For companies around the world, it is clear that innovation is the key to long term survival. Without new ideas, businesses die. And unless such innovation occurs regularly, there will be no predictable path for companies to build from. Despite this knowledge, Accenture found that only 18% of businesses felt that their innovation process was working. Basically, there is a dearth of innovation, though every company knows it’s the most important part of a business. Even though it’s hard to promote, there is a discipline by which innovation occurs, and it can be practiced by just about every business.
1. Inspiration and Mobilization.
Employees have to have structured time to think of new ideas. Companies like 3M give their employees 15% of every workday to try out new ideas. Other companies like Google have played around with this concept to great effect. What has been found is that too much time given to innovation, and employees leave for more stable jobs. Too little time, and there are no new ideas to keep the company afloat.
Once an idea has been conceived and mobilized, there has to be a way that it can be evaluated by a group. In this way, ideas can be had in private, then they can be refined, adopted, or aborted as seen fit by the group. The people who had the ideas in the first place must be present to advocate for their ideas, and the whole company must be judicious and encouraging in their constructive criticism.
During this phase, the idea is not evaluated from a fundamental level, it is tried out for the organization at the present point in its existence. Some ideas are good on their own, but are a poor fit for the present day of the company they’re tried out upon. Experimentation can happen constantly, for new ideas as they surface. Or it can happen in spurts, as needed. Experimentation takes time, and unless there is enough time given, it won’t pay off.
This is when it becomes clear if and how an idea will be taken to market. It’s a necessary part of innovation, as ideas that cannot be commercialized cannot be reasonably be pursued. In this stage, ideas may be combined with other ideas, and further inspiration may be realized. Think of it as the real world packaging of the original idea.
This is where the rubber hits the road. The idea and marketing concept which has simmered for weeks, months, or years, is now ready to implement in the real world. This should not be considered the end of the process, as implementation always brings up new questions which weren’t previously considered. But simply by acting, by creating something that must survive in the real world, this step in the innovation process moves the original idea forward even more.
Innovation as a systematic process is necessary if businesses are to rely on good ideas at regular intervals. Management must create a culture where this process is understood and participated in by all.