I’ve been thinking about Innovation lately. As a matter of fact, I’ve been thinking about Innovation since I started working about eight years ago.
I believe key challenges in championing innovation can be summarised into four.
The first key challenge is defining innovation and prioritising areas for innovation in the organisational context. Different people define and interpret innovation differently. Without a common understanding on innovation, the organisation can’t spur innovation. So the challenge here is about creating a common understanding of what innovation means, how to do it, and what the priority areas are. To address this challenge, I suggest conducting focus groups to seek inputs from staff and top management, to merge the definitions of innovation, and to prioritise areas for innovation.
The second key challenge is engaging staff to innovate. According to 2006 Gallup study, engaged staff are more likely to innovate. Thus to spur innovation, organisations will have to engage their staff. Although there is no easy sure-fire way to engage staff, engaging staff is not an impossible feat. Based on my experience, the best way to engage staff is by conducting regular staff communication sessions between staff and top management – for e.g. Townhall meeting – where staff can have a dialogue with the top management on organisational issues and on ideas to improve business processes
The third key challenge is creating safe-fail environments in the organisation. Innovation requires collaborative and supportive environments where passionate like-minded staff can connect, can prototype ideas, and can innovate upon each other’s ideas. Alas, nurturing such environments in the organisational context is difficult. To address this challenge, I suggest cultivating communities of practice, i.e. communities of passionate like-minded people who meet regularly to solve organisational issues. Thriving communities of practice create safe-fail environments that encourage experimentation and give people time to fully develop innovative breakthroughs.
Last but not least, the fourth challenge in championing innovation is incentivising innovation. Rewarding people with monetary rewards or other extrinsic rewards isn’t sustainable, because people will soon demand for bigger extrinsic rewards. On the flip side, giving intrinsic rewards such as recognising and/or giving resources (time and fund) to staff who propose innovative ideas, can spur and sustain innovation. Thus, to address this challenge, I recommend designing recognition system which raises the profile of staff who propose innovative ideas, and setting up innovation funds to provide staff with the necessary resources for innovation.
What do you think? What’s your experience in championing innovation?