Having your team understand what innovation is, is central to realizing the transformative potential of innovation projects. For many, the critical flaw in their quest to be more innovative is to get what IT is wrong. The most common mistake I see is to confuse technology and innovation. These two things are related, but they are not the same thing.
We see this often in how job descriptions and daily work of organizational innovation leads manifest. I have met many an ‘Innovation Manager’ or ‘Director of Innovation’ who end up exploring what technology exists in the world and fitting this technology into their business. Many of these people also spend enormous amounts of time hearing pitches and sifting through information from technology providers. What this often ends up as is a laundry list of new product implementations with no prioritization. This can often also lead to organizations being ‘too busy’ to consider larger leap innovations.
Organizations who can think more broadly of innovation will be able to uncover exponentially more value by doing so. We like to start by asking two fundamental questions:
- What is your biggest opportunity?
- What is your biggest problem?
By focusing here first, you can appreciate which problems and opportunities are really worth solving for in the first place. The conversations get really interesting when organizations realize the system innovations that have the potential to make them more agile, empower their teams more, and get them ready to face the future.
For example, I see lots of organizations whose biggest problem is a disengaged workforce. Here the crux of the problem varies – for some it is the compensation or reward model they use, for others it is a lack of a system to empower employees with new ideas, and for others still it may be a lack of a trusting culture. For each of these, technology is part of the solution: better instant messaging or collaboration platforms, software to speed up project work etc. But these technologies will fail to solve your problem every time if you don’t think of the problem you are solving more widely.
The real innovation may be in transforming your structure, your compensation model or providing your leaders with better training around leading innovative organizations – and then enabling them with technology. How many new software solutions are implemented, but never fully adopted or utilized? The human systems, roll out and training plans, and ongoing coaching will be critical – and the innovation only counts when delivery is successful.
If your organization can get good at this broader follow through, and get focused on those problems that are really worth solving, your edge over your competition will solve itself.
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