Sustaining the flow of innovation

In a recent article for the Harvard Business Review, “Five Ways to Ruin Your Innovation Process,” Rita McGrath says that the number one reason companies “sabotage their own innovation processes without meaning to” is their tendency toward episodic innovation.

Too frequently, McGrath says, companies invest time and resources in innovation when they want to expand and grow, then give up when things do not work out as planned.  Because they are afraid to fail, companies don’t make innovation one of their central and expected focuses.  This makes it difficult for them to keep up with the advancements happening around them, and often forces them to play catch-up.

In order for innovation to reveal real breakthroughs for an organization, it requires long-term investment.  Yes, some ideas may fail.  Experimentation is a crucial part of the process and you can learn a lot from it.  Innovation is an adaptation and thus requires constant attention.

By making innovation a more central part of policy, companies are helping ensure that they will never have to play the frantic and unpleasant game of catch-up again.  As McGrath notes, building a repeatable process for innovation will make it stick.

People are much more invested in things that they know are long-term or permanent, and have a good chance of succeeding.  They like to see results!  In our experience at Imaginatik, people respond to the small wins that come from making small but important changes.  When they see that their suggestions are actually impacting business, they are more excited and invested in continuing the process.

To keep innovation flowing, McGrath recommends that companies set aside part of their annual budget specifically for innovation.  Additionally, she argues that innovation needs to be made an integral part of people’s daily work lives.

By defining measurable, systemic changes as a core competence in your organization, you can increase its chances of becoming an exciting, successful, sustainable innovation process for the future.

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