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Finding innovative ideas from the past

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Finding innovative ideas from the past

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If yesterdays post looked at some of the enduring hurdles to innovation that have stood the test of time, I wanted this post to look instead at some of the equally enduring lessons on how you can find innovative concepts.  These are concepts, or lessons if you will, that have held true for organizations for much of the time that organizations have existed as an entity.  Understanding them therefore should go some way to helping your own innovative attempts get off the ground.

  1. Innovation doesn’t have to be a new technology – It’s a common reality that the best innovations aren’t really all that new at all.  They are, rather, an implementation of something that already exists in a new and novel way.  It is this new application that is the innovation, rather than the technology itself.
  2. Serendipity is under-rated – It is amazing how often innovations occur as a result of a chance encounter with someone motivated enough to capitalize on it.  The more innovative companies throughout history have therefore often been those that encourage experimentation and a culture that encourages people to run with their ideas.
  3. Learning is paramount – Innovation typically requires employees to learn what is and what isn’t working, and then to build this learning into future processes.  It also however requires employees to go beyond that, and to create performance gaps that stretch them, even at times of success.  As the saying goes, pride often comes before a fall.
  4. Resistance is systemic – It’s tempting to think of resistance in your company as residing in one person, but more commonly it resides throughout an organization.  It resides in its culture and structure, it’s traditions and processes.  To successfully build a culture of innovation therefore requires a systemic approach.
  5. Leaders need to revolutionize as well as evolve – It’s easy to think that innovation can bubble from within an organization, and whilst that can certainly be the case, to build the kind of culture that promotes innovation will require senior management involvement.  It is not surprising to see that many innovative transformations have resulted from a change in senior leadership for instance.  Central to this is the difficulty many leaders face in being both revolutionary and evolutionary.
  6. A balance is required – Whilst talk of innovation is great, it’s important to appreciate the value of efficiency and reliability.  No organization can thrive if in a constant state of flux.  There are times when becoming as efficient as possible is exactly what’s required.  Knowing when to engage in both stages therefore is key.
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