Here is my list of the top ten things that you should make sure that you are doing to give your Innovation efforts the best chance of success. Please note that they are not necessarily in order of importance, just the order that they came into my head!
1. Create ideas (lots and lots):
You do need to generate lots of ideas. It is possible to calibrate your idea generation pipeline but the ratio of wacky ideas to those that might be worth looking at is roughly 10:1. The ratio of ideas worth looking at to those actually worth a prototype or further investigation is once again 10:1. So for every idea that you really need you will be looking to get at least 100 wacky ideas! Do not worry if your ideas seem stupid or unrelated to the problem. Take a time out then when you start to think about the problem again see what new ideas emerge.
2. Give people time and space:
Try out new ways of doing things, allow people to shift their mindset to be more innovative. Allow risk taking (calculated of course) and learn from mistakes. Make some physical space available for innovation, and allow time for play that will not get swallowed up by other duties.
3. Revealing your ideas carefully:
Selling an idea is like selling a product to a customer, so your audience (e.g. manager, investor etc.) is your customer. Don’t just expect them to ‘get’ what you are talking about, try to understand their objectives and their needs. Think about how they will decide if they like your idea. You will also need to pick your time carefully, not just simply jump out of the bath yelling Eureka.
4. Don’t stand still:
It is often said that the only constant is change. Markets and even our business environments change. Requirements alter, and your competitors will be looking to gain advantage also (preferably before you do). Don’t let current successes be the enemy of future innovation by standing still and thinking how clever you are.
5. Act like an entrepreneur:
Know what you want and stick to your guns about your vision. However, you should be flexible about how that vision might be achieved.
6. Take the portfolio approach:
Canny investors often take a portfolio approach so that they spread their risks. Consider yourself to have a portfolio of ideas or potential projects, some of which might not make it but if they do, could create substantial rewards for you or your business. Don’t just consider one or two ideas and don’t be afraid to fail once in a while.
7. Choose the right time:
Choose the right time to reveal your ideas and plans. If your audience (possibly just your boss) is busy then ask for some time when they are free. You may be keen but rushing in will not give you time to explain everything. When you do have an audience, involve them. Ask for feedback or for any aspects that you might have forgotten or simply not thought of.
8. Know your strengths:
If you want to innovate, develop a list of your strengths and resources. If you are looking at your business as a whole then don’t forget to include skills and knowledge that people might use in their spare time. You never know, your tea lady could have hidden talents and it is not unknown for a receptionist to be a linchpin as far as organisational knowledge is concerned. This may prevent you from needing external help but if you need help then get it!
9. Provide support:
Don’t start your innovation initiative with a great fanfare then delegate responsibility and forget about it. Monitor, support, commit and encourage. Above all you must commit so that those around (and below) know that you mean business. Implement a process to manage risk, investment and of course reward.
10. Be transparent:
There are lots of ideas, but the real challenge is in commercialising them. Look outside to add value, talk to people, share their knowledge and expertise. Often it is not being secretive that ensures success, but being open so that you can create the right partnerships.