August 12

Innovation is not in my job description!

In a recent article I outlined what I think is a more contemporary, commercial definition of innovation. So to help you understand why innovation is absolutely part of your job, let me explain.

The word ‘innovation’ has now become the marketing/branding person’s buzzword du-jour adorning straplines and corporate slogans the world over. However, it’s easy to use a word where the common dictionary definition is so vague.

Innovate: In”no”vate , v.
To begin or introduce something for the first time.

If that’s really innovation then I’m wrong and all those corporate straplines and slogans are accurately depicting every company they represent. However, you and I know that’s not the case. If you begin to do something new in your company that your competitors have been doing for years, is that an innovation? If you invent something that delivers no real value to your customers or your business, is that being innovative? I would answer no in both cases and suggest that a better business definition of innovation is this:

Innovate: In”no”vate , v.
The successful exploitation of an idea that adds value to the customer and commercial return for the creator.

Anything that can be described as an innovation needs to add value as well as being different. It could change the way a business works so that it becomes more efficient (and therefore more profitable), it could change the way people are managed and motivated (and therefore retain and attract staff, reducing recruitment costs), or it could be a new product or service that helps drive customer spend and generate sustainable and profitable shareholder returns.

So, if the above is what innovation is there to deliver then it’s absolutely part of your job! Innovation is more of a mind-set, more of a cultural thing than a specific process solely linked to the creation of new products.

Innovation should be the underlying current that flows through an organisation, which means it should be a natural part of what you do. My perspective is that ‘innovation is a by-product of being exceptional’ and that unless we strive to be outrageously good at what we do the chances of us being truly different, innovative and world-class are remote.

So, if being absolutely outrageously good at what we do as individuals, teams or companies drives innovation then ask yourself is that part of my job or is being average good enough? However, I’ll fight in the employees’ corner for a second, as it can’t all be down to them. Creating the right culture and engagement that inspires people to want to be exceptional is the key and that falls squarely on the MD or CEOs desk! Innovation should be embedded in the very fabric of an organisation as fundamentally it’s about thinking and doing things differently in order to push further and faster forward. Competitors can easily copy products and services but what’s almost impossible to copy is how you do what you do and that makes it a sustainable point of differentiation!

You need to redesign the traditional business model, as the hard metrics of control and delivery are no longer the main drivers of shareholder value, people are! So if you’re the MD or CEO, from now on I want you to think of yourself as being in the people business! You’re new mission in life is to create a talent-rich, entrepreneurial community, collectively passionate about what you do and how you do it. You need to create a desire in your people to move away from average and head towards exceptional.

To do that you’ve got to start some fires burning in people’s bellies, you’ve got to start using different language and you’ve got to get passionate about what you do and how you do it. So, MDs, CEOs take note and for all employees out there show this next bit to your MD/CEO.

Instead of three golden rules I’m going to give you my three golden emotions of business. Emotion 1, LOVE! You and all your people need to absolutely ‘Love’ what you do and how you do it. MDs/CEOs, if you don’t, your people wont! Great leadership is absolutely critical if you want to create a culture of innovation. You’ve got to be inspiring and sincere enough that your people bestow you with the leadership badge and want to be part of your companies journey. That’s when people start to ‘Love’ what they do. If you achieve this, people will be motivated, inspired, engaged, dynamic, and creative and they’ll be exceptional. Best of all, they’ll be doing things differently, looking for new ways to tackle old or existing problems, tensions and challenges and when that happens innovation becomes the natural by-product.

Emotion 2, DESIRE! As a result of the organic move away from the mediocre towards exceptional every area of your organisation will raise its game. When you become outrageously good at what you do your customers will start to want not merely consider what you sell. They’ll ‘Desire’ your brand to the point that you’re the no-brainer choice because you’ll have company-wide and experiential differentiation as well as great products.

Emotion 3, HATE! If you’ve nailed these two then your competitors will absolutely ‘Hate’ you. You’ll have them constantly scratching their heads trying in vein to catch up.

Now, if you’re an MD/CEO and that isn’t what you want your innovation efforts to deliver then I don’t know what is! If you’re an employee and you don’t want to work for an amazing company, be surrounded by talented and engaged people and be looked at by your customers and competitors as being the best, being world-class then no, maybe innovation isn’t in your job description!

Putting the theory into practice – The first meeting of a newly formed Strategic Management Team.

When you have a new Directorate to lead, how do you even set the exceptional bar when (according to Bruce Tuckman) you’re not even in the storming phase yet?  That was the challenge faced only last month and as facilitator for that group, I decided the best way to help this group get their footing and make progress on their priorities was to use Cris Beswick’s What it Takes to Innovate “workshop in a box”.

The Director set the tone – via a short vision piece and then an interview by me.  And the interview wasn’t “how do you see all this working” it was “when are you on fire; and when do you need some sparks from others?”  It was about being way beyond acceptable and much more about a never-ending desire to be better than last time, quicker than last time, cheaper than last time and makes the last time look like a really average result.  After a repeat “getting to know us” exercise with the other leaders in the room, we opened the box.

And we used the prompts and stimulus to set – individually at first – the vision and the overall reason we existed.  We captured those thoughts on a huge mind-map on the wall.

Using other parts of the toolkit, we reviewed other contributing factors and the next bit was where we hit the love; desire and hate elements.

We allocated lead and support responsibilities on what people would love to be involved in and channel their skills and energy towards.

We talked about the desire we wanted to create in the rest of the business for us to deliver great things for them and with them.  Even down to the desire we wanted our Non-Exec Board to have for our products and services.

And we talked about the hate other Directorates may mildly feel for us – mild hate that they weren’t on the same curve as us.  But we’d not let that fester, we’d show some love and share what we knew with them – to help them be as good as we’d become, and then we’d have more desire to continue to break new ground on exceptional performance, using innovation, creativity and skill and be even betteroutrageously good in fact.

So from a cold start in December, the fires were alight and the passion had set pulses running.  A complex strategic Business Plan crafted in less than 6 hours from a management team new to each other?  Now that’s pretty innovative whatever the definition.  They loved every minute of innovating, grew a desire for more of the same, and hated their past mediocrity.  See it works!

Perry Timms is Head of Talent & Organisational Development at the Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest distributor of Lottery funding.  Perry is also member of and conference speaker & blogger for, the CIPD.

Read the original article here


Engagement, Innovation Culture, Leadership, Strategy

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