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“We’re focusing on something else right now.”
“We are already focusing on innovation, but we say something else.”
“We already have an innovation strategy.”
“That’s not my job.”
While the challenges for businesses vary, the excuses for lack of innovation are always surprisingly similar. Here are three daily excuses you can hear in your own organization that can make your hair stand on end and sound the alarms.
It includes some tips on how to make excuses a thing of the past, while creating a real innovation for the future.
“It’s not my job”
Try asking some of your colleagues who they think is responsible for innovation in your business. Puzzled responses can range from development to production, or from marketing to senior management.
The only thing most people agree on is that innovation is not their job, much less something they should prioritize. Someone else is in charge of that.
You may have approached the sales team whose only task is to sell what the production team does.
But go to the production department and they say they are struggling a lot to keep up with the long list of demands that the development department is sending them.
Visit the development department and the vicious circle ends when it is explained that the sales team is constantly raising new demands.
The dollar is passed from one department to another. It quickly becomes apparent that these departments are isolated and not “making” innovation.
Equally, part of the challenge is to understand what an innovation is.
In my book Listen louder I highlight, among other things, how we need to take a more critical look at our readiness for change.
“Preparation” is a bad concept, especially when it comes to innovation. Being “ready” means waiting for something to happen.
Thus, being “ready for change”, paradoxically, puts us in a situation where we are waiting for development to come. Then it may be too late to reach your full potential.
We don’t just have to be “prepared,” we have to drive and “go to” change ourselves.
Innovation is therefore something that does not depend on one person, not even one department. It is an institutional culture that must permeate all levels, where an entire organization has an innovative mindset every day.
Consolidated companies can learn from the culture of startups, where innovation is a necessity for survival and provides the driving force among startup entrepreneurs.
Startups often start by researching their business model. It is an innovative process where they try to create enough value for others to pay money.
They look for a problem that is worth solving, that is, they focus less on the product and more on the problems. This requires a much broader view compared to more established organizations.
Accept that your organization should focus on the four key pillars of innovation: creativity, including the ability to experiment, a strong culture of feedback, an incentive to change the status quo, and the ability to review and scale. Ways to achieve this may include:
- Create internal “solution days” where the path to a particular goal is rewarded instead of achieving the goal;
- Start of a monthly “Friday bar for innovation” where all employees who are interested in innovation and new ideas can meet and talk;
- Creating an internal blog or newsletter that shares internal experiments, their effects, as well as ideas about the innovative innovation that is happening in the world.
Related: As a diverse team, it brings more creativity and commitment to your business
“Management is better at assessing the potential of new ideas.”
It is not the number of ideas that makes a business more successful, but the right ideas. Unfortunately, it’s hard to know when an idea is good or not, and as people we are generally not great at judging it. Just take a look at this collection of 25 nonsensical inventions, including diet water and a gasoline-powered flashlight …
It is understandable that senior management, people who have worked successfully to understand the market, believe that it is their responsibility to choose and choose the ideas that they believe will bring the future success of the company.
Unfortunately, this does not work. The world is too complex, customer needs change regularly, and competition is too difficult for even the brightest minds on the board to predict the future on their own.
Since we can’t predict the future, the trick is to kill bad ideas quickly. In the context of “Lean Startup ‘, we talk about how companies should “often fail, fail quickly, and fail cheaply.” Companies that test their idea by experimenting with the market get faster and cheaper feedback than companies that sit behind a desk and try to predict what will happen.
- Identify obsolete products and experiment to give them new life;
- Identify concerns about new initiatives and test them that can help confirm or rule out any weaknesses;
- Use experiments to gather evidence of what works, then it will be easier to convince any reluctant boss to back up the change.
Related: 4 ways to drive internal innovation and unleash the entrepreneurial side of employees
“We already know what our customer wants!”
Over time, companies are gaining a special understanding of their customers. This understanding is based on a series of assumptions and beliefs that too often are not updated or remain unquestionable. Instead, they could become knowledge that is no longer supported by market reality.
Market research often confirms and reinforces what you already know, rather than testing the assumptions to reject or confirm them.
We are good at categorizing our existing customers, for example by demographics, but at the same time we are bad at understanding what motivates or inspires them.
It’s getting worse. In a solid and isolated company, people often work without regard to the customer. Employees focus on their own tasks, so that their performance is measured, rather than working to create value for their customers.
The core of “Lean Innovation” is understanding a customer’s problem. By using the “design thinking process” to better understand customers, employees learn more about a customer’s needs and wants.
- Listen to your new employees when they ask you why something is being done in a certain way. It’s an opportunity to see things from a new perspective;
- Observe your customers the natural way they interact with your business (e.g., if you come to restaurants, ask permission to go undercover as a waiter for your customers);
- Practice your role so you don’t miss anything and drop it through the cracks. Get closer to the conversations you have this week by talking to your customers about their issues without mentioning your product. Just listen, ask questions, and listen a little more until you get under the skin of your customers and understand what really drives them.
Related: Jason Hall on why all customers will doubt you (and what to do about it