If I had to pick one word that has stood out in the first 27 days of 2008 it is innovation. Whether it’s about hybrid cars, the Presidential campaigns, how to actually achieve your New Year’s resolution this year, Apple’s latest product, figuring out how to find a date in the District of Columbia, or even doing business in India, everyone seems to be talking about innovation as the key to future sustained success.
When you think about getting the brilliant minds around you together for a little R&D – whether friends or colleagues - consider these barriers to creativity and innovation:
- Supporting a culture of blame in which someone must be at fault if something goes wrong creates an environment that stifles individual risk taking as people fear making mistakes and getting in trouble.
- Lack of investment – literally budget or time allocation – to research and brainstorming the next best thing. This is often found in a place that is too focused on process, profit margin and efficiency. Putting money and brainpower into thinking about the future will make sure you get there.
- Insecurity often leads to a failure to support another’s ideas as they threaten one’s own self worth or position within the company or group of peers. I love the improv (as in comedy) approach to innovation: agree and add.
- Failure to value diversity ensures you get more of the same. Bring in people with different backgrounds, experiences, personalities, departments, ages, etc. to get as many perspectives and ideas as possible.
- Rewarding only the things listed in #2 (process, efficiency, profit margin, etc.) will push people to do their job function really well but not look for ways to add to their job function or abilities.
- Bringing in people that aren’t determined, imaginative and open to learning new things and finding better approaches.
- Staying stuck on “traditional” ways of doing things or “historical” success makes it difficult to see what could be and likely leads to slow change (if at all). Just because it’s been done that way for 10 or 50 years doesn’t make it the best way to do it.