Over the last decade, companies invested significantly in innovation capabilities and internal innovation teams. The pursuits and objectives of the teams are wide ranging: grow the core business by 25%, enter adjacent markets, grow adoption by a new demographic, define the future of their product or service.
Many, if not the majority, do not meet their growth expectations. New services and products are not launched. New markets are not created, and investments are not returned.
When executive patience runs out, teams are reorganized. Yet another attempt is made to find the right leader and organizational structure.
With teams of talented people and significant resources, why do organizations still struggle to create new value?
Innovative work requires a shift in mindset and day-to-day practices.
I learned the difference first hand. While working at a large Fortune 50 company, my main focus was to keep work moving. The project timing and milestones were a bigger topic of conversation than the content of the project itself.
I had to completely change my definition of “work” when I arrived at gravitytank, an innovation consulting firm. My time and attention is now spent in the work, rather than managing it.
Innovation requires actually spending focused time in the content. You must get into the subject matter and development of ideas throughout a project in new ways.
The information and ideas are the real priority in innovation work, not the process surrounding them. Discussion is expected. You facilitate dialogue by sharing imperfect ideas and tangible prototypes.The ideas aren’t right or finished, but you have to share anyway in order to make them better. This is the opposite of how we traditionally work. How often have you heard a friend or colleague say “I’m not ready to show it yet, I really need to finish it”?
When you’re engaged in the work, the goal is to learn new insights at each step of the project, not to just check activities off a list.
Here are a few ways to prioritize engaging in the content over managing its completion:
- Immerse in the problem space to surface new information. Don’t base decisions on generalizations.
- Find holes in your work and regularly test your assumptions, instead of just defending your ideas.
- Frame your problem in multiple ways. Don’t act on a problem as given.
- Generate at least 10 different ways a problem could be solved. Don’t jump on the first solution that comes to mind.
- Ask questions about the development of the work instead of the work’s milestones.
- Share your work early and often. Seek outside perspective and be open to the unexpected. Avoid working in isolation.