In many organisations there can be tension between those promoting creativity, design and user centred approaches to Innovation and those who are bound entirely by procedures, plans and spreadsheets. I have often remarked that many people think of Innovation as a machine where you turn a handle after feeding in your ingredients, and a nice new Innovation will pop out. This is not the case! We should be focusing on the process of innovating (the people) rather than the end product. But what could be going wrong? Well here is a short list of things to beware of:

  1. Being unrealistic Innovation takes time, often more than we allocate for it. The results can also not be what we are expecting. Unrealistic (or irrelevant) objectives and timescales will kill . Try to think of the impact of your Innovation project rather than listing the results in a table. You should be explicit though!
  2. Protecting ego If you’re scared to be wrong, you won’t be able to lead innovation or lead the innovation process. Since Innovation is all about discussing new ideas you have to be prepared to be wrong or immerse yourself in completely alien concepts. If you are not doing this you are just reworking old stuff, not innovating.
  3. Believing process will save you Innovation processes are not what Innovation is about. They provide a framework within which leaders and facilitators work their magic. They also provide a sort of ‘incubator’ within which anything can happen and which is allowed to flourish when it does. Beware of allowing everything to happen though! You are in business to make money.
  4. Varied backgrounds and experience are not the same as cross functional teams In a bid to be innovative, many companies have put together cross functional teams. Such teams are a good idea since your project teams are liberated from the silos (departments) that may make up your business. However, what you are really looking for are different perspectives and experiences. It’s the people you must mix, not the functions.
  5. Believing that we know everything We often do know most things about our markets and customers BUT what we do not seem to be able to do is get started. We believe that we have all of the motivation and inspiration that we need. We sit at our desks and pore over emails but very few answers arrive that way. Go outside for inspiration, take your camera (or mobile phone) and see what is going on in the world. Drop in on an old lady for a cup of tea and ask her opinion. Do anything but sit on your chair all day!
  6. Talking rather than doing We often like to rubbish the ideas of others and try to make sure we have a complete solution before trying anything. Get prototyping (or playing) early on and get feedback and gather more ideas. We cannot learn by doing nothing, and hence we cannot innovate either.
  7. Converging (executing) rather than diverging (exploring) ‘Cycle often and close late’ is one of the main precepts of creativity in business. Too often we wish to nail everything down. The CEO wishes to know who is doing what and what the timescales are before we have finished exploring all of the possibilities. Senior managers must learn to live with a little ambiguity.
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