The Permission Slip
As I work with innovators in a number of firms, I am struck by the fact that many of them are still searching for their permission slip. They need some permission to slip the corporate bonds and begin to create something new. They need a permission slip to try some ideas that aren't the ones that have typically been tried before. They need a permission slip to work with people from other business units or perhaps even other firms. They need a permission slip to fail ocassionally, since innovation requires stretching the capabilities of the firm.
So, if many innovators are struggling to get a permission slip, where should they turn? What rationale do they use to get the permission slip? In many firms, the executive teams are slowing gaining an understanding of the importance of innovation, especially for organic growth and differentiation. However, understanding the importance and giving permission to people who want to innovate are two completely different things. Rather than wait for the permission to innovate, innovators need to define their plans and actively advocate for their plan to the executive team. Rather than wait for permission, the innovator needs to actively seek permission. In a worst case scenario, the innovator may need to ask for foregiveness, rather than permission.
We've trained our organizations to wait for the green light. We expect in most cases clear communication from on high to direct us and our teams. In any new initiative, people will ask - who gave you the authority? What is your budget? What they are really asking is - do you have the permission to do this? If not, don't count on me to participate.
As I noted above, if you are an innovator, you need special permission. Permission to start an innovation initiative simply isn't enough. You need permission to try some new things, work on ideas that have not been examined before. You need permission to fail as well. If your permission slip allows only one failure, then you'll never truly innovate.
My advice? Stop waiting for the executive team to give you permission. Draw up your plan and demand they act on the clear need to innovate. When you ask, be sure to ask for a broad mandate that allows your team to explore the many different possibilities and provides a reasonable time frame for success.