Are you inundated with information on innovation? The problem is that organizations are often paying lip service to innovation but their culture, processes and structures are stifling potential innovation and producing no results.
Leaders must break away from traditional ways of thinking and create cultures where the status quo is challenged. Rather than create innovation departments, innovation roles or innovation centers, leaders need to ensure their organizational culture embraces innovation so that it flourishes and delivers results.
Some thoughts on breaking away from traditional ways of thinking:
- Pull a George – remember The Opposite episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tells George that “if every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite must be right.” George proceeds to do everything opposite of what he normally would do. While this shouldn’t be adopted as a life philosophy, new insights and ideas may emerge when you take a position opposite to what you normally would. Conformity can kill innovation. So when everyone agrees on something, take an opposite perspective and see how this vantage point gives you some different insights that can lead to innovation.
- Permission to Fail (in order to learn from failures and adjust accordingly) – to thrive, innovation requires people to have permission to be curious, crazy and courageous in coming up with unique ideas. It requires permission to fail in the pursuit a unique and useful idea that is serving a business purpose. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon said in a Geek Wire interview, “I can guarantee you that everything we do will not work. And, I am never concerned about that…. We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.”
- Embrace Discomfort – this is really tough. Human beings crave certainty and comfort. Be intentional about asking difficult questions, exploring seemingly unrelated topics and even physically being in different space. This demonstrates that it’s okay not to be “buttoned up” at all times. Show that as a leader, you are okay trying new things or not having all the answers. Discomfort and uncertainty can create new insights that the comfort of status quo would never reveal.
In Peter Drucker‘s HBR article, The Discipline of Innovation hedefines innovation as “the effort to create purposeful, focused change in an enterprise’s economic or social potential.” He says it’s the work of knowing rather than doing. Check out his article for seven sources of innovation.