When new ideas are voiced in your company is the typical response ‘yes but…’? If so, you’re really saying ‘No’ and closing the door on new ideas and open-minded employees. Paul Sloane says we could all learn a lesson from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos by implementing the Institutional Yes.
When I meet with corporate leaders we invariably get onto the topic of their business challenges. Some reoccurring themes that are increased competition, cost / margin pressures, regulatory hassles, globalization, etc. However, the more recent discussions have centered around one theme. Talent.
Over the past couple of years, the services and solutions offered by innovation vendors have quietly shifted in new and interesting ways, with direct implications for corporate innovation leaders. Given that it is the middle of a long hot summer, I thought that it might be timely to outline some of the changes that I see taking place, and their impact on innovation leaders going forward.
Where do you start when you want something new? Whether the aim is just an improvement, a small incremental change or something more unique, disruptive and breakthrough, the start will probably determine where you end up. Do you start jotting down ideas? Do you grab a whiteboard and Post-Its, get a few people in the room, and start brainstorming?
Questionable or confusing job titles have long provided fleeting office lunch-break entertainment. A quick search online brings up innumerable lists, featuring classics such as: Senior Information Adviser (otherwise known as a librarian), Wet Leisure Assistant (lifeguard) and Ideation Director (advertising). In this article Harvey Wade, Director, Innovation Strategy at Mindjet, discusses why a job title formerly found at wannabe creative companies is now playing an increasingly recognised and integral role in business.
In my first article in this series, I talked about the continued, and often misplaced, focus of corporate innovation leaders on developing disruptive innovation efforts. My basic argument within the article was the while “Big I” innovation can be a valid driver of growth. However, few companies are in the right position or have laid the appropriate groundwork to support and develop new, groundbreaking ideas, especially in the context of the existing organizational culture.
We are moved by goals. The resolve to reach the finish line pushes us forward: at work, in life. Why then do we keep idea management initiatives alive when it’s not clear what results they deliver (if any)? And how often have we yearned for a formula that definitely makes it all happen?
Leaders have dual roles when managing innovation. In a bottom-up role, they stimulate innovative results as they facilitate ideas and initiative coming from individuals and teams. In a top-down role, leaders are the primary means for the organization to realize its innovation goals and strategies. A fundamental challenge is to balance these two roles.
Innovation experts love to make lists of obstacles to innovation. These lists include issues like lack of time, resistance to change, poor communication, middle management and so on. Employees like to cite obstacles such as these in part because they place the blame on the organisation and their mangers rather than on themselves. And, indeed, can you imagine a middle manager responding to a questionnaire on obstacles to innovation with the answer: “Why, I believe I am a major obstacle to innovation in this firm.”? But the truth is, possibly the biggest obstacle to innovation is simply that people do not stop and think!
At many organizations, innovation projects are often assigned to young, ambitious junior executives. But these efforts tend to be doomed to failure, according to Paul Sloane, writing in his new book, The Innovation Leader: How to Inspire Your Team and Drive Creativity.