Innovation – Making it work in organizations

This morning I had a very stimulating conversation with a government client who wants to raise the question of innovation with a group she is mentoring.  We decided that innovation was more about the renewal of something that already exits, rather than the creation of something entirely new.  We still take pictures even though innovation has changed how and why we do it; organizations still do recruiting even though the methods have/will change.

Our exploration began by looking at the way we take pictures now compared to 20 years ago.  Pictures happened only at special occassions – weddings, births, vacations, etc. The whole process was expensive and conducted mainly by experts with costly equipment.

 

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Along came digital cameras that made it inexpensive and fun to experiment.  Suddenly the creative process was available to all.  Then some of us wanted the camera to be available so we would never miss a photographic opportunity but got tired of carrying an extra price of equipment.  Now our smart phones have great cameras included – all in one, no extra equipment required. We can share our pictures with distant friends and family in an instant.  And if we don’t like the photo we got, we can make changes to improve the result.

 

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Invention followed by innovation has changed the way we think about taking pictures;

  • creativity is now available to each of us, rather than a select few
  • taking pictures is for all occassions and circumstances
  • pictures are not necessarily a dipiction of reality since they may have been manipulated

We concluded that all our processes, products and organizations are propped up by a value system and that a value shift can often facilitate innovation.  We decided that certain conditions, if present, can help facilitate innovation in organizations:

  • Revisiting the values and principles behind the product, service, process; circumstances and environments do change;
  • Being relaxed about it – many people will freeze up when asked to be innovative.  A dialogue about it will bring understanding and relaxation.  What is it?  How does it work?  What are the benefits?  Some examples and comparisons;
  • Remembering that innovation is all about change and recognizing our normal responses to change;
  • Making it playful to explore new ideas and approaches;
  • Being prepared to change the way we make decisions.  Since innovation always impacts others, making it a collaborative exercise will bring effective results;  brainstorming always has better results when there are many participating.
  • Being interested in examining what we do and the results we are getting.  Do we desire improvement?  How much do we desire it?
  • Being prepared to let some things die and choosing something outside the norm.  If we are stuck in the way it’s always been done before, we’ll hear comments like “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”
  • Being ready and excited about experimentation.

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We were left with questions about bringing innovation into the examination of some of those very basic things like organizational structure, recruitment and performance reviews and came to the conclusion that the place to begin was with the value systems.  For example, if we look at recruitment processes in the government we see that values really drive the system.  The need to ensure it is without nepitism and is transparent determines many of the steps in the process.  What would the process look like if that value were adjusted?