TIP: The innovation keystone you may be missing

Photo: Seagul

When launching your innovation management effort, you must find a way to communicate that the initiative is bigger than just a simple project. We’re talking about the opportunity to define the company’s future. The opportunity to out-differentiate your competition and, more importantly, to write history together. Individuals need a purpose if you want them to dedicate their time to activities not part of their official job description.

So, do make sure you find what makes people jump out of bed in the morning – define a meaningful purpose, a strategic intent that shows how outcomes of the effort will benefit both the company and the world we all live in.

Insight: ‘In the end, the best talent will migrate to those firms that have inspiring goals, along with process, culture, incentives and investment that seeks out exciting innovation-driven growth opportunities.’ (PWC Demystifying Innovation, 2011)

Brick by brick
During a recent visit to ‘Sagrada Família Basilica’ in Barcelona, she came across three bricklayers. They were working on the same area, placing brick on top of brick.

She walked up to the first bricklayer and asked him, ‘What are you doing?. He turned his head and with a look of disdain said, ‘What do you think I am doing? I am laying bricks.’

She moved on to the second bricklayer. She asked him, ‘What are you doing?’ He turned his head and with a look of appreciation said, ‘I am making a wall.’

She approached the third bricklayer and asked him, ‘What are you doing?’. He stepped back, looked up and down at his creation. He turned to her with a smile and a glint in his eye as he said, ‘I am building a cathedral.’

What makes people engage in your innovation effort? Laying bricks, making a wall or building a cathedral?

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder / pcc@exago.com

FROM THE START: Innovation looks easy – it’s not

TIP: What are you neglecting in your innovation initiative?

Photo: Anna Dziubinska

You’ve taken all of our advice and built a robust innovation management engine that will – over time – bring differentiation and engagement to your organisation. You’ve avoided all the pitfalls we’ve outlined:

  • Inability to engage your people
  • Inability to get top management’s attention
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of relevance
  • Lack of measurable return
  • Lack of transparency

You have the resources and mandate from top management, the right set of challenges and the internal support. Nothing seems to be missing and you feel you are poised for success.

Yet your innovation management programme fails to take off in the manner you expected. If it isn’t any of the causes above, you might consider that it has to do with lack of purpose.

Somewhere in the lost and found
This very specific cause for failure – we have observed – typically happens in more sophisticated organisations where innovation is neither something new nor a fad.

These are knowledge-led organisations where individuals are focused on ‘higher’ activities. What can happen here is that you fail to get the company’s collective attention and your programme is relegated to the lost and found department – destined to be more lost than found.

This occurs when you don’t demonstrate a clear purpose: in people’s eyes, your initiative is simply another one among many, like customer satisfaction goals, a work environment survey, or just one of those annual things that companies love to pull. You’ve lost their attention.

Insight: ‘As human beings, we are the only organisms that create for the sheer stupid pleasure of doing so. Whether it’s laying out a garden, composing a new tune on the piano, writing a bit of poetry, manipulating a digital photo, redecorating a room, or inventing a new chili recipe – we are happiest when we are creating.’
Gary Hamel, author and management expert

But what can then be done to avoid the ‘lack of purpose’ trap?

Pedro do Carmo Costa, Exago’s director and co-founder / pcc@exago.com

CONTINUE READING: The innovation keystone you may be missing – it’s not

FROM THE START: Innovation looks easy – it’s not