Innovation have become an empty word, start by understating what means to you

For some is about ideas, for others about creation, change or faster delivery, for most is about something new. What does innovation mean?

You need to start by defining what innovation means for you and your company, get alignment and consensus, and only then, you will be able to start moving forward, or at least to begin making clear plans about how to progress.

Ask the question

Go around, ask your colleagues, managers, directors, team members. Ask what innovation means to them and how they would exemplify it; you probably would be surprised. In the best case scenario, some alignments will indeed occur; ask how they see that vision of innovation happening. You would be surprised again.

Innovation requires freedom of thinking but structure for action, and that’s where most companies struggle. There is this impression of creative anarchy, where ideas just come out of the blue to solve immensely complex problems and that will all happen almost overnight, without many complications, because at the end of the day, there are many others out there doing it that way, right?

That sounds more like a miracle, than innovation.

It is a fairy tale, created and popularised by media’s overexposure of the results, but not always the process, challenges and in many cases, even adversity. It’s all presented in a very heroic manner, where patience and persistence are not always getting the credit they deserve.

Ask again

Get out there, talk to those companies that are doing it or already did it. From the ones that succeeded or failed, to those that still battling to find their way around it. Ask them why they started, how it happened, what did they do, but also, how long did it take. It takes time.

It won’t probably sound as pretty and straightforward as any publication, you probably might lose some of the excitement, because, as a matter of fact, it didn’t end up been a “ super cool experiment”, but the result of a lot of trial and error; an on going and systematic approach towards testing, learning and iterating. It is like another process, just like one of those you already have in place, except that more flexible and open to change and failure, eventually leading to success.

It doesn't look that fun, rebellious, playful or fresh anymore? It is indeed, but all these come from having a way to constantly and rapidly try new things, until eventually getting the reward of finding a possible solution to a challenge.

It does not have to be futuristic or unorthodox to be innovative, but to be meaningful. Innovation without a purpose, it’s just an invention, that’s where many are losing sight at times, after all, we all want new things to be used by others, add value, be more efficient and solve problems, otherwise, just keep doing what you are already doing.