Innovation: Stop talking, start doing

I’ve got fourteen draft posts nearly done, this one just had a title and I seem to remember it’s supposed to act as a reminder to publish some of the others, but I suspect I’m using it as it has something to do with a blog post from Tim Kastelle the other day.

In it Tim made it really simple; if you want to be innovative, innovate. And this is the point of this post.

It’s really not difficult to start working with innovation. There are literally thousands of posts out there giving you as many models. There is lots of software (and you’re already using the basics or have free access to them) and there are even more people that will tell you how to do it and even help you.

It’s simply never been easier to create a structured innovation process that grows and develops as your needs grow and develop.

But you’ve got to start and you’ve also got to try lots of ways to work with new ideas or identifying opportunities or even figuring out the right challenges or questions to ask, but nobody ever got it right the first time (well, not many).

And there are ways to make it easy for yourself. My first bit of advice is always the same; pick some low hanging fruit and crowdsource. That crowd can be five or 5,000 and you have to be prepared for what is to come, but you shouldn’t go out of your way to make it difficult for yourself.

And when I say low hanging fruit, what I mean is that in every organisation there are things that need to be innovated, done differently, or just scrapped completely.

Go into any canteen at lunch and just listen to what people are talking about. This is your low hanging fruit.

Ask the crowd how it could be done better or more efficiently and you’ll likely get lots of ideas. You don’t have to use every single idea straight away — you could create a bank of ideas you can dip into in the future, but the most important thing is to ask and then once you’ve identified the best or easiest to implement or the ones that will save the most money (whatever the criteria is) — make them happen.

Recognise the best ideas, reward the employees that submitted them. Show that you care and you’re interested. You’ll get an employee engagement bump and guess what, engaged employees come up with better and more innovative ideas, so it’s a win-win for your next innovation challenge.

The bottom line is that innovation is something you don’t know but if you accept that and that you’re willing to make mistakes and learn, by asking the right people (to begin with it has to be your employees) you’ll start to innovate.

Then you’ll start to grow and before you know it, you’ll be putting sponsors together to run bigger innovation challenges, you’ll be identifying opportunities for open innovation and maybe one day you’ll end up with a company incubator or startup fund.

But there are also a few tips here for when you do decide to start working with innovation.

A side note: incremental changes are innovation and you have to embrace them even if they don’t sound sexy. It’s working with innovation in this way that will teach you to be able to identify the bigger opportunities.

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