the innovative ideas and approaches your team is bringing to the table implemented. And at the end of the day innovation is about getting things implemented and to do so in a way that adds value to your company – this approach does both.