Like many corporate initiatives, innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum, on it’s own. The very nature of an innovation project compels it to be something that will move a large corporation forward, or in a new direction. Innovation requires a team of people, serious effort and a commitment from the corporate leadership team.
One person can think critically and creatively to come up with a good idea, but it requires a team to test that idea, explore all of its aspects to find potential risks or problems, and improve upon that idea until it transforms from a good one to an actionable corporate project. Building a diverse team of people to work on submitting, refining and improving these innovative ideas helps to ensure that ideas are fully vetted and fully formed. When you have someone from finance, research and development, marketing, and sales on the team, they can view and test each idea from their department’s needs, knowledge and experience.
From the very beginning of the innovation project, the formation of teams and the laying of the project groundwork, right up until the point of implementation, a serious amount of effort is required. Putt the necessary energy and effort into the project will help to ensure it’s success. If a corporation is not ready to invest the manpower, the time and potentially the resources for this type of effort, then that corporation is not ready to tackle an innovation project.
Generally for corporate innovation projects to be successful, the entire organization has to support them. By support, we mean see value in. Think of it this way, even if the innovation project is not a company wide effort, meaning not everyone will be involved in the project, a certain number of individuals will be. Time these individuals are spending on the innovation project, is time they are not spending on daily tasks, or other initiatives. As a result, their team members may have to put in extra effort to make up for the absence of a team member or supervisor assigned to an innovation project.
If these other team members do not see value in the innovation project which is drawing on their fellow team member’s or supervisor’s time, resentment, annoyance or other thoughts and emotions may take root.
It’s hard to inspire from a top down corporate structure, unless the leader of the corporation is a charismatic and energetic, engaging everyone in the organization. So instead of creating a mandate from the CEO, approach team leaders and get them excited about it. You then empower them to speak to their individual teams about the project and explain how each member on the team will play a role in the success of the project, whether directly or by helping those who are directly involved.
David Marquet** was speaking in a post on The Harvard Business Review about empowerment programs, and why they just don’t work, when he said, “ You can’t implement a bottom up concept in a top down way.” he goes on to further explain that if your employees don’t want added responsibility, if they don’t want to be empowered, trying to force it with a command from a superior won’t work.
I’d like to take this idea one step further, and say that when your employees don’t feel like they can be empowered, they won’t accept an empowerment program, because it doesn’t feel genuine. Allow me to take a step back and explain.
Working for and with both American and Scandinavian companies, I’ve noticed one major difference. It’s not in the mission statements, the motivation of the workforce, or the perks given (although I am convinced that we need to adopt the Fika). It’s the physical organization structure of the different companies that greatly differs.
American companies are often based on a vertical hierarchy, where one person or a board of people are in charge, and then there follows a series of levels, of decreasing authority and responsibility. This creates the top down structure to which Marquet was referring. And it works. Employees have very clearly defined roles and all contribute to the success of the organization. However it’s not very empowering.
You are a customer service representative for a large company. Every day, you speak directly with customers and help to address their issues. Over time you identify a common theme across a large number of service issues and develop a great idea, that if implemented, could solve a large portion of issues. This would make customers much happier. So you submit the idea to your manager, who has to submit it to their department head, who then has to submit it to their boss and so on. Very quickly, you the owner of the idea, become very far removed from it. Maybe along the way the person who submitted the idea get’s lost, or the idea loses steam and never makes it to the appropriate decision maker and fizzles out.
Now let’s look at a Scandinavian company, which is structured much more…horizontally. While team members serve different roles, and there are varying levels of responsibility and authority in these companies, an effort is made to all work together and all ideas are submitted to the team rather than funneled up through a network of individuals. Using the same example, a customer service representative who identifies a common trend across reported issues, and identifies a potential solution would be able to submit the idea not to a supervisor, but to a team. The individual team members can provide feedback and help to add to the idea, until it becomes an actionable solution.
This second solution is much more agile, and allows for innovation to happen much more organically, and ultimately more quickly. This isn’t to say that American companies are all hierarchical, or that none of these hierarchical companies foster a culture of innovation.
Idea Hunt was built around this Scandinavian, group innovation concept, where all ideas are submitted to a group or team of people, to collaborate and co-create innovative concepts, products, services, and more, to grow and succeed in a faster, more agile way.
**David Marquet is the former commander of the nuclear submarine, the USS Santa Fe, and author of Turn The Ship Around, a Fortune’s Best Business Book.
This post is written by I. C. Robledo, author of many books such as Idea Hacks, The Secret Principles of Genius, and No One Ever Taught Me How to Learn.
