Biggest challenge in innovation : Culture

UX designers, by definition, work in teams. As a consultant, I have had to adapt to different kinds of teams (size, expertise, maturity, etc.) Probably because of my love for behavioral psychology, I am always excited to join a new team to observe new patterns of people interaction. That said, my true excitement comes from participating in projects bringing new products or services to the market. If you are creating such products or services, you have heard billions of times that, in order to survive, you have to be innovative! Probably on the list of the top 10 words to know in 2017, along with Lean, Agile, Ecosystem and Unicorn. People use these words hoping that saying them is enough, wishfully thinking that it will magically happen if used on a regular basis. Truth is, as usual, people prefer focusing on results instead of what really matters, which is the process. Being innovative, lean, or agile means you have integrated the right culture, which leads to your capacity as a team to achieve these goals.

Why did I put unicorn on the list? Unicorn is basically a person that has all the skills, so you don’t have to rely on a team. When people tell me they are looking for a unicorn, what I hear is this : We don’t have the team maturity, so we are looking for someone that is a team by him(her)self!

To come back to innovation! When I say that the biggest challenge in innovation is culture, what I mean is that innovation happens when people have the right mindset.

For me, the words should be descriptive by themselves, so that people stop saying them without understanding what they mean. Let’s list the true top 5 words that should be used in 2017 to fuel innovation :

  • Shavisioned: A combination of the words shared and vision. Being innovative means that ALL team members agree on a common vision. This word is pretty simple and I think it could be used as a foundation for any innovative attempt.
  • Colcocresociointegrative: A true innovative mature team understands that collaboration and co-creation are essential to find a simple solution to our problems. Because, even if problems are often easy to understand, finding simple solutions is not that easy. Now, do people understand what collaboration means? Here I joined the words Col(collabo)-cocrea(cocreation)-Socio(social Media)-Integrative. Being innovative means that you work together, using communication tools that are inclusive, allowing ALL members to participate at the right time. How can you develop innovative solutions if you can’t even understand that you need not only the perspective of people from your team, but that of everyone that will be in contact with your solution, including your client?
  • Optievalusmaliterativedisrucontimpro: Well, some words are just hard to mix, I guess. To understand this word, you need to understand that innovation can be either disruptive or based on the optimization of the process, meaning that either your solution is totally new or your way of achieving your old solution is totally new! Take a moment and try to identify all of the merged words in this one. Here’s the list: optimization, evaluation, small iteration, disruption, and continuous improvement. I like to merge continuous improvement and disruption, because both can be related to innovation, but from two different perspectives. In these words are included the concepts of being able to evaluate and measure change. These changes don’t have to be big, and your ability to do multiple iterations of small changes that will lead to a big change could be key to succeed.
  • Comforesistranschange: One of the things you keep hearing when it comes to innovation is the ability of the team to get outside of their comfort zone. Easier said than done. This word means that, to achieve innovation, you have to get yourself and your team out of their/your comfort zone… but you will face resistance. And it will also take appropriate organizational change and transformation culture.
  • Newrespopenout: The last word illustrates the importance of understanding that the new innovative idea is based on a more responsible, open and product-service system. Life changes and, as I read in systems thinking books, today’s problems, are yesterday’s solution. Innovation in 2017 means being able to think more social and more responsible. Sometime forcing us to think outside the box!

Ok, these words are way too long and cannot be pronounced, but they show how difficult it is to encapsulate innovation into words, because innovation is a mix of concepts that only teams with the right culture in place will be able to master. Don’t think, Lean, Agile, or Design Thinking. Instead, think about what it means to be Lean, Agile and creative! It means you and your team share a vision, and you are willing to work in collaboration to co-create, with the users, a solution based on everybody’s input, by giving the right communication channels to all people involved, allowing them to test small ideas that benefit socially our world, and improve on this iterative test by being open and willing to be outside of your comfort zone for going to a not that clear destination (but with a clear vision) and having in place a culture of evaluation and a culture of change inside your organization, also known as: Shavisioned-Colcocresociointegrative-Optievalusmaliterativedisrucontimpro-Comforesistranschange-Newrespopenout.

Want to innovate? Make sure you have the right culture first!

Feel free to comment, make up some new words that reflect what innovation really means.

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