Innovation – do you WANT to win? Well, do you?

13 10 2010

If you’ve never been to the annual Business Innovation Factory conference (#BIF6 on twitter), it’s really quite a trip. More of a mini-TED conference than anything specifically innovation related – it’s all about enabling people to share stories about things they’ve achieved, thought of, experienced, and so on.  The end result is that you don’t necessarily walk away with a series of bullet point “To-Do”’s like you might at other conferences – but you do end up with a simmering pot of interesting thoughts and ideas just waiting to boil over the top.

This year, two speakers said things that stuck in my head and kept me thinking. Such is the way my mind works that unfortunately I can no longer remember who they were – but I’m sure someone will eventually remind me in the comments below this post 🙂

The first of these insights was an observation that, if you have two equally matched sports teams, and one team’s members actively want to win, whilst the other team isn’t bothered – then chances are, the team that wants to win, will do so. Sounds obvious really, but it brings an interesting question to mind when you bring that concept into the business world – which, at the heart of it, has similar competitive dynamics.

If you have two equally matched companies competing against each other, the company that collectively wants to win more – will probably do so. “Desire to Win” is a competitive differentiator in effect.

With that in mind, however – how many of us actively try to instill that desire to win into our employees? How many companies actively engage in “Win Management”? You could even say that what really differentiates a successful innovator/entrepreneur from normal people is that never-ending drive to win “the game” of business.

This is even more amplified in the Innovation world where the risk of failure is ever present and embraced as a part of everyday life. It is a daily competition to beat the odds and win the game of innovation.

Pair that thought up now with another insight from that same conference. Apparently, at any one point in most organizations, only 20% of the staff are actively engaged and enjoying the job they’re doing.  I would personally argue that that number seems a little high to me – and is probably rotating too – that is, we’re not necessarily talking about the same 20% year round, as people naturally go through cycles of loving/hating/being indifferent to their work.

I would also argue that one of the reasons why people don’t get engaged in their jobs, is because their jobs (ie their companies) don’t engage them. They feel like they have no say, no ability to make an impact, no reason to want to win….

So it stands to reason that if a company really wants to win at Innovation they need to both instill a competitive desire to win in their organizations, and to tap into and maintain that desire by actively engaging their population in strategic innovation decisions.

And by “Engagement” I don’t mean just listening to your employees – I mean actually “Doing” something with their input. Business, and especially Innovation – is a team sport – and no one wants to be relegated to being the guy on the subs bench that never gets on the field.

So now you know what you have to do, you have to ask yourself – Do you want to win at Innovation? Well, do you?…

You – Yeah you – you gonna help me or what?

15 08 2008

It’s interesting how companies nowadays have taken to Open Innovation nowadays. Even more interesting is the reckless abandon with which they seem to implementing it without real thought as to why people would want to take part in their programs to help them. 

I mean – why, for the most part, should people outside your company bother to help you solve your problems? What’s in it for them?  Sure you’ll get some replies from fanatics in your user base because that’s just what they do – but very few companies are like Apple who have legions of fanatics ready to help at a moment’s notice (be honest with yourselves – no matter how good your services are, and how useful your product is to your end users – how many people are seriously enthusiastic out there about what you do? Especially if you’re not a consumer products company). 

So many companies fail to take into account that people outside your company need to be motivated to take part in any kind of idea/knowledge sharing process.  People will take part only if a) it’s easy to do so and b) they are motivated to do so by either social/monetary reasons.  Before you go out to people outside your company – make sure you put some thought into understanding the value proposition you’re putting out to people – what are you giving THEM in exchange for their ideas? If the answer is “not much” don’t be surprised when that’s also what you get – “not much”. 

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