Monday, December 30, 2013

An Innovator's Resolutions

We come once again to the end of a year, in which we look back and ponder the successes, near misses and absolute failures of the year just ended.  As the calendar ticks over into a new year we are also confronted with the promise of an unspoiled new year, simply waiting with expectation for all the possibilities to unfold.  As people who are both world wise and yet full of promise, we stand on the threshold of a new year recognizing that the failures and baggage from the year just ended could hold us back, trip us up in a moment of triumph, so we agree to shed all of the problems, issues, hangups, bad habits and phobias from the year just ended, to enter a new year fresh and full of promise.  We agree to release ourselves from the mistakes and forgive ourselves for the "failures", and to learn from the mistakes but not be governed or cowed by them.

Nothing prepares us more for a a journey into a new year, ripe with new promise and new opportunity, more than setting out the goals for the year, creating agreements with ourselves as to how we'll conduct ourselves in this new year.  We start by reducing or eliminating cynicism about our organizations, recognizing that as innovators we are the spark of creativity that will lead others to better ideas.  We decide now that developing interesting ideas into new products and services isn't easy but is possible, given the right sponsors and demonstrating the right possibilities.  We hold these truths but they aren't self-evident:  we have to show the facts before others can believe them.  We must become better teachers, better instructors, able to overcome resistance, complacency and inertia.  Not with fear, but with promise.

Innovator's Resolutions

  1. I resolve to learn to communicate more effectively, especially about the promise of the ideas I believe in.  I will translate the promise into potential results that align to what my peers understand and value - market share, revenue and profits.  I'll demonstrate the value of my ideas by linking them to clearly defined needs that customers and prospects have.
  2. I'll have the patience and determination of Gandhi, combined with the attitudes of Dale Carnegie.  Patience and determination, along with constant innovation success, will win corporate culture to my way of thinking.  This won't happen overnight, and this may be a resolution I take up again next year.
  3. I won't promise innovation as a cure-all to every need of the organization, but I will constantly define the depth and breadth of innovation possibilities.  Beyond product innovation, I'll seek out opportunities for innovation in services, customer experiences, business models and other areas of competitive differentiation.  I recognize that innovation doesn't solve every issue, but I'll work to ensure my organization doesn't limit innovation thinking and potential outcomes.
  4. I'll work to incorporate innovation thinking into planning and funding cycles like the annual plan.  If we can incorporate innovation activities and funding into the plan, it will become something we monitor and measure, rather than something we do in reaction to a competitor.
  5. I'll identify people in my organization who believe innovation is important and build networks to let others know that they aren't alone.  I'll sponsor breakfast meetings, lunch and learn sessions, networking opportunities, training opportunities.  Anything to build a foundation of people within my organization who share my passion and can work within a common innovation framework.  
  6. I'll accept any innovation opportunity, no matter how small or how large, as an opportunity to demonstrate innovation success.  But once agreed and scoped, I'll work to keep the organization from reducing the scope or constraining the opportunity any further.  Every innovation opportunity is precious, and I will give it my full attention.
  7. I will strive to improve my awareness and knowledge of innovation methods, tools and frameworks.  I'll never become complacent in my knowledge or rely too heavily on just a handful of innovation tools or techniques. I will refer to new sources, seek out new books, learn on my own time if that is what is required.  I will be identified as an innovation resource for my organization.
  8. I will propose at least one radical or disruptive activity that is carefully scoped and aligned to corporate goals and objectives, that solves a critical challenge or problem for the business.  I will not recommend random innovation activities, but will focus my innovation efforts where they are most vital and address the best opportunities or the thorniest challenges.
  9. I won't rush in to innovation work, but will identify the problems, frame them appropriately, consider the range of options, learn more about potential pathways and form an innovation team that is as engaged, as patient and as willing to learn as I am.  Speed is important, but getting the solutions right is even more important.  I will work with all due speed, but I won't be rushed.
  10. I'll identify resources, firms, partnerships and sources of information or ideas outside my organization that can accelerate our work, and build the infrastructure internally that allows me to exchange ideas and information on a regular basis with those third party sources.

There are only a handful of obstacles to hold you back.  Most of those obstacles are informal and intangible, like corporate culture, but some are internal, like a voice in your head telling you that the time isn't right.  There's no time like the present to make a resolution about innovation.  The market demands innovation, your organization needs it.  Nothing is going to change to make innovation more welcome or more necessary.  There is no "right time" for innovation, so make your innovation resolutions as you make your new year's resolution.

This year, at this time, decide to place innovation on the front burner.  Decide to focus your time and energy on doing innovation right, and doing it well.  We few, we happy few, we band of brothers who are already innovation advocates must become more passionate, more vocal, more capable to deliver innovation, and able to win over our counterparts and organizations not only through our passion, but through our ability to deliver.   Start with your resolutions, and live these over the coming year. 

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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 6:33 AM


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