Innovation – commercialising inventions of new ideas and methods – is a necessary component of business success.
There are other factors in play, but the more innovative a business is, the more successful it is likely to be. It avoids obsolescence and finds/maintains a differential advantage, among other things.
But many people seem to be confused by what innovation involves
- It is not a single action, but a process.
- It is not just engineering or creating a new product; it can be at any point in the value chain
- It doesn’t have to be part of your job title; anyone can do it
But we rarely do. And we should.
Non project work. Non admin work. Just creative thinking and problem solving (or problem creating) for the business.
Google famously allow their employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects, from which services such as Gmail originated.
It doesn’t have to be a new product – it could be innovating a process, a position or a paradigm. These “4 Ps of innovation” can be complemented with organisational, management and marketing innovations.
Innovation for the sake of innovation won’t work. For it to be successful it needs to
- Be led from above, with management buy-in
- Aligned with the company objectives
- Failure tolerated (or even encouraged)
With these relatively straightforward criteria met, a culture of innovation can thrive.
It doesn’t have to be 20% of our time – it could easily be half that. Either half a day cordoned off, or 30 minutes a day supplemented with a one hour meeting.
It isn’t much, but the results can potentially be huge.
And all we have to do is find that 10%.
We should give it a try.
Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/benheine/4613609067/