On the verge of a new Innovation Age: Lessons on innovation

I remember a time when creativity was still the subject of heated debates. Is everyone creative? Can creativity be taught? These questions sparked countless opposing arguments and many research outcomes in favour of both views.

Sir Ken Robinson is probably one of the most recognized voices who argued passionately that we are naturally creative. In his popular books and online videos, he explains that we are all born with an innate capacity for innovation, until we reach adulthood. Going through the educational, social, & corporate systems we are taught the do’s and don’ts, conditioned to play by the rules, and as a result, creativity is educated out of us.

I am not sure how or if these discussions around creativity were ever satisfactorily resolved, but I feel that nowadays innovation takes centre stage. Mass conversations about innovation are relatively new, taking root in the last few years when it suddenly became a mandate for social and business success (as if it was not the case before!). The popularisation of innovation coincides with the rise of design thinking and service design, among other related practices, in addition to the range of public and private organisations running their own in-house innovation teams and labs (previously known as think tanks and R&D). The critical questions today are: Should everyone in the organization be involved in innovation work? Who should be tasked with innovation? What should our focus be on — products, services or systems? Where should one start?

It goes without saying that organizations without an innovation mandate at their core are condemned to a dark abyss. However, the ways to embed innovation in the DNA of the organization are not always as obvious as one may think.

Innovation is both a process and an outcome as per Edison et al who attempted to comprehensively sum up the literature with the following definition: “Innovation is: production or adoption, assimilation, and exploitation of a value-added novelty in economic and social spheres; renewal and enlargement of products, services, and markets; development of new methods of production; and establishment of new management systems.” Indeed innovation is not only about new products and services, but also about the novel ways we work together to solve large-scale systemic challenges. Therein lies an acute dilemma for many organisations: should we invest in building innovation capability or should we invest in acquiring innovative strategies, products & services etc.?

The Moment’s experience working with many organizations across multiple sectors has shown us that organizations do not need to compromise nor choose one area of innovation over the other. In fact, we have learned that the most effective way to develop and implement strategies, and design new and competitive products and services is by building internal innovation capability.

Our approach to consultancy work is deeply rooted in the philosophy of “Give me a fish and I eat for a day. Teach me to fish and I eat for a lifetime.” We guide cross-functional teams through critical challenges in ways which foster new approaches to innovation work while getting that work done. With the world changing at a blistering pace, even breakthrough products & service and well-rounded strategies don’t guarantee longevity in the market. Innovation capability is your single most powerful competitive advantage.

We have developed our innovation services in such a way that gives our clients, depending on their needs and preferences, the opportunity to choose if they want to start with learning then implementation or vice versa. Since learning is core to our work at The Moment, and is embedded in all of projects, our clients are building innovation capability at every stage of their work with us. As a complement to our core services: Innovation Accelerator, Innovation Strategy, Innovation Project and Innovation Program, we have developed our Innovation Masterclass. This Masterclass guides innovation enthusiasts in turning their aspirations into real innovation projects.

Our Innovation Masterclass provides a hands-on and immersive setting where business leaders, intrapreneurs, and innovation teams will learn how to set up innovation projects for sustained success.

Why the Innovation Masterclass?

Invest in innovation:
When I say invest I mean: time, effort, resources and infrastructure. We’ve encountered innovation leaders and teams who can’t seem to carve out time to develop their innovation practice, upgrade their toolkit or even get together to discuss their innovation initiatives. Innovation is not a side gig, building solid innovation capability from within requires a serious commitment. Innovation is a culture that requires space and nurturing. Knowing what it is at stake, innovation agendas and learning should be prioritised. The Masterclass is a small yet intentional step toward building your innovation capabilities knowing that innovation is a long term commitment (no shortcuts, no quick fixes) that will require a change of mindset and infrastructure, beyond tools and frameworks.

Don’t choose one tool, take the best of them all:
It is very challenging to navigate the landscape of innovation tools and frameworks available. Many organisations adopt one tool, framework or approach and literally get stuck trying to solve all their complex innovation challenges through that lens; for example, we’ve witnessed many innovation teams specializing in journey mapping as their main approach to innovation design. Knowing that one size doesn’t fit all, we designed our innovation approach by bringing together a number of related practices and methods including: Design Thinking, Lean Startup, Agile Project Management, Service Design, Organisational change, and others. The Innovation Masterclass introduces our framework and discusses how we leverage the best aspects of these different methods to create a holistic approach to innovation.

Make the case for innovation:
If an innovation initiative doesn’t aim at leadership sponsorship from the beginning, it is unlikely to be a sustainable success. And if innovation work does not secure peers’ support it doesn’t accomplish much. I have mentioned in my earlier Medium post “A guide to setting up your innovation team for success” that “for real change to occur you’ve got to ensure that the support is coming from the top down, and the bottom up.” One of the outcomes of our Innovation Masterclass is making the case for innovation. We believe that one of the challenges our participants face upon their return to work is rallying the troops and articulating a clear roadmap to how they would like to approach innovation work within their organization. Having a draft of the next steps is a valuable asset to jumpstart the innovation journey.

Don’t be a hero:
Recently I reread an old article by Peter Drucker on the Discipline of Innovation where he defined innovation as “the specific function of entrepreneurship, whether in an existing business, a public service institution, or a new venture started by a lone individual in the family kitchen. It is the means by which the entrepreneur either creates new wealth-producing resources or endows existing resources with enhanced potential for creating wealth.” In this study Drucker speaks to the “entrepreneur” that we now refer to as “intrapreneur” in the corporate context. This intrapreneurial spirit is great but it doesn’t go a long way unless it is combined with skilled team support. Intrapreneurs may be the champions that lead the way, but innovation is not a one-person job. Building the team’s capability not only gives the intrapreneur the necessary extra set of hands but also ensures the bottom support and the full peers’ engagement.
The Masterclass is structured as a collaborative experience where participants learn about their innovation and collaboration styles while doing the work. You will also learn how to best “cast” your innovation project team, including the roles, structures and skills that will set teams up for success.

Act your way into new ways of doing:
To be successful, leaders and teams can’t just leap into a new way of being and working. They must gradually and continuously experiment and build a culture that is supported with the right tools and resources to navigate the ever changing business landscape. We have made the case before that one-day training is not enough to change behaviour and set the team in the right direction. The Masterclass absolutely provides practical tools and principles that prepare the ground for innovation work, but more importantly, it will help you develop the innovation mindset necessary for success.

Innovators like the ones presented in this old Apple ad: Here’s to the crazy ones are not the only ones capable of propelling innovation forward. Who knows? We may be on the verge of a new Innovation Age in which the innovation imperative is critical to our collective success. We are already experiencing the democratization of innovation where we are all making change. We are all innovators in our own may, we all have something to contribute when given the opportunity.

To come full circle and return to my introduction, I really like Sir Ken Robinson’s take on creativity and I would extend that to the innovation realm. It presents a vision of humanity as inherently innovative with new opportunities and possibilities simmering inside each of us, waiting to be unleashed. Only when we are provided with the tools, the support, and most importantly, the culture to enable innovation efforts, will we stop blocking ourselves, pull down barriers and open our minds to welcome new ways of thinking, doing and being.

Check out our Innovation Masterclass and get in touch to learn more.

Read more about The Moment’s innovation approach here.