A lot of us work(ed) at pretty conservative companies. As a result of operational excellence we improve our services and products and produce them at lower costs too. But a faster changing world confronts us with the fact that in the long run we cannot survive on doing the same things better and cheaper.
"Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there". [Will Rogers]
I write innOvatiOn with two big O's. It is the O of other: of doing other things. The challenge is how you can get it on the management's agenda?
Now innovation is risky. Only one out of seven innovation projects is successful. Saying yes to innovation is a step into the unknown. Many managers wait in reality until not innovating is not an option anymore.
I like to quote the CEO of BMW AG, the German luxury car producer, Dr.-Ing. Norbert Reithofer. When asked why BMW started the risky E-car project with the BMWi-3 and i-8 he responded very honest: "Because doing nothing was even a bigger risk" [Autoweek 41-2013].
This is so human. Manfred Kets de Vries, professor in management and leadership at INSEAD, once said: "The only person waiting for a change is a baby with a wet diaper.” He is spot on. The right moment to start a innovation project in your company is when doing nothing is a bigger risk. It's the moment people say, "we need to innovate".
Use 'corporate moments of pain' to get innovation on the top management's agenda.
These now-we-really-need-to-innovate moments often coincide with moments of pain felt in the business of today. A great example of a company 'in pain' is Nintendo.
At the moment Nintendo isn't performing very well. It is heading for its third straight year of losses. Several Nintendo executives, including CEO Satoru Iwata, took voluntary pay cuts. There is pressure from investors to release "Super Mario," "Pokémon" and "Zelda" on mobile platforms and apps, which would boost the company's value. But the success of Nintendo has always been building its own hardware. Up to now, Nintendo made sure its games were not available elsewhere. What will be Nintendo's next step?
To be really effective as innovator, these are the moments you should use. You will get support because business as usual cannot solve the pain. You cannot wait too long though. You know completion of the innovation process in a big company takes at least 18 - 36 months from idea to market introduction.
Once the mindset is open for change you should be looking for disruptive ways to really innovate your company. The following five provocations might help you to break your pattern:
1. What would we do if we were a new start-up company?
2. What would we do if we had unlimited access to money and resources?
3. What would Google do if we were taken over by them?
4. What would we do if our 'way of working' would be forbidden by law?
5. What would Super Mario himself do (to innovate Nintendo)?
You might use these provocations to stimulate provocative thinking by yourself or with a group of colleagues. Be sure to defer your judgment and to elaborate on the ideas instead of killing them right away.
“If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” [Albert Einstein]
An absurd idea is a wonderful start of your ideation process to break old patterns. Of course it has to be worked out in a attractive and feasible concept afterwards to get company support. For tips on this, please read: How to get Support for Your Big Ideas.
So look out for moments of pain and make use of them.
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