Often times asking a provoking question can serve as a greater catalyst of innovation than providing the right answer. The right question can be a disruptive agent, cutting through years of complacency to redirect a team or a company’s focus. It serves as a pointer, aiming us in the direction of the answer. Our end result of course is to make sure it positively affects your bottom line. In fact according to a Forbes article, “Are You Asking the Right Question?,” it cited that asking the right question increased the odds of someone’s work having a positive effect on others by 4.1 times. It made the outcome 3.1 times more likely to be deemed important, 2.8 times more likely to create passion in the doer, and perhaps most significant to company leaders, 2.7 times more likely to make a positive impact on the organization’s bottom line. Who doesn’t want that? Asking the right questions is only the start. Sustaining innovation to create real value at scale—the only kind of innovation that has a significant financial impact—is hard. It opens other factors that we need to be aware of and plan for strategically. Here are my top three factors/obstacles:
- Hidden assumptions and beliefs must be unearthed. Unexamined beliefs control an organization and prevent any meaningful innovation or change. Years of valuing certain systems, technology resources, procedures and personnel status within the organization’s structure — even if unstated — can lead to assumptions and behaviors that are unnecessary, out of date, unhelpful, and at odds with stated goals and strategic direction impacting your new ideas.
- Resources. Think outside of the box to provide them. Don’t let your current resources, put limitations on your ideas. Could you work with a strategic business partner? Do you have teammates to utilize if given the freedom? Is there current or complementary technology available to be customized to your needs?
- Accountability. Holding leaders within your organization accountable for encouraging innovation makes a big difference. A system that sparks new ideas and enables critical decisions fosters an enterprise-wide social system that harnesses the skills and insights of everyone throughout the company. Leadership’s role is to provide a work environment of openness built on trust where every member of the team feels free to express their views/opinions without fear of ridicule or reprisal. If the leadership is not engaged with this concept, your ideas will never be executed in a timely or meaningful way. It is then important to meet regularly to identify potential obstacles and opportunities before they become larger issues that may undo the teams’ commitment and to make sure that your leaders are present and accessible to everyone.
Innovation is a big idea with a big potential for your bottom line. Asking the right questions, opens the door to get it running, but it is wise to be aware of these common business environment obstacles so innovation doesn’t disintegrate on the starting line. The best approach is to take it in small steps, implementing just one or a few of the ideas sparked from the right questions and build from there. For many companies, the initial steps on this innovation-creating journey are the most critical.
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.