One of the key things I learned during my time as a Navy SEAL at war was the importance of adaptation and innovation. I have learned that lesson many times over as an entrepreneur but often failed to lead innovative change in our companies. Without a focused effort and an evangelized approach from the top, it doesn't usually take priority.
Creativity vs. Innovation
I have notice that organizations and their leaders often confuse creativity with innovation. The main difference between creativity and innovation is the focus. Creativity is about unleashing the potential of the mind to conceive new ideas. Those concepts could manifest themselves in any number of ways, but most often, they become something tangible. However, creative ideas can also be thought experiments within one person's mind. Creativity however can be hard to measure.
Innovation, on the other hand, is completely measurable. Innovation is about leading change in already stable systems. It's about making creative ideas viable and designing an appropriate solution to reap a return on the idea's investment. Otherwise known as execution!
So what is that one simple thing leaders can do to inspire innovative greatness within their teams? Lead the effort to allow them the time and resources to innovate!
Today, at our digital marketing agency, we kicked off what we are calling our Innovation Lab. This was the brainchild of our VP of Earned Media Laura Beatty and Marketing Director Dyan Crace. I wanted to provide details on how we are inspiring innovation to give actionable concepts as to how this can be executed within any organization. We developed the concept and purpose, announced it at one of our monthly company meetings and invited all employees to participate. The goal of the Innovation Lab outside of offering a fun and creative environment that will improve our culture is to develop actionable ideas that benefit our clients, team and community.
We held a one-hour meeting in which we reviewed the purpose of the Innovation Lad, went over the agenda and then dove head first into a ten-minute individual ideation session. Each team member had ten minutes to come up with as many ideas as they could and write each idea on a Post-it note. We told them to abandon their "inner critic" and just go for it. The result of this ten minute session was well over one hundred Post-it notes on the white board with some of the most creative concepts I have seen.
As mentioned above, the most important difference between creativity and innovation is measurable execution. These ideas will be consolidated and prioritized. One or two concepts will be chosen and pitched to the executive team, especially if there are hard costs involved and to receive budget approval. Then the project is launched!
This is just one way to inspire a team towards innovative greatness. The key is that innovation must be evangelized from the top and the team must be provided the time and resources to pursue creative greatness.
What are you going to do to inspire true innovation within your team and take your organization to the next level?