Tuesday, May 3, 2016

"Digital Valley" Book Tuning V: Three Causes of Innovation Blue

The success of innovation management is never an accident, it is a thought-out planning and seamless execution.

Innovation is the light every organization is chasing, however, the majority of organizations still use innovation as a buzzword or treat innovation as a serendipity. They might put a lot of effort or make a big investment on it, but statistically, innovation management has very low percentage of success rate. Many organizations even experience innovation blue and suffer from innovation pitfalls. So what are the root causes of innovation fatigue or creativity brain drain, and how to improve innovation management effectiveness?

It’s the talent gap: At creative organizations with highly innovative leadership, people are encouraged and given the time resources to work on new things that excite them, all are required to produce new ideas and brainstorm the better way to do things. However, in the traditional hierarchical organizations, creativity is discouraged and mediocre is rewarded. The talent gap for creativity is enlarged due to the outdated talent management practices and ineffective performance management measurement. To overcome innovation blue, the workplace needs to be designed to help employees at all levels within an organization (from leaders to front-line) understand and develop their creative capacity to solve problems and exploit opportunities in new and innovative ways. Keeping growth mind, learning from every experience, but also learn to unlearn your experiences, creativity starts with a knowledge base, and then openness to new experience or detecting thing you didn't know or applying knowledge from other domains to a new one, results in creativity in the new domain. The heterogeneous team with cognitive differences is more innovative than the homogeneous group setting. The collective creativity depends on varying factors because the team perhaps have different intents (destructive vs. constructive), different processes (enforcement vs collaboration), different participants (compliant vs. creative), different outcomes (disharmony vs harmony) and different philosophies (openness vs close-mindedness). Whether creativity can be collective is clear and flows from what seems like an expansive, generous, creative minds, how creative is the team depends on the creative capacity of its member. You can get a diverse group of people together in one room and still not have "creativity" if the participating individuals are not particularly creative. People need to be able to apply both converging and diverging thinking to ideas so that current constraints are removed. People need to be trained in creative methods and techniques, the business model is often challenged, everyone has a personal creativity objective at work and there is much humor to go around, fewer office politics, more professional learning, and sharing.

The other cause to innovation blue is culture inertia: Creativity is an innate ability which is often sparked through positive attitude and out-of-box thinking to challenge conventional wisdom. However, in most of the organizations, people can’t get out of “comfort zone,” and culture inertia is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation. Here are some common responses: "We've always done it this way," “Our competitors are doing it so it must be right,” "Stick to your own responsibility,” "You don't really understand that problem,” "Don't rock the boat;" etc. Indeed, attitude matters, and DARE a little to ask "Why" or "Why not," is the first step to spur creativity. Hence, it is imperative for improving the organization's culture to one that is more innovative, inspires creativity, celebrates or allows failure or prototyping. If you have or develop the right culture through change management, open, not close; agile, not rigid, risk intelligent, not risk avoiding, and then everything else can be connected. An adaptive culture makes innovation and improvement easier. It is easier to collect, facilitate and manage ideas more optimally. Finally, if you get the culture right, then people feel they have the freedom to try and even to fail.  

Innovation blue is also caused by lack the balls to invest in innovation management: Innovation fails because many organizations lack real support by senior management and lack a systematic approach to managing both opportunity and risk in a structural way. Innovation fails because top Leadership doesn't understand how to "manage" innovation or treat the decision in the same way as a capital decision. It is a common knowledge, that innovation management requires the highest risk taking at a strategic value chain, including organization, investments, and assets. De-risk the introduction of innovations into the market, protecting existing operations and brands and establishing clear proof-of-concept before making investments to launch and scale. Businesses need to think hard about how their function or organization can be performed in other ways, especially in ways that they have background or expertise. It takes a combination of wacky and less risky ideas to balance out a robust portfolio worth investigating. Innovation fails because there are too many disconnects that occur between the birth of a vision/concept and the process of turning it into a reality. Lack of information actually gathered for the innovative ideas come up. It takes a TEAM of bright individuals and executive sponsorship to review/evaluate ideas, offers feedback, and supports ongoing development efforts. An overall framework for innovation with gate reviews will help to sustain progress and minimize the risk of idea flops. Clearly it's important to invest in the right mix of ideas (both bold & simple) with supporting business cases. Innovation is a management discipline to transform novel ideas and achieve the business value.

To overcome innovation blue, the organization needs to have open-minded leadership, the bright talented people who are encouraged to think differently, the high-creative teams with complementary minds and heterogeneous group setting to brainstorm new ideas, the effective framework, robust process and learning culture to management innovation in a systematic way. Sometimes in contexts like that you end up being creative by accident. But the success of innovation management is never an accident, it is a thought-out planning and seamless execution, it takes iterative steps and makes the continuous delivery.


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