I am doing quite a bit of work around vision and innovation at the moment and I am loving the connection between the two, here are some thoughts around them.
The most innovative teams and businesses are inspired by a sense of vision and purpose that matters to them, in other words one that is authentic. The important things about vision are that it is compelling and inspiring for all stakeholders and that it is not limited by what we currently believe to be possible and that. I am experimenting with an online form to articulate vision – if you can get several members of your team to complete the form I will send you a proposed vision statement for your team or business ( for the first five to request it). Purpose is the underlying reason why the team members are inspired by the vision and can also be articulated both for individuals and for teams.
It is also vital that team members are fans of the product, they use it and want to use it frequently, I once attempted to do an innovation session on “plug in air fresheners” for a client it was unsuccessful because not one of the team cared about the product. If the team are not already fans of the product the first step in innovation is to ask how would the product need to change for them to become fans?
It is good if some of the team are unaware of the boundaries and/or confident in their ability to overcome them. Teams and individuals who are very experienced in their field very often fail to ask the stupid questions and too easily accept the received wisdom of what is possible.
There needs to be a culture of exploration and openness otherwise the inexperienced will be unwilling to ask the stupid questions.
Lots of diverse expertise is very valuable especially if everyone knows what each person is good at. So if you are running an innovation process getting to know your colleagues and their diverse talents and abilities is important and not just the work related skills.
Lots of space to read, chat, explore, walk and do other things that don’t require too much brain capacity. Anecdotally a lot of the best ideas arrive while doing something else, not something that requires so much concentration that there is no other brain space available, but just enough to keep you occupied. Another rich space for ideas is in discussion – not just friendly chat, but robust, challenging debate – another reason to know and trust your colleagues well.
Without a clear path for new ideas, including a respected approval process and process for implementation, people will be less motivated to spend time on them and, crucially, there will be no process for evaluating them or doing anything with them. There are no shortage of examples of separate innovation centres, like the famous Xerox Parc, where in the end people became demotivated because the business couldn’t integrate their innovations. Think, some more friendly internal version of Dragons Den, where the whole team and company can celebrate all of the ideas – even the ones that don’t get implemented.
Great innovators are also early adopters of other people’s innovations, create the space to try and play with innovative products, both ones that are related to your products and other ones.
Encourage people to start conversations with wouldn’t it be great if…
A few innovation tools:
Visioning – articulating what they really want to create, without considering how to achieve it.
Go for walk and talks and other activities that require minor concentration.
Read oblique – history, different businesses etc and make links
Study other innovative companies – Read Fast Company and Wired, watch TED and Nightline.
Build quick rough and ready prototypes
Never accept no – no is just another way of saying it is not quite right – yet.
Share ideas with people who are supportive until they are strong enough for scrutiny
Be inspiring and persuasive
Develop the why? (not just a conventional business case).
I made some posters of inspiring quotes featuring Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Richard Branson, Sir Henry Royce and Gandhi. You can download these from my website – just click on the “free” link at www.neilcrofts.com. They are good enough quality to print at A2.
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