Introducing Idea Hacks
Have you ever wanted to come up with a lot of ideas, but not known where to start?
For the people who already know how to be creative, it seems so easy. Yet if you ask them how they do it, you’ll often get an “I don’t know” or “It just happens.” Of course, this isn’t helpful at all. If you have sometimes struggled to get creative, I have a system called “Idea Hacks” that should help.
In my experience coming up with ideas can sometimes be a major pain. Just because you tell your mind that you want to come up with some ideas, doesn’t mean it will happen. Often, it’s quite easy to hit a wall and get frustrated, making you feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body. However, I’ve found that when people use idea hacks, this helps their creativity come out more naturally, and the process then becomes easier and more fun. They tend to find creative inspiration quite quickly, because this ability was always inside of them, and they just needed a better way besides simply pressuring themselves to come up with ideas.
The point is that these systems work whether or not you think you are creative. They also work whether you just need a boost in coming up with new ideas, or whether you feel completely blocked, and are unsure how to overcome it.
The following are some examples of how idea hacks work.
An Alphabet of Ideas
With this system, all you do is go through the alphabet in your mind. Simply start with A, B, C, and so on, coming up with a new idea that starts with each letter.
As a quick example, let’s say I wanted to come up with ideas for types of aliens to use in a novel…
A could be for ant-people. They look like people, but their heads are like those of ants.
B could be for bees. A similar concept, but they are based on bees instead.
C could be for cells. Their bodies could be porous and shaped like a cell.
D could be for daring. Perhaps these aliens are much bolder, and more willing to do dangerous things than most humans would be.
E could be for eel. The aliens could have electrical properties where they shock anything they touch.
After a while, you will have many, many ideas and you can choose the best ones that you want to apply.
This is one of my favorite creative systems because it is simple, fun, and very effective….
If you would like to try it out, you can start coming up with more ideas, continuing with the letter F.
Loads of Questions
With this idea hack, the goal will be to come up with a large amount of questions that help you think in new directions. We often underestimate the power of questions, but they can be an excellent tool for taking the mind along new pathways.
As an example, imagine if your goal were to create a new type of social media platform. Without having to worry about coming up with ideas, you can make your task simpler by just asking questions about how you might start this new social media platform.
As an example of this, you could ask: What if you named it after a celebrity, and got them to endorse it somehow? What if you made it an exclusive experience, where you had to be chosen and invited to join, rather than just starting up an account of your own? What if you gained social points by specific positive actions you took in the real world? What if you could never post anything about yourself, and your home site was just a collection of things others had posted about you?
Notice that in this example, I repeatedly used “What if?” This can be an excellent way to start questions, but you can also go along many other directions, going with questions that begin with Who, What, How, Why, When, etc. Regardless, it is usually much easier to get yourself to think up questions, than it is to come up with ideas in general.
The Worst Ideas You can Think of
This idea hack will seem silly at first glance. With this one, you will actually seek to come up with the worst ideas possible. Rather than worry about needing to find the perfect idea, you will allow your mind to wander and explore all kinds of strange ideas, even if they don’t seem good at first.
Coming up with the worst ideas tends to be helpful for fighting creative blocks. Many of us might get a creative block because we automatically filter out ideas that we think are bad. But if instead, you allow yourself to consider them, you may find that they take you in a creative direction.
The interesting thing is that we are often quick to judge our own ideas as good or bad, but even ideas that appear to be horrible can often be modified, turned around, and developed to become a good idea.
Another positive is that when you allow all of these not-so-great ideas to come out, you will tend to have more fun, loosen up, and with all of these out of the way, you will feel more prepared to come up with ideas that are much better. It can act as a sort of training exercise to get your creative juices flowing, preparing you to do better.
As an example, imagine if you wanted to come up with ideas for a new exercise routine.
Some bad ideas may be to jog backward, to swim in Jell-O, to use babies as weights to lift, or to jump in a cage with a wild animal to motivate you to run faster.
Of course, these examples are pretty bad, and also silly. But often with some modification, they can be improved quite a bit. Instead of as an end point, think of bad ideas like this as a starting point to make you think in new directions. For example, babies are known to cry. What if there were barbells that made annoying noises (like crying) until you exercised with them? That way, you would be forced to exercise every day unless you wanted to hear the annoying sounds.
This still may not be the best idea you have ever heard, but the point is we can take impractical and horrible ideas and work with them to improve them. Your worst ideas won’t necessarily be as bad as they seem at first.
