Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Did you innovate today?

Increasingly, as I'm working with corporate clients, I'm beginning to ask the teams I work with a simple question.  I ask them "what did you innovate today"?  And I ask them that question every time I interact with them.  Because it's increasingly clear that innovation is still sporadic and haphazard, engaged in the moment but quickly put aside or forgotten.  Corporate cultures and pressing deadlines, not to mention a full calendar make it easy to "do" innovation when the consultant is there, or when the boss demands it, or when it's "on the calendar", but much more difficult to find the time or focus otherwise.  Let's create a new mantra:  did you innovate today?

Why is this important?  Well, why is breathing important?  Breathing moves oxygen into your bloodstream if you are doing it correctly, and helps distribute carbon dioxide out of your body.  These are good outcomes that happen naturally, every minute of every day.  You rarely think about breathing, so moment by moment it seems unimportant.  But it is vital to your survival.

Innovation needs to become as constant as breathing, because it's just as important.  It is vital to your survival as an employee, a team member and to your company.  We simply cannot "do" innovation occasionally, or when there's a panic situation.  That would be like breathing only in certain situations.  In fact one of the best responses to a panic is to slow down your breathing, to calm and to center yourself to face whatever is happening.  How often we do just the opposite. 

You don't have to practice breathing, because your medulla oblongata and other automatic systems in your body will do it for you.  You don't have to think about breathing, except in situations where you are under stress, fearful or in new or unique situations, where air becomes precious and scarce.  What would it look like if your innovation capability and focus were as sustained as your breathing?  What if you conducted innovation every day, automatically, and it seemed strange or unusual if you didn't innovate?  That's what we need to strive for - the feeling that the day was incomplete if we didn't innovate.

Now, you may think this is a diatribe about the importance of innovation, and you'd be right, but the fact that I place an inordinate amount of emphasis on innovation doesn't mean I'm wrong.  In fact most of us need to step up the level, involvement and capability for innovating, just to keep pace with the amount of change underway in our environment.  This is a time when smart, engaged people will lead companies by recognizing we are on the brink of a precipice.  While executives and managers may not want to acknowledge its presence, most industries are in full scale turmoil and need far more innovation than is happening currently.  People who recognize this and prepare themselves and their teams, and who use and engage innovation thinking, tools and processes every day will emerge as winners, and lead their teams and organizations to better outcomes.  Those that don't doom themselves and their companies to a slow death.

If you should innovate every day, what should you innovate?  What if you don't have a product that needs innovation, or a budget?  Then you should innovate your existing processes, innovate your business model, innovate how your team works or communicates.  Introducing small but relevant change every day, in a myriad of circumstances encourage people to ask the question:  how can I change this for the better?  Rather than spend time creating workarounds or accepting less than proficient internal systems, decision making, team dynamics and so on, innovate something.  By innovating every day you demonstrate that innovation isn't a special capability to be called on in an emergency but a normal component of day to day business.  Also, by innovating something every day, you gain more credibility and more skill.  Anything you practice frequently you learn to do more proficiently.  Skills you ignore wither and die, and are difficult to recall.

Every morning when you develop your "to do" list you should ask yourself:  what's one thing I can innovate today?  How do I bring innovation tools, perspectives or thinking to what I'm tasked with?  At the end of the day, as you recap and start to head home you should ask yourself:  what did I innovate today?  What experiments did I engage?  What new tools did I introduce?  What change did I create?  Sitting still, waiting complacently for the future to unfold only means you are more likely to be run over by change rather than prepared for it.
AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 7:03 AM


Post a Comment

<< Home