With Innovation, Keep It Simple, Stupid

Simple initial projects allow for an easy challenge so you build confidence in the processes of innovation and planning.

I wrote a column nearly 10 years ago about people and organizations and their reluctance to change. The title was: "Innovation – Incubator or Graveyard?" The first two paragraphs of the article follow: "Dale Dauten in his Sunday column got me thinking with the closing statements: 'If you have an idea you want to nurture, don’t plant it with the forest of the status quo; place it in a fresh field, away from the old growth. Give it a new group or try it in an experimental store, surrounded by people who want it there, who want it to thrive,' and 'Which brings us to an IBP (important business principle) with a lovely Zen weightless heft: It’s easier to change people than to change people.' "Dale is right on both counts. My question is: 'Can you, your team and your company innovate?' Before you say yes, remember, Casual Friday is not innovation! Does your organizational culture embrace the new, innovation, or is the status quo your lover? To quote Davis Balestracci (Quality Digest Magazine), 'Quite simply, culture is created by what is tolerated.'" See also: Wisdom From Some Very Smart People   As I’ve aged (many of y’all know me too well for me to claim I’ve matured) I realize that transformational changes (giant steps) are very challenging. For this reason, I’m going to offer a simple process that might be worth considering as you want to facilitate incremental change (baby steps moving in a different direction than your status quo). Consider this an idea that is not too threatening nor too high risk as to invite pushback from your team but still worth pursuing as you try to move forward into tomorrow’s world. The greatest benefit from such simple initiatives is the opportunity for you and your team members to succeed in an easy challenge so you build confidence in the processes of innovation and planning. Think of this as basic training for bigger challenges. A few days ago, I opened up a magazine I was reading a month ago. I found six bullet points I had scribbled onto one page of the journal. I upgraded this list with four more ideas that I believe are workable on some strategy or innovation you may be considering for the future. I offer this “to do” list for your consideration:
  1. Acknowledge that, “None of us are as smart as all of us (Ken Blanchard).” Get input from all members of your team.
  2. Facilitate communication. Know that communication is the negotiation of meaning. When everyone understands and engages, your chance of success is much greater.
  3. Create a pond or pool of new perspectives and ideas. Don’t assume what you’ve done in the past is the best way to do something in the future. Discuss, debate, innovate, etc. until the ideas shared start to build a constituency of believers. Listen for, “Hey, this really might work!”
  4. “Fish” this pond of ideas for what’s right for the challenge and your culture as it exists today. Test the first idea that you hook or hooks you. If that doesn’t work, throw it back in and grab another.
  5. Reality-check your plan and process. Tweak as needed. Go back to the drawing board – if necessary.
  6. Now take action – JUST DO IT!
  7. If it works, CELEBRATE.
  9. Know that there is wisdom in scar tissue -- grow from the lessons learned. Count heads and fingers and toes. If no lives were lost and no serious damage was caused – commit to continued efforts at innovation and experimentation. Your future depends on this.
  10. Believe there is GENIUS in creative efforts – successful or unsuccessful. Find it! Remember, “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back.”
See also: A Contrarian Looks ‘Back to the Future’   In tomorrow’s world “the greatest risk is not taking one” (AIG annual report). Commit to change initiatives. Build your future on innovation, not bureaucracy. Understand the process of success is defined by some as, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight!” In tomorrow’s world of incremental change you must THINK NEW! Happy NEW Year!

Mike Manes

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Mike Manes

Mike Manes was branded by Jack Burke as a “Cajun Philosopher.” He self-defines as a storyteller – “a guy with some brain tissue and much more scar tissue.” His organizational and life mantra is Carpe Mañana.


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