This has been just a brief introduction to what idea hacks are all about. To learn more creative shortcuts such as this, you can check out Idea Hacks: Come up with 10X More Creative Ideas in 1/2 the Time by I. C. Robledo
Every company approaches innovation in their own way. Some weave it into their corporate culture, keeping it top of mind every day. Others work in springs, carving out specific days and times to devote to brainstorming and planning innovation project. Regardless of your approach, innovation projects are an important part of maintaining your relevance, competitive edge, and ultimately, staying in business.
While almost all corporations have some kind of innovation project, not all create a wave of success that can be ridden into the next decade, year or even the next quarter. Many of these fail to succeed at all. When large teams of people are required to collaborate on a corporate sized project, there are a number of different things that can go wrong. In this post, we’ll take a look at some of the most common reasons why these projects fail and how they can be resolved before the start of the next team effort.
Innovation or not, this is one of the top reasons that any project fails. Not having a clearly defined purpose or goal for a project can cause major derailments in terms of time, effort and emotions. If you do not clearly define these important details from the start of the project, your participants will likely end up working in different directions, rather than towards a common goal.
Draft a one pager for your project. On this sheet, clearly and succinctly define the type of project, the reason for the project, and the goal for the outcome of the project. Include images, or diagrams to help edify your participants and you have taken an important step towards ensuring the success of your innovation project before it has even started.
Often we see that projects do not have a stage gate, or funnel comprising of the different phases of a project. When a plan is not clearly defined, the project will lack the necessary organization to move forward. Team members get stuck, cycling through a stage over and over again. Without clearly defined gates, there is no filter to sort out the good ideas and move them forward to stages where they can be implemented. You risk never getting to an implementation phase, or trying to implement too many ideas.
Consider instituting a plan with different phases such as: 1. Needs Phase, 2. Solutions Phase, 3. Prototypes Phase and 4. Products Phase. This will allow you to stay organized, keep team members on the same phase of the project, ensuring that you all work together with very focused efforts and energy.
Cumbersome Innovation Software, or complex policies and procedures can require additional training, or an investment of time and energy before the project can even begin. Your team members are already busy with their daily jobs and responsibilities, and now you are adding on top of those. This is putting a damper on the project before the kickoff and it will greatly impact the enthusiasm that team members have for the project, and the energy that they will contribute to it.
Pick a simple process, or an easy to use innovation tool, like Idea Hunt’s idea platform, to make contributing to this project as easy and enjoyable as possible. When you respect your team members schedules, and technical acumen, they are much more likely to contribute – which is key to the success of the project.
When there is a lack of a solid time frame, the project becomes easy for individual team member to put off…indefinitely. Their intentions might be good – to get to more pressing work and projects before the innovation project, but often work continues to come in and the project ends up suffering because it becomes a secondary or even tertiary priority.
By putting a time frame on the project, you help your team members to plan and work their contribution to the innovation project into their schedule. Increase the chances of success for your project by putting a manageable timeframe in place.
Innovation projects often require your team members to submit ideas, but many do not put any framework in place for collaboration and curation of those ideas. The projects are in essence, one directional. Team members are asked to submit ideas but then feel like they are removed from the process.
Utilize a framework or a platform that enables team members and employees to work together to build upon initial ideas, ask questions to help identify areas of opportunity and the result will be twofold. You will garner more by in from your teams, and the resulting ideas will be higher quality.
A corporate growth philosophy once again beginning to evolve around the concept of “lean”, characterized by lean.org as “masximizing customer value while minimizing waste”. It sounds simple right? We caught up with lean philosophy expert Fredrik Fjellstedt to talk about his take on Lean Philosophy and his tips for becoming successful with the lean philosophy.
After working for over 10 years in Toyota’s Material Handling Europe Division, Fredrik Fjellstedt became the first team member outside of the Company’s Japanese headquarters to become a Master Trainer in their lean method for continuous improvement.
The philosophy of making continuous improvements with the goal of increasing customer value, that seems like something that everyone can implement, what makes it difficult? Why do some who try to implement this philosophy fail?
To answer this question, Fredrik explained to us that some corporations fall into a cycle of making changes for the sake of making changes, that these changes don’t necessarily bring improvement or value to the customer.
This common reason for the failure to implement a corporate lean philosophy sounds like an easy snag to get caught on. So we asked Fredrik what he suggests to avoid it.
Open Innovation is sure to produce a number of ideas that can be explored, and evaluated. The larger the number of ideas a company produces, the greater chances they will develop ideas that turn into successful improvement changes and bring the company closer to their goal of providing additional value to the customer.
After the ideation phase of an open innovation project, Fredrik suggests the following five steps to successfully implementing a lean philosophy, to select and implement those ideas that provide additional value to your customers.
Want to learn more? Click here to get Fredrik Fjellstedt’s White Paper on Lean.