‘Innovation’ is the Holy Grail in the world of business. It is often revered, searched for, but rarely found, except by the selected big brands that have succeeded. The truth is that innovative thinking is every bit a discipline and structured thought process, as it is an unplanned epiphany. In other words, you can plan for it. Here are three ingredients in creating an innovation-driven company:
1. Ideation and Discovery
Regardless of what type of innovation you aim to develop, ideas are usually the inception point of great innovations. It can start out as a belief, a philosophy, a commercial need, or a spark of inspiration that grows out of nothing spectacular. Having ideas are not difficult. Having relevant ideas that can be translated into your business, or at least a prototype, is usually the difficult part.
How some of us in business incubators and startups do it is by developing an environment for idea discovery, sharing and testing. Idea exploration requires the unlearning, relearning of knowledge. This could take the form of targeted research online, offline ideation sessions or field research. You may have heard that Google gives their employees time off to develop their side projects and interests because their time away from their assigned task can lead them to a discovery or a skill that can be a contribution to the company one day. Incubating ideas takes time and time is a scarce resource. So managers have to make a decision on how to integrate this ideation and discovery process into their teams’ work style.
2. Prototyping Culture
Prototyping is learning by building and acting on the idea. It is the most crucial step in assessing if the idea is feasible and relevant to your company. Prototyping can take the form of a sketch of the product, a physical model of the product put together using improvised materials or a video clip that demonstrates how the product works. It can also take the form of building a very realistic first version of the idea. Depending on your industry, prototyping can be very expensive and time consuming or very cost-effective and simple to design. Managers need to make a decision on what level of prototyping is sufficient for the first level of ideas screening.
3. Diversity with the right attitude
Diversity is an essential ingredient of an innovative culture. It always pays to hire people with diverse skills and background in your core team of innovation. But more importantly, hire a diverse group of people who are united by the same passion and respect for innovation.
People who are passionate about innovation welcome critiques more than praises. They will look for the best instead of the easiest and most accessible solution. They are also more willing to defend good ideas instead of personal egos. They are less likely to cut corners in their work. This does not mean that there will not be conflict in this handpicked group. It only means that healthy sparks of conflict will more likely take place in the creative and project related domains instead of the less healthy personal domains.
By: Taryn Mook. Taryn is a business model innovator working in a tech business incubator. She develops new business models to make new businesses sustainable and works a great deal with entrepreneurs.
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