The term innovation can sometimes bring forth a sense of dread as it usually leads to change, and change can be scary. Who knows what the future holds when you change things up from your normal routine? But change is an important piece of growth for your company, and innovation is the match to light that fire.
So, how do you innovate? You’ve heard of out of the box thinking, but to me, you really have to take that idea a step further… forget there is a box. Forget that there are any boundaries for yourself or your company. Without boundaries, the space that you allow your brain to be in is a space where anything is possible; a space that fosters innovation. This unbound environment also needs to be conveyed when obtaining ideas from others in your company.
When you ask people for ideas, they are encumbered, either consciously or unconsciously, by certain factors. These could be self-awareness factors, such as if someone else will think they’re stupid if they throw out that wild idea. They could be organizational, for example if the company has the means to support that idea. They could be market related. Do the right market conditions exist? Will the existing customer base support the idea? No matter what the blockage is, for now, forget all of them.
To create an environment of unbridled innovation you need to be forceful with these steps. For example, remind people in a brainstorming session that there are absolutely no bad ideas and any one of them could morph into a game changer. Activities such as conducting anonymous idea generation surveys allow people to send in anonymous ideas to solve a problem or generate growth in a specific service area. Walt Disney went as far as creating three rooms in a row for his employees. The latter two were for idea assessment and planning, but that first room was for innovation without any constraints or evaluation. Amazing ideas came out of that three room process.
Innovation not running rampant yet? Try kick starting it by asking open-ended questions. Why are we entertaining this service area? What would happen if we moved our distribution center? What would our customers say if we asked them about our red label packaging? The goal is to get people to start thinking about the business and its’ operating components.
Once the ideas start flowing, keep the blinders off and allow for free thinking. A possible activity that allows innovation to flourish is what I term the “thought path”. As ideas start to come forth, follow each one up with another based on the previous, in quick succession, even if they are even incrementally different. This process is easier to perform individually versus with a team, and the outcome can be very surprising and the process can lead to remarkable ideas.
Implementing innovation can be a driver for growth, especially when steps are taken to create the right environment and processes. Planning and implementation are important stages of change, but without innovation, you won’t get anywhere.
About: McLean, Koehler, Sparks & Hammond (MKS&H) is a professional service firm with offices in Hunt Valley and Frederick. MKS&H helps owners and organizational leaders become more successful by putting complex financial data into truly meaningful context. But deeper than dollars and data, our focus is on developing an understanding of you, your culture and your business goals. This approach enables our clients to achieve their greatest potential.