Sunday, August 17, 2014

Innovating by Questioning

"You can't solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level." - Albert Einstein 

Innovation is the new way to do things; innovation creates change to the next level of performance. However, innovation management cannot be a one person challenge and needs careful planning, recruitment, and support to cover everything from fundamental research through experimentation, evaluation, and exploitation. Failure to understand both the extent of these services and the likely timescales for real success can undermine the whole proposition around innovation. People who innovate are pro-change and not afraid to challenge the status quo and they have the unlimited curiosity to ask questions. What are the most important questions a leader who is focused on innovation should ask him/herself?

The 5 Whys: The 5 Whys is an iterative question-asking technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. Why? and then Why? again and then Why? Again 5 times. The"Why" is always at the center of innovation leaders’ question list. Are the innovations you are trying to promote actually relevant to the business now, or in the future, or at all? Innovation is a buzzword that can easily be misused unless you have a clear goal of what you want to get out of it. Is it cost savings, efficiency, better go to market strategy, improved IT agility in supporting new business, etc....?

What: What do you consider "innovation" and what have you implemented that you would consider innovation, what's out there to improve it, what will the business benefits of doing it and if beneficial, start the process of getting it done (project). Innovation means better ways of doing something, so ALL leaders should be focused on this in relation to improvements that can be made to the business. So the question is what needs improvement. This is then seen as proactive action and improves the profile of the leaders and consequently performance. This allows for the fact that business users’ needs and requirements (the company) must come first in terms of resources and the leaders should make this position clear but companies should always be looking to improve and so it is very hard to raise objections when innovation is positioned in this way. A further question may include such as 'What do I want to be known for?' This is more of a reminder to think in an innovative way. Innovation is best conceived when you've removed yourself from the comfortable and the known to embrace unknown with risk intelligence.

How: How does it add value? And how does it impact your business process efficiency or bottom line? Concern connections between technology and the business that 'intend' to increase efficiency, one of the questions is "how can I directly tie this innovation to the bottom line?" -that is usually difficult, and often one of the many reasons innovation is stifled. Unless these basic components are in place, then there is the risk of a serious mismatch in expectation between the provider and receiver of innovation. Is the culture open to innovation, and if not, how can I introduce it? How much risk am I willing to take on to create innovation? How to allocate the right resources - time, money, people - to make innovation a habit in my company?

Who: It is a critical innovation strategy for hiring the right people in the right places. Change/ Innovation is hard enough and not a one person challenge. It is extremely difficult to find and hire people that have innovative mindsets to facilitate change in organizations. How do we pay for the innovation we know we need to deploy? Followed up by "where can we refocus?" There is no such thing as what cannot be done unless you make a habit of hiring people that cannot do. It is amazing how easily vendors and internal staff are intimidated and how easily people believe their staff to eliminate the threat. It takes an amazingly strong person to create innovation. Those that have failed call it a buzzword. Look at all the "we can't do that" or "it's how we do it here" in the organizations and start innovating in those areas. Force yourselves into "the zone" where danger = solutions... Maybe you'll find innovation that can push your company to grow. 

How much/many: Innovation is useless unless there are real, measurable benefits in the quantitative or qualitative way: Faster time to market, productivity gains, higher efficiency... Is there a usage scenario or how to measure innovation in my organization?

The future of leader leads by questioning; the effective innovation manager shall also innovate by asking, ask those "5W + H" questions to navigate through; and ask the right questions are more than half of your innovation success.


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