We were thrilled to host a packed webinar with innovation expert and “Be Less Zombie” author, Elvin Turner, which you can watch on our site. Here are his secrets to creating an innovation process that sticks and transforms your organization!
Why is an innovation process important?
A lot of businesses get frustrated when they struggle to gather ideas and use them to make real, profitable changes.
Elvin often sees that these organizations lack a good innovation process.
An innovation process is important because:
- It reduces the risks of innovation, as having a dedicated process in place means that you can measure success and validate ideas before they move to delivery.
- It shows that coming up with new ideas is not only a priority, but something you want to do efficiently.
And if that wasn’t a good enough argument – we have a whole video about the joys of innovation processes for you to delve into!
The innovation process vs creativity
It sounds odd, but constraints can boost creativity. (Hear us out!)
You probably don’t realize it, but you’re being creative and solving problems every day – from working out how to make time for an urgent request, to creating meal plans within a budget.
Constraints, such as time or money, focus us and can help us to come up with ideas quickly.
But too much constraint can really get in the way and a process can end up holding you prisoner.
For example, we may hold on to an unsuitable idea simply because we’ve put a lot of time, effort, or resources into it. You need to be able to make the decision to stop a project that won’t create the value you need it to. Innovation management software can be helpful for making these decisions, as you can use dashboards to understand what’s going on in your idea portfolio.
If a process is too rigid, then people can also be afraid to step outside of it for worry of upsetting someone or causing frustration. This means that it can be hard to change priorities. Sometimes there may be a change in the market, which means you need to go back to the drawing board, even if you’re in the later stages of developing an idea into a project.
How to create an innovation culture
Whilst an innovation process is important, to keep up the momentum you also need culture.
Building an innovation culture is all about creating values in action. If you’d like someone to do something new – or keep doing it – you need to make it worth their while. (This is why gamification works so well!)
To create an innovation culture you need to:
- Check that people know what the focus of innovation is
- Ensure that people know that their ideas will be moved forwards, is being treated fairly, and could make a difference
- Think about which people need to make innovation a part of their work
Elvin thinks that experiments are the most important thing to come out of the innovation movement! This is because they lower the risk of turning an idea into a real-life project.
If you ask people in an organization to bring you their boldest, riskiest ideas, you may be met with tumbleweed. Why?
- You’re asking them to step outside the status quo, which creates worry
- They may be busy and worry that creating the idea will be left to them
- They worry about the impact of failure on their career.
So, here’s where experiments come in…
Experiments lower the risk of putting new ideas into practice, as you start small, learn fast, and only spend a small amount of money. They provide you with data that you can use to decide whether to invest in putting the idea into practice. This, in turn, will boost your team’s confidence.
Innovation in regulated industries
In heavily regulated industries, innovating and experimenting can be a huge challenge. But there is an unexpected way to ease this.
Get your legal team involved in the innovation process – regulations can sometimes be more subtle than you think. Having a lawyer on board can help you identify which ideas can be adjusted to fit within these boundaries and talk to regulators.
Defend the Spend
To put it bluntly, if you want your business to invest in innovation, they need to be able to see the value in it.
Our lives are busy, and the other people in your busy will be in a rush – every day. So, you need to keep reminding them about the value of innovation, at every opportunity.
For example, one company Elvin met, had five questions written on the wall of the office, to remind everyone of the challenges they were currently working to solve.
By contrast, he recently worked with a UK business that had a fantastic innovation process. But, when he interviewed their executives, they knew nothing about it – they didn’t know on what basis decisions were made. As a result, they were cynical about it.
This is because no one owned the communication of innovation. To solve this, you need to champion it yourself. You can also find someone in your communications team who can help you keep telling the story.
Whilst talking about ROI is important, you also need to be mindful of the secondary benefits of innovation, and how these can grow over time.
Three Tips for Making an Innovation Process Stick
At the end of the webinar, Elvin shared three tips for bringing themselves further along the innovation journey:
1. Innovate your innovation process! Invite a leader to oversee the process of improving your processes. Find out what you can do to make your process the best it can be.
2. Invest in communication. Look at the people who get the most attention in your organization and look at how they’re doing that. Innovation management software can help with this, as you can gather data and visualize data to show progress.
3. Go and find out about how other people innovate. You could try reaching out to one organization a year and ask to swap notes. Compare the challenges you’ve encountered and how you both worked to solve them.
Want to know more? Click here to watch the full webinar.