It’s sad to see so much fuzz about innovation and so little understanding of it. Don’t get me wrong, the concept of innovation is rather simple: something new to a given context where it makes a difference for the better. It matters not if we are talking about an old concept to a new context, such as self-service gas stations to a new market where it doesn’t exist; or a new context to an old industry, such as the iPod/iTunes combo to the music industry. The concept is very simple.
What really bothers me is that knowing what is innovation, doesn’t automatically makes one a specialist in how to promote it. It’s just like reading a book on chemistry and becoming a pharmacologist. The issue here is that many leaders are reading a book and all of a sudden “innovation” is part of his company`s mission, vision AND value statements without a single change to its policies.
Innovation must become part of the organization`s culture. Employees must be free to experiment, test and miss with the company resources. Leaders must be thrilled with the opportunity for improvement no matter where it comes from. Hierarchy and boundaries must fall. There must be room for interaction between departments, managers, scientists, students, suppliers and even the zookeeper – even if you work in the metallurgy industry. Diversity, questioning of the norms and interaction must become part of daily routine.
Of course this is not a call for chaos (ok, maybe a little). But if you truly want to become innovative, and profit from innovation, management itself has to be reinvented. Old tools need to be adapted and absorb new thinking: value creativity, dialogue and technology into old management tools. It will take time and a lot of trial and error, as any innovation process does. The concept is simple, even though it doesn’t make it simple to achieve it. In many cases, leaders are thinking simplicity and spreading simplism.