“Rekha Shetty’s journey for the last 23 years have proved that innovation is a science. The art of the imagination can be implemented by the structure of innovation. This book is about consistent sustainable innovation on demand”. – Mr. Shekar Arora, Executive Director, HR Ashok Leyland, on Innovate! 90 Days To Transform Your Business.To become an Innovation Star read ‘Innovate! 90 Days to Transform Your Business’.
Available at http://www.penguinbooksindia.com/
THE INNOVATION PROCESS
The greatest competitive advantage comes from out-innovating the competition. As Tom Peters put it,
‘Add 10 differentiations to every product or service every 60 days. Sounds impossible? Isn’t it tough? It is. But what are the options? Your competitors are not sitting still.’’
Innovation is the ultimate human resource which can ensure the sustainable competitive advantage of companies. It is the use of creative thinking tools that can provide the edge required to face the challenge of globalization. Creativity may become essential for survival in the Indian context, where there is such a major limitation of resources. Today is the age of knowledge and innovation can take companies forward at the speed of thought.
The process that leads to the moment of discovery, invention, creativity and innovation can be broken down into five parts:
The Innovation Process
The MindsPower Process Map presents the tasks in each of these areas. This process focuses on stimulating fresh thinking in managers and leaders with the goal of bringing new power and perspectives to their organizations. The innovation group works out the plan knowing that the important thing about a strategic plan is not the paper it is printed on but the process it creates within an organization.
The process facilitates culture change, whether the transformation is being driven by shifting paradigms in the market or by internal events like mergers or acquisitions. Companies use the process to create profitable new products and processes; to create or revitalize quality improvement programs; and in corporate transformation, by developing high-performing managers and teams and promoting cross functional teamwork.
The Innovation Spiral
The first step in developing an environment that nurtures creativity is to separate idea generation from analysis. Most business sessions do not yield too many breakthrough ideas because managers are too busy shooting down each other’s ideas. Such meetings produce boring, safe and often useless suggestions. So create an Innovation Spiral where members will feel safe to be open, inventive, and even silly. Playfulness and fun define this positive climate and is critical to the emergence of creative ideas as the new ideas being developed should be challenging. If all the emerging ideas are ones that you feel comfortable with, then these ideas are old and the team should challenge themselves further.
Here are a few self-limiting obstacles to creative thinking:
• The habit of self-censorship.
A strict censor board, sitting in our minds, rejecting all but the most acceptable, tried and tested ideas (since most of us are taught to be safe and do not like sticking our necks out), perpetuates age-old thoughts. For instance, a question like, ‘Why can’t customers sell, instead of salesmen?’ is often answered with resistance and laughter. The habit of looking at all statements with the intention of extracting value will enable us to arrive at possible solutions from the wildest idea. In this case, member-get-member programmes can convince customers to sell products they are happy with.
• A lack of respect for others.
Many of us live in a world which is neatly divided into those who know and those who don’t know. The first group is made up of people like ourselves. At best, those who fall into the second category are treated with indulgent condescension. This is dangerous and makes little financial sense as the Japanese quality management systems have proved. The best ideas may come from workers, non-executive staff, families, vendors, students and even the general public.
• Adopting the status quo.
Precedents and tradition are among the most serious blocks to thinking out of the box. Applying bullock-cart thoughts to the problems of a space-age company can only end in falling profits. Dynamic companies are willing to look beyond precedents in the search for solutions.
• Assuming limitations, instead of possibilities.
When someone is presenting a germinal idea, it is very easy to pick flaws. A newborn idea has high potential, but many flaws. At this stage, it is like a newly sprouted seed. It should be nurtured. It should be carefully developed through springboards. Attacking it will only kill it. Evaluation should be the last stage before implementation. Early evaluation ensures that it never leaves the concept stage.
• Involve Top Management.
An important element is to ensure that top management encourages innovation spirals to meet on a weekly basis. They must be engaged enough to commit for regular monthly review on course correction. The most critical element is to commit to the long term pursuit of the plan.
CEOs can ensure a culture of innovation that highlights the importance of harnessing the talent of the entire organization. Only CEOs can lead such quantum shifts in strategy. They alone can create an organizational
climate, where fundamental assumptions are open to question. A real gap in Indian companies seems to be lack of CEOs who nurture companywide innovation.
While many CEOs are ‘visionary leaders,’ most are not enthusiastic champions of company-wide innovation. Both financial and psychological support from top management is critical for the culture of innovation. One of the main inhibitors of innovation is the attitude of ‘Do it my way.’ Leaders need an effective communication system to share their business vision with the grassroots. This helps to empower all levels of the organization.
Adapting to change and proactively responding to opportunities are daunting tasks. Top management needs to handhold teams through these risky processes. Failures need to be dealt with in a way that protects and encourages risk taking. Only CEOs can provide the time and resources required for companies to be outwardly focused, scanning the environment of competitors, customers, academics, suppliers and even different industries. Such companies have a better chance of becoming innovation stars. CEOs can provide courage, zest, enthusiasm and speed to the whole organization. It is this energy that will drive an innovation initiative.
Large, traditional companies have a tendency to become more bureaucratic. Bureaucracy produces politics, red tape and power struggles. People find a hundred rules to protect themselves from acting. This can repress the natural energy and enthusiasm of the organization. CEOs can prevent this deadening disease.
The Innovation Initiative is now ready to start. Do get your team together, discuss the vision and revisit the mission statement. Let the ultimate goal emerge from your discussions. This meeting should bring everyone together to work for the clear, inspiring, common goal.
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