Fostering Innovation – How to avoid the traditional bell curve

Fostering Innovation – How to avoid the traditional bell curve

I often get asked what separates those organizations that seem to always be ahead of the curve, maybe even creating the curve, and those that seem to always be playing catch-up.

In my experience working with fortune 500 industries ranging from health care to consumer goods and with entrepreneurs and startups, there are actually many things that separate those two types of organizations.

The ones that are in catch-up mode versus the ones that are creating the curve.

Today, I'd like to focus on one specific element that, from what I've seen in my work, has become a major divider, and that, their culture of innovation curve, how they do or don't foster innovation.

I found that lots of organizations and teams claim they foster innovation, but, out of those, I'd say only a handful of them are actually doing it and the others are actually squelching innovation without even realizing it.

Let me show you what I'm talking about.

Here is the traditional culture of innovation curve.

You start with discovery, that's usually where you recognize that there is a challenge, maybe a problem to solve, or an opportunity to explore.

People feel a sense of discovery and wonder in this phase, and that takes you up the curve to inspiration, oh, all the ideas start flowing in, people are often taken through a series of exercises to spark new thinking and it does just that.

And now, you've got an entire range of ideas on the table and you move to excitement, your team is excited, they're excited about the possibilities.

You and your peeps are committed to innovation and it shows with dozens of ideas on the table.

In this phase, everyone's just excited something that they thought of might be implemented.

I mean, how great is it to be able to contribute to the team success in this way? And this, is where the traditional innovation culture curve drops off the cliff and you end up ultimately with frustration and disengagement.

Skepticism takes over, all the reasons why you can't pursue something kicks into high gear and you try to assess all these ideas based on their merit on a piece of paper or a slide deck.

While little skepticism is great for innovation, a lot moves you into the next phase.

Fear, all the reasons why not and fear is usually associated with a fear of perceived risk.

Though notice I said perceived risk.

Risk can be a very subjective thing with innovation.

It's hard to prove or disprove.

Fear takes over the person and the organization.

All of those ideas meet certain death.

Now, there are two fundamental challenges with this culture of innovation curve that keeps you in that catch-up mode.

First, the next time that there's a problem to solve or an opportunity to chase, you go back to the same traditional culture of innovation curve.

The problem with every turn of this rodeo is that your team gets less engaged and more frustrated.

I mean, nothing they did last time saw the light of day, so, why should this time be any different? The second challenge is that you are judging the merit of an idea based on nothing, on its potential value, on a piece of paper.

The truth is, the best, most innovative ideas, tend to look crazy on paper and are the first to get shut down.

You can't truly gauge an idea until the rubber actually meets the road.

In fact, there's actually a third challenge and that's that innovation is turned into this point in time exercise versus an ongoing process.

It only happens at the front end and not at the back end, where it's needed just as much.

Innovation isn't just about creating ideas, it's about finding innovative ways to package, deliver, evolve, and manage those ideas as well.

I'd like to propose that you consider the innovation culture curve that we help our clients create that sustains excitement and engagement, that keeps the right ideas moving forward, and creates a culture where innovation becomes a mindset, a part of the daily process.

Do you see the difference in this curve here? In this curve, there's an added phase called experimentation.

Let me walk you through this.

So, you go through the discovery, inspiration and excitement that we talked about.

But, instead of falling off that cliff, you go into experimentation, where ideas are piloted, where they are given the room to be tested and played with.

An experimentation phase makes all the difference.

That experimentation can be as simple as grabbing some duct tape and sticky notes, finding one customer to try something with, working with an internal leader on just one initiative.

It doesn't have to be some big rollout.

The key is to dip the toe of that idea into the water and see what happens before you make the final decision and move to implementation.

Now, there are several benefits to this curve we've created here at Launch Street.

First, people stay engaged.

I don't mean the kind of cheerleader rah-rah kinda way, I mean people seeing momentum, feeling like they've contributed.

And this is true whether their ideas are the ones that move forward or not.

Second, you can get a much better sense for the viability of an idea.

How does it really work? What roadblocks do you actually encounter? What do customers truly find beneficial or not? It's where the rubber meets the road.

You have a little bit of real-world experience and feedback that you can truly see what an idea will take to be implemented and it's real potential.

With this innovation culture curve, innovation is a part of the entire process, and as I said, we've identified many different elements between catch up and create the curve.

This culture of innovation is a big one.

I suggest you go, look around, assess which curve you are truly playing on.

Source: Youtube