Plenty has been written regarding organisation’s chances to drive innovation. And many studies have been conducted, which analyze how innovative processes can be initiated.
However, from experience and when working with clients, I observe very often that it’s all about tools and methods. Which IT tools can we use to increase innovation? Shall we go for a brainstorming method? Is design thinking a good approach? Etc.
Don’t get me wrong. It is crucial to chose the right methods and tools. Nevertheless, all of them will fail, if the 5 vital aspects of innovation aren’t tackled.
Here are my five recommendations that have helped me to establish a solid fundament for an innovative process.
Set up a diverse team. Innovative thoughts are created, when dissimilarity teams up and wrap their heads around a topic or a problem – meaning different people (age, gender, nationality, educational background, etc.) come together and join forces. Let three mid-aged male software developers sit together and ask them to come up with real innovations – it will not work. Certainly, they will come up with great technological improvements yet they will not create a holistic innovation due to lacking diversity in their creativity. In my opinion it is therefore absolutely essential to bring an unalike mindset together, different experiences, divergent strengths and diverse mind set in order to really boost innovation.
No hierarchy. Never. I participated in several innovation workshops, in which it was all about the leader’s ideas. Or even worse, the management or team leader overruled their employees. This is not the spirit for an innovative environment. When entering an innovative process, hierarchy has to stay out. An innovative think-tank is a group of equal people, regardless of their position within the company or any other personal attributes.
No rules. No boundaries. There is nothing more counterproductive than thinking in a narrow perspective. Quite often, great innovations emerge from – initially – crazy ideas and thoughts. That’s why it is crucial to create an atmosphere, in which everybody is encouraged to give free rain to their ideas. Never ever judge an idea. Always try to pick it up and develop it further.
Distraction-free. This is not a secret but still so often done wrong. People come together in a meeting room, everybody stares at their mobiles or answers the recent mail on their laptop – and ‚oh’ and by the way trying to create new ideas. I think you get the point. Rule number one in this context: No innovation workshops at the office. Go outside, go to a different and inspiring place. Rule number two: Mobiles and laptops have to stay out. Full stop.
Be patient. Developing innovations is a creative process, which can’t be planned down to the detail. Ideas and thoughts need to grow. Keep on being patient when a first, a second or even third workshops doesn’t bring the results you were waiting for. Still those workshops were not a waste of time – they were definitely the preparation for the next big thing.
Certainly, these 5 recommendations only reflect my personal experience and do not claim to be a thorough, fact-based analytical work. But I am pretty sure that taking these tips to heart will improve your future innovative process.
Benjamin Walther, CEO, Information Design.
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