Is your company nimble, adaptable and innovative? Does it quickly capitalize on new trends and technologies, often with leading-edge products? Or is it slow to change, and often resistant to new ideas? Despite the lip service many companies pay to the concept of innovation, many continue to throw up organizational roadblocks that discourage creativity. If any or all of these five challenges feel familiar, it might be time for a creativity overhaul.
- “I don’t have time to be innovative.” People feel they barely have enough time to do their ‘regular’ jobs, never mind taking time to be innovative. They perceive innovation as something apart from their work, an ‘extra’ that’s been dumped on their plates and that complicates their jobs. With growing global competition creating ever more ‘lean and mean’ organizations, people can be left feeling discouraged about developing new ideas or making innovative ideas work.
- “What’s in it for me?” Incentives for innovation are limited or invisible. Organizational reward systems like performance appraisals and promotions are often based solely on measures of short-term efficiency and profitability. The process of innovation – from the glimmer of an opportunity to an actual result – typically takes time, usually is tough to measure, and rarely is directly rewarded.
- “No one told me…” Ineffective communication, both upward and downward, stymies innovative behavior. Employees near the bottom of the organizational pyramid, who may actually have the best hands-on knowledge for developing innovative new ways to do things, lack a pipeline for communicating those ideas to decision makers in upper management. Company priorities and directions are often unclearly communicated downward, resulting in unfocused innovation efforts.
- “I’m going to my office and closing my door.” Physical environments can encourage, or discourage innovation. Many organizations still have employees working in isolation from one another, holed away in small cubicles down long hallways. Innovation thrives when groups of people with different knowledge and innovation process styles can formally or informally share problems, information and ideas.
- “That’s not my department.” Like physical isolation, functional isolation discourages innovation. Many companies still divide employees into departments such as sales, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and accounting, where they pursue their own goals in separate areas. Managers focus on functional goals, rather than overall organizational goals. Silos develop as employees work solely with other specialists and begin to view other functions as less important, or even as competitors. Important organizational problems fall between the cracks; interdepartmental teams struggle as turf issues dominate meetings; and multi-departmental projects take forever to complete.
Has your company found ways to remove roadblocks to innovation? We’d love to hear your stories of success – or frustration. To learn how to build a more innovative company, visit Basadur Applied Creativity.
In my blog last week, I made the point that innovation is a learned process that we can all integrate into our lives to build a daily habit. Too often, innovation is seen as a final product or result, not an ongoing process.
The other widespread misconception about innovation is that it is somehow synonymous with technology. Organizations, including governments, tout their innovativeness in terms of the adoption or introduction of a new technological advancement. While great new high tech gadgets and offerings may be the result of innovation, they are not innovation itself. The process of innovation can result in new ways to do almost anything – from services to design to manufacturing processes. It is the innovation process – and the mental skills that make it work – that are the crucial element to driving progress.
Governments that tout their innovativeness with the adoption of new technologies all too frequently actually serve to signal their innovative inadequacies. New technologies often only improve the effectiveness of existing processes and routines. They enable us to vote more quickly, pay more quickly, and complain faster, but is that really all that we want in terms of innovative thinking from our governments? Real, high impact innovation in government occurs when the fundamental approach to managing and solving societal issues changes from the current, traditional model. The town of Pelham in the Niagara region of Ontario is one notable exception, as I have described in previous blogs.
In business, along with the erroneous notion that innovation equals technology, I also often hear people speak of innovation as something owned by the research and development department. It’s as if people expect that R&D folks will do innovation, find an exciting new product or service, then hand it off to the rest of the company, where innovation is no longer useful or important. The most successful innovation occurs when R&D staff team up with experts from areas like marketing, sales and manufacturing, who can bring their own knowledge of suppliers, consumers and users to the process.
Organizations that are looking to succeed today and into the future must establish a ‘How Might We?’ culture in which every employee feels motivated and empowered to find and define problems, and develop and implement creative solutions. The reward will be an engaged and imaginative workforce.
Innovation is a process of finding and defining internal and external needs, developing solutions to address those needs, and successfully implementing those solutions.
The needs – or problems to be solved – can be found across a broad spectrum of areas, including, but not limited to technology, products, markets, packaging, design, manufacturing processes, new business models and new ways to go-to-market.
The innovation process and the mental skills that make it work can be learned and become a daily habit that results in ongoing creative disruption and problem solving.
Everyone can take part in this innovation process. Once learned and understood, it can be used in every department and by people at every level of an organization.
People and organizations that recognize the process of innovation and build proficiency in the necessary skills and mental habits are rewarded with an improved ability to find, define and creatively solve problems.
Are you adding strategic value to your organization? The best way to be recognized as a strategic player is to proactively bring solutions to your executive leadership team. The best solution begins and ends with the ability to correctly identify a problem and systematically develop a solution to solve it.
At its core, this is our problem-solving process:
- Problem formulation
- Solution formulation
- Solution implementation
Using the Basadur Applied Creativity Simplexity Thinking Process, our clients have consistently solved complex problems, uncovered fresh opportunities and implemented new solutions in their organizations. For example, we helped the Hamilton Juravinski Cancer Centre reduce a key contributor to wait times for radiation treatment by 39% over four months.
Of course your problem-solving process must be integrated with goals and skills. In today’s world of complex business problems, strategic solutions require creativity and an approach that leverages the strengths of a diverse and balanced team of problem solvers.
Gain insight into your own problem-solving style by completing the Basadur Profile questionnaire.
I’m always pleased and encouraged when I receive news from someone who has undergone the Simplexity training process, successfully put what they learned into practice in their workplace and excitedly let me know how well it worked for them.
I received a message like that from a director of business development at one of the world’s largest software development companies, who used the Simplexity process and the skills she learned in one of our Basadur Applied Creativity workshops to design and lead a meeting of company executives and regional distributors.
The meeting was a facilitated customer feedback session intended to give the distributors and suppliers an opportunity to share ideas, thoughts, questions and concerns with key executives in the company’s marketing group, many of whom had also undergone Simplexity training.
In her message to me, the director said the training she’d received with us gave her the confidence and skills to identify key challenges in her role as a meeting facilitator, put together a plan that prepared everyone for the meeting, and create a meeting flow that facilitated open and focused dialogue while achieving objectives and capturing key issues.
The result, she says, was a meeting that built trust and a sense of connection between the company and its partners. An open and honest exchange of information helped identify regional issues and provided the executives with key feedback for shaping future strategies, while the distributors learned what they needed to plan for moving their businesses forward. Executives rated the session as one of the most effective they had attended, while distributors gave high satisfaction ratings on session feedback forms.
By bringing together the Simplexity process and trained staff equipped with creative problem solving skills and a positive mindset, the company was able to leverage a short meeting into a key information gathering and trust building exercise.