Practical Innovation - The 'Hows' and 'Whys'
by Michael Rosenberg
Why is it that some businesses last only a few years while others last centuries? The answer lies in their ability to continuously innovate. The issue is that most people don't want 'creativity' or 'innovation'. "That is the way we have always done things around here." they might say.
Innovation means thinking differently. It means thinking differently about your products, your processes, your employees. In other words it involves CHANGE. Change is like a wave. Either you can ignore it, in which case the change will overtake you and you will drown or you can get a surfboard and ride the wave. It may not take you where you thought you would be, but it will be a whole lot better than drowning (and you may enjoy the ride itself). Organizations that are innovative are change-ready.
Another reason that people don't like creativity and innovation is that they see it as impractical. It is 'pie-in-the-sky' stuff that does not really directly the business, like project management. Yet there is what I call practical innovation.
What is Practical Innovation?
Practical innovation is about taking ideas and new thinking and focuses them into a direction and then executing that direction. In other words, you start with the thinking, create the strategy (strategic planning) and then execute the strategy. This focuses the innovation on real-time problem solving.
A Model for Practical Innovation
Our model is a 4 step process that is circular. In other words, the step after ending is always beginning again.
- Step 1 – Thinking Differently. The same old thinking will always lead to the same old conclusions. In order to start the process, you have to be able to open yourself up to new ways of doing things and thinking. There are many tools out there to help you (i.e. Flexible Thinker) break out of your old paradigms. This is fundamentally about paradigm shift.
- Step 2 – Strategic Planning. Here is where we take all of the ideas and create a strategic plan or direction. It’s like a team sport. Instead of players, we are taking all of the ideas and focusing them into a single direction so that they can all work together effectively. Light that is scattered will illuminate what is around us. However, when it is focused, it can become a laser. A powerful laser can cut through diamonds. It is the same with the strategic plan. While ideas illuminate what we are doing, by focusing them into a direction they become very powerful and can cut through any recession or competition you face.
- Step 3 – Implementation. Here is where we apply project management. Each of the items in the strategic plan become a series of projects. These projects are broken down into 3 categories - short-term (less than 6 months), medium-term (6 months to less than 2 years) and long-term (greater than 2 years).
- Step 4 – Assess. Here is where we measure and then look at what we have done. What has been learned? How has what done affected the organization, both from a bottom line and a competitive perspective? What did we do well? What can we improve on? These are all questions that need to be answered.
- Step 5 – Start Again. The thing to remember is that this is a continuous process. It isn't something you do once, say 'glad that is over' and then go back to normal. It is about continually creating a new normal because the world changes constantly and rapidly.
We have a saying that quantum results require quantum thinking. This applies to both individuals and businesses. If you are continuously looking for ways to improve yourself and your organization, even during down times you will be able to both survive and thrive.