Sparking Innovation

Innovation doesn’t start with a problem. It begins prior to a problem. You can’t fix a car without tools and the tools you need will vary, but when you work on a car you usually take it to maintenance garage where the experts know how to fix the exact problem. If you’re in an organization where the push for innovation is a priority then ask yourself…where is the garage? Where are the tools? What are the tools and most importantly, what is the problem?

I love the idea of changing systems/processes to work better, smarter and efficient. I believe innovation is the future for “how” we will operate. Everyone wants innovation, but everyone wants to start at the problem and overlook the tools, environment and game plan in preparation to innovate. A few questions for reflection: Is our environment built for creativity? Are we bringing together diverse teams to provide wider perspective to problems? Do we know exactly what we want to innovate? Lastly, have we scheduled time for our leaders to listen to ideas?

If we want to innovate we need to remember that not all solutions are innovative and not all problems need a complete makeover in order to fix the problem. Some problems only need a policy change. Some may need a little money. Maybe the process just needs a different manager. These minor changes can be creative in nature, but it doesn’t mean we have innovated. If we do want to set the tone for changing systems that can change the game of we operate than we need to be detailed in our approach. Here are a few things we can work at before we actually begin to innovate.

As a car needs a proper facility to be fixed we need to construct our environments to allow us to solve the problems we need solving. Are we providing a place for our members to brainstorm? Do they have an area to draw out ideas? Is there a room specifically where teams can write out questions where others can read and provide input? Environments must welcome idea flow and have the ability to bring out the creativity in our teams. Build an environment that allows creativity to manifest.

Along the lines of having environments where we can draw out ideas that allow others to provide input we need to build teams to solve problems. Diversity is the greatest team asset. Bringing diverse minds together can multiply the power of creativity which in turn can provide a wider range of ideas. Sometimes an outside perspective can see a different aspect of the problem and give a side others may not see. Build diverse teams.

Problems come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be pushed aside and fixed later, but when we talk about innovation we can’t just tell our teams to be innovative. Innovation must be pre-curated by what problems we want to solve. This means we must acknowledge specific problems. Though, we push innovation to occur, the problems are sometimes hidden. Leaders must be transparent with the organization’s problems and not just send teams out to innovate blindly. To ask our teams to innovate, but not give them details about what is an abuse of time and energy. Identify problems and recognize what problem needs a change and not just a fix. Be specific and identify where the time and energy of your teams needs to be focused. Build transparency in the organization’s problems.

Lastly, if we’re going to market for innovation within organizations then leaders must create time to listen to ideas even if they may sound silly. Set a time and date that allows teams to pitch ideas to the people that need to hear them. Give them the time as they are putting time into solving some of the biggest problems in the organization. A five minute listen may solve a $5M problem. Build a schedule that allows teams to provide solutions to its leaders.