Western cultures have largely solved problems by establishing rules, rules that inflict limits on situations and confine behaviours to what is deemed to be acceptable. It seems we also have a need to confine through definition?
Innovation is a word that has increasingly been bandied around for quite a few years and ironically, as the practice of innovation appears to be coming into its own, we increasingly try to box a definition…or two or three, around it. So which definition is accurate or acceptable? Should we go Harvard or Oxford? Not content with debates about the definition of innovation, dissecting innovation into types is becoming increasingly popular: would like your innovation disruptive, incremental or sustainable?
As we draw attention and even celebrate Innovation throughout May across Australia, here’s a challenge. Don’t let the search for definition get in the way of a good innovation. Get it happening in your business or organisation. Now. Need some inspiration to remind you of the benefits? Try Apple, Semco or Google. Want something to give you confidence a little closer to home think Boost Juice Bars and ADSL.
How do you embed innovation at your place? Implement systems to ensure that creativity and innovation are enabled and supported. Empower your people to ask questions. Provide a vehicle for conversation or the sharing of ideas. A certain large financial institution that has been placed rather highly in the BRW’s Most Innovative Companies List for the last couple of years uses an online system, where all employees are able to contribute ideas and all employees vote on those ideas. The best ideas receive a small budget to get them happening enough to assess viability.
A local Hunter company allows their people access to an online ideas board and has an innovation leaders team that meet for one hour once a month. It’s not a huge time commitment, but the culture of innovation is rippling throughout the organisation.
What is important is that employees feel valued for their contributions and no ideas are defined as bad ideas. Imagine if 3M hadn’t given Post-It Notes one last chance…
The encouragement of ideas is in itself a gigantic step forward. Put some professional development dollars into having a few sessions facilitated. Think collaboration and look around for complementary partners.
With our roller coaster, see-sawing economy and the only constant being change, it is timely to note that Robert D. Atkinson and Stephen J. Ezell suggested that “the decline in innovativeness was the underlining long term cause of the financial crisis” (Innovation Economics: The Race for Global Advantage). They suggest that it was the “investing in consumption”, rather than “wealth-creating innovation” that contributed to this spiral. If we look around at what is happening now, we see companies, organisations and governments cutting and saving instead of looking for opportunites for growth and development.
The Diffusion of Innovation Theory, developed by E.M. Rogers in 1962, explains how, “over time, an idea or product gains momentum and diffuses (or spreads) through a specific population or social system. The end result of this diffusion is that people, as part of a social system, adopt a new idea, behavior, or product.” It might be, if we are lucky that innovation itself, is being swept along by the Diffusion of Innovation Theory.