Is your business set for innovation?

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A checklist of organisational characteristics that support creativity and innovation

Even if you have put together a really hot team of creative people, that team will produce disappointing results if it’s condemned to operate within an organisation that’s unfriendly to new ideas.

  • Risk taking is acceptable to management.  Risk aversion is normal and healthy. But progress and risk and inseparable companions. You cannot change one without the other. From an innovation perspective there are two methods available for dealing with risk:
    • Diversification – Diversification allows companies to spread risk over many throws of a dice as opposed to better the company on a single roll.
    • Cheap Failures – Cheap failure is a project or experiment that is terminated with the least possible outlay of resources – just enough to give the business owner an idea that it’s not going to work.
  • New ideas and new ways of doing things are welcomed.  Beyond welcoming new ideas, the organisation should view innovation as a normal part of business – not a special activity practised by a handful of employees.  The worst environment for creativity is one that is unwelcoming to new ideas. “Why bother to come up with new ideas when management shoots down everything we suggest?” Or the worst statement “We’ve been successful over the years by doing things this way so why should we change?”
  • Information is free flowing.  Information can stimulate thinking which leads to idea generation. Many ideas are formed at the intersection of different lines of thought or technology.
  • Employees have access to knowledge sources.  Just as employees must have free flowing lines of communication between one another, so too they need access to sources of knowledge – both from inside and outside the business. That knowledge is often the raw material of creative thought.
  • Good ideas are supported by executive patrons.  Although executive patronage is often necessary, such support is not always well directed. Senior executives are not any more clairvoyant than other managers. Motorola, Polaroid, Kodak and even Apple’s chief executives have lost heavily in innovation that has failed.  Organisations need people in high places who will champion good ideas and provide them with moral support and protection as they travel the bumpy road toward commercialisation.
  • Innovators are rewarded.  Rewards can be based on the following:
    • Recognition: Acknowledging individual or group achievement
    • Control: Allowing an individual or group to own the innovation project by providing the required level of decision making and finance to get the idea off the ground.
    • Celebration: Acknowledging a successful new product or service launch
    • Rejuvenation: Providing time off or away from the task.

Creativity will not flourish in the absence of reward system that encourages individuals to stretch beyond the bounds of normal work.

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