It’s no secret that organizations that invest time, resources and space into uncovering new, innovative approaches to the way they do things have a significant advantage over those who don’t.
Take Amazon as an example…
Amazon wouldn’t be the goliath it is today if it weren’t for their game-changing innovations in online purchasing and delivery technology.
There’s no doubt that these disruptive creations are the driving force behind their domination of the market and out-smarting of the competition.
It’s not a risky move or a waste of time to invest in innovation, disruption and creative experimentation. Far from it…
The real threat is NOT investing and not taking these opportunities seriously!
Regardless of your industry, unlocking the innovative potential of your people — and your organization — will pay off.
If you’re onboard with the idea of investing, you may be wondering… how?
The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all path to enabling and implementing innovation. It’s a process that differs from organization to organization. Mainly because the workplace, culture, systems, talent and management vary from case to case.
With that said…
The first step in the innovation process is understanding the ingredients that are required to make innovation work. In my experience, there are 3 that we really need to pay attention to.
Time, resources and space.
In this post, we’ll be focusing on time.
Understanding the role of time is essential if you want to be able to invest it correctly, and stand a chance of getting a return on that investment.
In my experience over the last 10 years, the most significant difference I see in organizations that succeed at innovating and those who don’t is their mindset around the 3 Essential Innovation Resources (time, resources and space.)
Understanding The Role of Time
When it comes to time, you’ve got to understand two things.
Innovation Requires Commitment
The organizations that succeed at innovation and experience wild growth are the ones who play the long game.
By that, I mean understanding that there are going to be setbacks, unexpected turns of events, and challenges that get in the way.
There are also going to be periods in the journey, if not the whole journey, where you feel like you’re unsure whether the new ideas your testing will actually work and pay off. Usually, the wilder the idea, the more we feel this way.
The key here is to keep pushing until you see the result or have gathered enough data to prove it’s a bad idea. If it’s not a winner — don’t give up. Simply try a new idea.
Eventually, over time, you’ll get better at innovation and have more wins. True innovators are willing to take the long view!
Innovation Requires Headspace
Beyond commitment, innovation requires providing your team with the necessary time and headspace.
Successful innovators set aside time in their teams schedule to step outside of their usual tasks and invest in creating and experimenting. They also create space to think outside the box, seek new connections, and think up new solutions.
These efforts are most productive when everyone is gathered together, and it’s a team effort. Nothing helps with creating ideas more than being able to bounce suggestions off of team members and people in other departments.
Often these silly ideas can lead to substantial solutions that change the future of organizations and make history.
Now that you’ve got an understanding of time, I want to outline a few common ways that organizations go wrong, and how you can avoid these pitfalls.
Where Most Organizations Go Wrong
ALT TEXT: innovation takes time
The way most organizations approach innovation leads to disaster and sub-par results. Not because innovation is dead’ but because they’re not doing it the right way.
For example, when an organization sets its sights on innovation, many of them just tell their people to start coming up with ideas…
And expect employees to go off and research, develop and generate organization-changing ideas in their spare time or in between their already overwhelming responsibilities. As you might have guessed, this DOES NOT work.
Organizations like those have a short-term, uncommitted mindset and expect quick wins to happen without them doing their part. The opposite of the ‘successful innovator’s mindset’ I outlined above.
They believe innovation is a crucial driver of success… yet don’t provide the resources, structure, systems or support that they people need to be able to succeed at innovation.
This approach is destined to fail because it’s not realistic. The reality is that people need time, often lots of it, to think, research and test ideas.
Leaders or managers who are put in charge of innovation teams like this quickly end up overwhelmed as they’re expected to combine their daily assignment with other innovation duties. This alone can stifle the creative process and lead to ineffective thinking and action.
If you are serious about driving innovation, you need to start putting the right structures in place to support innovation. In the next section, I outline a few ideas you can use…
4 Ways You Can Provide Time To Innovate
- Set Aside Time
If you’ve chosen your talent right, you should have a few aspiring innovators in your team. These people are the types that thrive on change, creativity, and progress — and don’t need to be pushed to innovate.
All they need from you is TIME. Time to think, plan, brainstorm, and test ideas… and time to collaborate with others, from all departments of an organization.
Telling them to ‘find the time’ themselves is an insult, and won’t happen. So what’s a better approach?
Let’s look at the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company, or 3M, as they’re more commonly known. They invented a concept called ‘Fifteen Percent Time,’ which has spread amongst other innovative organizations.
The general idea is to set aside 15% of their employees paid work time and urge them to spend it dreaming up innovative ideas.
What 3M and many others realized is that innovation and progress at their organizations happen as a direct result of this time. It fosters passion and engagement among teams and increases an organization’s chances of striking innovative gold.
The real message here is that innovation shouldn’t be something teams only focus on when at retreats or workshops. It should be a part of the everyday agenda and baked into the role of EVERY employee.
Organizations that approach innovation as an occasional exercise never realize the full potential of their employee’s creativity and passion.
As Matt Cook, the co-founder of Intuit once said, “…put in a series of systems and a culture where the expectation is that if there’s an idea that someone is passionate about, we give them what they need to make it easy and fast and cheap for them to run an experiment.
- Give Teams Freedom
What stops most employers from putting something like 3M’s ‘Fifteen Percent Rule” into action is usually fear…
They’re afraid that if they give their teams the time and freedom to come up with ideas in their own way, they’ll abuse the privilege and slack off. They’re used to people being disengaged and wasting time.
But teams need the freedom to explore and experiment and to express themselves. Even the freedom to fail and not be punished. (Yes, some ideas do fail.)
Interestingly, organizations who do so have found the opposite to be true. Giving them the freedom to create doesn’t lead to a waste of resources if done right.
The crucial factor that makes it work is the quality of talent you’ve got on your team. If you’re confident that you’ve done your part in hiring smart, trustworthy people — then trust them enough to do their job.
This trust shouldn’t lead to anarchy and chaos. In fact, most organizations find that you gain the respect and trust of your employees and because of that they do a better job.
- Use Tools To Save Time
A big challenge for organizations in the early stages of their innovation journey is ‘not having the time.’
While there’s some truth to this, there’s ALWAYS something you can do to find more time for innovation. There are plenty of tools and resources out there that can free up time and make the work you’re already doing less time-consuming.
A great example of this is time-saving software for organizations. These tools make project management, collaboration and day-to-day activities more time-efficient.
What I suggest organizations do is to utilize the time they save, and reinvest it into their innovation strategy.
4. Utilize Leave Time
Another way of better using time that already exists is to take advantage of the unused vacation time that most employees waste.
American workers, in particular, are famous for not taking time off and letting their vacation time go unused.
Not only does this harm their health, but it also leads to employees being less productive. Studies have shown that holidays that foster an unplugged experience, such as nature hikes, can boost creativity by up to 50%.
The message to leaders — encourage your teams to use their vacation time and explain how it can make them better at their job.
Need Help Investing In Innovation?
For those who want to go beyond ideas, I offer innovation services and coaching that’s proven to accelerate innovation in organizations.
Amazon wouldn’t be the goliath it is today if it weren’t for their willingness to invest time…
Game-changing innovations in online purchasing and delivery technology don’t just happen by themselves.
They require resources, time, and commitment from the top.
They require a willingness to trust your team and to give them the freedom they need.
If you’re serious about innovation, check out my latest article to find out how to invest time & drive innovation.
#innovation #collaboration #creativity #growth #disruption