Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Do the Rules Stifle innovation

Breaking rules is indeed an important part of creativity. Innovation needs a level of guidance.

Innovation is to transform the novel idea and achieve its business value. It is a business discipline which can be managed. In many organizations, perhaps there is an innovation department specifically setting the rules to take charge of innovation. The paradox is that all creative activities are subversive in questioning the status quo. Setting rules and goals for creativity goes against the very nature of creativity and thus inventiveness and innovation. So does innovation department stifle innovation? Isn't there a more fundamental problem to innovation failures? What should be done if the rest of the company is hostile to innovation? Should the company give up on innovation?

Breaking rules is indeed an important part of creativity. And ideas should never be evaluated (referring to criteria and goals) in the ideation phase. However, ‘business creativity’ such as using creative thinking for business goals, does require certain ‘rules.’ To get the best results, you need to structure the creative process. For instance, depending on where you are in the process, you might want to ‘force’ people to rephrase a challenge, let them view an idea from different perspectives, temporarily forbid criticism, set time limits, apply thinking techniques, each with their own ‘rules’ etc. It seems that the more integrated and culturally based innovation or imagination is, the more sustainable and productive such initiatives are. If an innovation department operates without being an integral part of every other department, it certainly could be counterproductive. Therefore, overly rigid process or too ‘pushy’ goals will stifle inventiveness and innovation.

Innovation needs a level of guidance. Innovation has to deliver business objectives, otherwise, it is a just invention. The innovation leaders need to become a master at persuasive communications through proposals, pitches, scenarios, analysis and stories that might resonate with the company. You can only do as much as you are "invested" in the company. It's complicated. The truth is that companies will succeed if they have the right chemistry and others will fail because they don't. If the truth is considered "destructive negativism" that culture must change or it eventually will self-destruct.  Innovation is somewhere between invention and implementation - finding new and different ways of doing things. Innovation is doing something better than it currently is. Hence, it requires a sound and competent understanding of what is currently being done. Not what others are good at. It's a mindset.

Innovation Management needs the right kind of governance to thrive. Practically speaking: when there is an innovative idea; the governance mechanisms dictate how that idea is fostered from inception to retirement. Traditional business governance for an operational excellence enterprise will kill innovation. If innovation management is like the pedal to accelerate speed of the car, then business governance is the steering wheel to keep a straight line or take a turn at that velocity of strategic planning processes and business execution scenario; the headlights to do forecasting of what lays ahead (risk or opportunity); fuel gauge, speedometer (metrics); the brakes to slow or continue (resource management) etc. etc. Governance needs to set the framework for innovation management as an enabling approach. Governance by definition does not set corporate strategy that is management’s responsibility. Governance does not define company culture, which is one of the key contributors/enablers for innovation. Remember governance isn’t just about putting restrictions on what you can do, it is also about monitoring and knowing when things are not going to plan so that you can take appropriate action at the right time.

Never give up, or you risk obsolescence. Spreading awareness about market trends in your industry and with your competitors can aid motivation. It's also helpful to perform whatever type of analysis/research that's possible to ask several "levels of why" to learn more about the roots of this resistance to innovation. There may be some surprising reasons for this culture. All you need is a handful of courageous change agents to move an entire company forward. The most difficult situation is when a company has been successful in the past, and people do not want to accept that the old business model is sinking. In industries looking decline in the eyes, the same phenomenon can be observed. People don't believe that their company is in danger of perishing because they just cannot or don't want to see it. Any differing view is considered destructive negativism. Dealing with such a situation is quite a challenge.

The business is complex, the people are complex, and the world is complex, It takes out-of-box thinking and open leadership style to spark innovation, but the right set of rule and governance framework are also important for innovation enablement and complexity management under today’s “VUCA” working dynamic in order to achieve business value from innovation.


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