To Innovate or not to?

Innovate or Perish in silence.” It’s the current battle cry for businesses trying to get or stay ahead of the competition and remain viable in the market. But how do you avoid innovation for innovation’s sake, and instead drive measurable business results through innovation tools and processes?

Prepare to Innovate!
Often companies jump right into idea collection with their employees and customers, desperately searching for the next big thing without giving any consideration to organizational preparedness. It’s rightly said, “There is great responsibility in receiving the idea.” For successful innovation, it’s necessary to ensure that the organization:

  1. is in the right mindset (that of problem-solving)
  2. has supporting processes and tools in place
  3. is properly structured/staffed to execute the processes and administer the tools
  4. is culturally prepared to respond

Whatever you do, don’t skip these steps! It will sink the innovative spirit of the organization and backfire in harmful ways. I’m not saying you need to spend months and years getting ready to innovate; I’m just recommending that you have answers to the above questions to ensure you are equipped to handle and implement the changes innovation programs can bring.

Focus! And Capture Needs BEFORE Ideas!
There is a time and a place for the electronic employee suggestion box and open innovation. But having a short-term (2-4 weeks), focused innovation campaign that gives people a specific problem to solve often leads to more valuable results. And by narrowing idea capture down to a specific problem to solve, it’s much easier to define metrics (hard or soft) to determine success and benefit.

Brand It, Baby!
One way to get people excited about driving innovative results is by branding and marketing your innovation tool and specific campaigns. With today’s technology, there is no excuse for rolling out a vendor-branded software tool. Don’t fall victim to the assumption that “if you just build it, they will come.” By branding your innovation program, you’re sure to drive quality ideas that deliver results… because it is, after all, about the results.

Show Me the Money!
Sometimes solving a problem and the feeling of accomplishment in contributing to the success of the company is a reward in itself. But for most of us, a little incentive or some recognition for the great, problem-solving ideas we submit goes a long way. You know how it feels when you put thought and effort into something and it seems as if your idea has dropped into a black hole where there is never so much as a reply or simple, “thank you.” It sucks. And why would you waste your precious time on something to which management is only giving lip service. Whether feedback comes in the form of public recognition for being a top innovator (that’s FREE for all of you penny pinchers keeping track at home) or in the form of a big fat check (option B, please!), it is critical for the success and sustainability of your innovation program to reward good ideas.

So there you have it, Implementing an innovation tool and program isn’t hard, but you can’t skip any of the steps if you want to drive real results. As it relates to innovation, “Do or do not. There is no try.

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