Unlocking Your Organization's Innovation Potential

By Frank Wander  |  Posted 09-27-2013 Print Email

After an unrelenting focus on cutting costs, organizations must now innovate. To succeed, they will have to embrace, grow and nurture their workers.

Figures, circle, globe, U.S.

Therefore, innovation is an outcome—a byproduct of the culture you build and the talent you nurture. Here is a list of 15 design fundamentals that will help you unlock your organization’s collective creativity and innovation:

·         Humans are creative by nature. Just watch a group of children and this becomes immediately obvious. Creativity is an abundant tool, even if it lies dormant in your organization. As Abraham Maslow said, “But why in God's name isn't everyone creative? Where was the human potential lost? How was it crippled? … We have got to abandon that sense of amazement in the face of creativity, as if it were a miracle that anybody created anything.”

·         That said, extraordinary creativity is a gift, so hiring some talent with a creative and innovative track record should be one of your goals. They can work on breakthrough innovation and strategy, or be seeded in teams that need a boost.

·         Make innovation everyone’s job. If you have a breakthrough innovation and strategy team, don’t treat them special. It’s just one of many roles the company has to fill to be successful. Everyone must be embraced to be engaged. As Steve Jobs said, “Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.” A creative mind is just too valuable to waste.

·         Mood and social climate are foundational. That’s because an innovative state of mind is a byproduct of your environment. Research has shown that an upbeat, positive environment helps the creative juices flow. It has also been proven that humor and fun are great aids to creativity, and thus innovation, so encourage people to have fun. As Albert Einstein said, “In my experience, the best creative work is never done when one is unhappy.” You will get more creativity and a lot more productivity, too.

·         Everyone knows we have an employee disengagement crisis. Care about your workers and make sure they know you have their back. How could anyone be creative when they are focused on survival?

·         Create an organizational design that tears down the walls that separate people. Mix business and IT talent together. Melding teams with different points of view and thinking styles, a la Myers-Briggs, will unleash creative abrasion, a well documented method of stimulating group creativity.

·         Offshoring is a tool, and like all tools it must be used correctly. This model is the exact opposite of what is required for innovation. Large teams of cheap, inexperienced resources telegraph a clear message: people don’t count. Please read my last CIO Insight article, “Offshoring: Pathway to a Competitive Disadvantage,” to understand how vital your decisions are in this area.

·         Stress and fear cause individuals to engage in protective behaviors in order to survive. This destroys innovation and creativity because higher-order cognitive processes are cut off when the limbic system, our threat sensor, is stimulated.

·         Provide an environment that offers think time. Albert Einstein took long walks so that he had time alone to think and refine his theories. When you read about how breakthroughs happened, examples of think time appear consistently. It is a design decision you need to make.



 

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