I was recently asked by a CEO of an international service brand to help the company’s leadership group with its innovation efforts.
My starting point with these types of assignments is always the question: what have you done recently that is innovative.
The management team answered this question by pointing to a framed slogan on the wall with the words: Innovation is one of our most important values or principles. Yes, I said, that sounds good, but what have you done that is innovative recently?
Sign up for SmartCompany newsletter.
Free to your inbox every weekday
Senior managers repeated that innovation was their number one or two priority. It was the lifeblood, their reason for being – just look at the frame on the wall.
Risking a very short consulting assignment, I asked one last time: can tell me one thing that you have done that is innovative?
Finally the penny dropped. With a few nervous smiles they admitted that they had been very busy and that innovation was the very next thing they were going to do.
My point is this. Innovation, like any change program (think of trying to give up smoking or losing weight), depends on what you do – not what you say you will do. You can have a frame on every wall but if nothing gets done then you are not being innovative. It’s as simple as that!
Innovation is about changing behaviour. Most of all, innovation is about action. If you want to improve your fitness, for example, you need to start going for a jog.
If your organisation or business wants to be more innovative, you have to practice innovation.
The most effective way to move forward is to start small. Select a customer complaint or problem and then develop and test an innovative solution. Then select an internal problem and create some new, different and valuable ways of addressing this.
You are up and running. You are innovating.
Your people will now believe you when you frame those well-chosen words on the wall. Now you have something to talk about.
Most importantly, don’t forget to share your key learnings and celebrate your success.