How creative is your innovation "process"?
Think about it? Is your innovation process highly prescriptive or very organic?
Is your innovation pipeline delivering a balanced portfolio of projects and products or is it skewed to being incremental or hedging on high risk disruptive innovation?
With all of the capability to connect and communicate with other people and data, creating a balanced and fruitful innovation ecosystem in today's world has been made easier, wouldn't you agree? Or maybe not!
There are several issues that we need to acknowledge, which are spoken privately but not always openly discussed as you will see why. There are also two strategies that we need to embrace, understand and implement.
Innovation is about being creative, creating that new "thing" that nobody else has thought of and adds value.
Below are some of the common innovation issues in the form of barriers and constraints that I have come across whilst working in various sectors such as the construction, pharmaceutical and biotech industry, albeit with varying degrees. Think about how many of these you have experienced within your organisation.
Standardisation - you are working in a business and a world where you have to conform to procedures, policies, legal requirements, so much so that creativity is virtually non existent
Linearity - from standardization you have business processes, work flows, whereby you believe if you follow the process you will get the right results. I believe it was Einstein who said Insanity: "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." There is a time when you need to go off-piste.
Diversity - within your business and organisation you will have a set number of people with certain skill sets, training and knowledge based on what you believe to be correct. There are over 7 Billion people in the world and I would bet that there is someone, somewhere who is not in your organizational has the block-buster idea or know how to develop a transformation and disruptive innovative solution.
Passion - how passionate are you and the people within your organisation about your work, how it contributes to creating and developing new products and services. Are you high performing organization?
Creativity - do you promote continual learning and development through dynamic collaboration across your business and with outside organizations that can help you to think creatively?
Visualisation - having visibility of your innovation pipeline, that can be shared with anyone and supports divergent thinking is part of creativity.
Poor decision making - you are constantly being bombarded with data, requests, distractions that it is becoming more difficult for your to make informed decisions and is taking longer to make.
Fear culture - fear of being wrong, getting a negative result and sharing it because of what people might think of you or how it will affect your career to get to the "top".
You will notice in most of the items above there are only one or two points that are system and technology related while the others relate to people - you and me. And yet what I have discovered is that businesses will typically focus on the "tangible" assets such as the business processes, systems, equipment and not on the "intangible" assets, which include people, the organization and knowledge (including data and information) that contains the highest part of an organizations value and innovation capability.
Why is that?
Probably because processes and systems are easier to understand and therefore easier to optimise. But are you optimizing the right part of your organization?
People working collaboratively
I recently attended a presentation to listen to the person who led the engineering and construction delivery of the London 2012 Olympic Park. It was truly amazing how leadership where able to pull so many people together, deliver innovative designs and construction solutions and still meet and sometimes exceed the key milestones and metrics that were set, by working together as a team - a very big and diversified team.
The other key attribute that the presenter identified was clarity. There was clear visibility of what the objectives where, how they were going to do it, roles and responsibilities.
There were several main points to the successful delivery of the London 2012 Olympic Park but two in particular resonated with me.
Collaboration - people working together to deliver an agreed outcome
Visualization - the use of integrated visualization tools such as BIM so everyone understood. Total clarity.
Helping people to collaborate with clear visibility can support and enhance your innovation capability.
Regarding the issues listed above I have considered their effect on creative innovation and how collaboration and visualization could facilitate change and improvement.
If you work in a highly regulated industry you will veer to the safe, low risk position and more often or not you are driven there out of fear. Fear of getting it wrong can lead to very serious consequences such as a safety issue. This standardization is further endorsed by people in your organization who make sure you follow the linear process so that you do not step off the "proven path".
This is further complicated when you have other people trying to create something new and are continually trying to step off the proven path. Both are working separately and to a degree, in opposite directions. But isn't amazing. When a mistake is made or something does go wrong there is great learning. When these groups gather to analyze and work out collaboratively what went wrong, innovative solutions are created.
It takes an issue, for people to react and come together. What if you were to "fail" in a controlled way - fail quickly, continuously, learn quickly and do it cheaply.
Celebrate that failure as a new learning and do it as a group rather than specific departments or individuals. What would that do to help increase your innovation capability?
People work differently; they have different skills and capabilities for learning and being creative. When in a group do you consider their performance from that perspective or do you revert to the dreaded Personal Development Plan and measure them individually. You can have fantastic individuals but unless they are team players, team collaboration will be low and will stunt your innovation and growth. Look at any team sport and who are the winners.
Is your organisation and people being bombarded with data, information, emails - demands for immediate answers and responses? You probably have emails for example that you do not even bother to look at - you have become anesthetised to this communication. Similarly, if your innovation follows a linear, prescriptive process and is a continuum of targets and milestones, following procedures religiously, completing work that you know to be of no innovative value, but carry on for fear of non-compliance, you have an anesthetised process.
You need to create a culture and environment for aesthetic collaboration by developing a visual and social process that captures ideas through social critiquing, communication - collaboration acts as a catalyst for transformational innovation. This creates a "lens" for you to focus on. This is when your senses are at their peak and will help you and your colleagues become more creative such that you gain insights and ideas that create new value for your organisation and supports improved and quick decision making.
Key to aesthetic collaboration is to be more visual and have the ability to visually collaborate (socialise) with a diversity of people both internally and externally. Having this unfamiliarity of people and uncertainty of not knowing what will be said, what divergent questioning, thinking and answering will occur creates a high degree of excitement, alertness and focus. It is genetically built into us. I am sure you have experienced this haven't you?
To support aesthetic collaborations the ideasneed to be dynamic and interactive. Typically you will capture these onto spreadsheets for analysis, develop a presentation to visualise and email it to communicate to other people. Sounds familiar?
You only have to look at the use of BIM (Building Information Management) within the engineering industry and the positive effect it has including an increase in innovation. Being able to visualise a complicated "boring" drawing into a 3D, fully rendered visualisation of what a building will look like allows a diversity of people to interact, create ideas and solutions that the engineer would never think of.
This I remember vividly when reviewing hospital bedrooms with nurses during their coffee break using visualisation to walk "virtually" through and see the wards that they would be working in. There was a long list of design points that us engineers just did not even think about. This co-creation was a new experience and developed a passion within the team to succeed.
I hope this has helped you to think how you can develop a creative innovation culture within your organisation using collaboration and visualisation as potential catalysts for change and creative innovation.