When launching innovation programs, there are two areas to focus on to gain quick wins: new behaviors and new processes. Employing activities within these areas will further your innovation strategy, gaining trust and credibility along the way.

New Behaviors

Innovation requires thinking differently--going beyond the status quo.

To shift behaviors, adopt a beginner's mind, a concept from Zen Buddhism called Shoshin.

"In the beginner's mind, there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind, there are few." Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind."

Put simply, our experience and expertise cloud our ability to see new opportunities for innovation. It shackles us to the present way of doing things and what's more, makes it challenging to teach and lead others as well.

To address this, use a Ctrl+Alt+Del technique. Imagine a world where your company or department doesn't exist.  Start from the beginning, remove constraints of time, resources, or existing structure. 

Ask yourself and your team, how might we envision doing things differently and align with market opportunities?

Using this method, I have seen teams stretch their thinking and shift behaviors. One team I worked with went from being a group that held tightly onto ideas, trying to force them to fit within their company, to exploring ways to license-out innovation that didn't fit within their company's business strategy.

Activities around "new behaviors" are people-focused. They can start as simple team exercises and workshops, but gain big traction in trust and are essential for long-term change and building a culture of innovation.

New Processes

Leaders often make the mistake of taking on innovation in a disorganized manner. In reality, for innovation to truly transform, it must be employed as a process.

When introducing a new innovation process, or finding opportunities to improve existing ones, there are ways to kill trust, and ways to encourage it. 

A new process will fail if mandated without understanding context. As an innovation leader, it's your responsibility to set the context for your people. Then create the environment for them to thrive in, in an empowered and self-organized way.

This "context not control" comes from the famous Culture Deck that Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and Chief Talent Officer Patty McCord published in 2009. The document outlines the Netflix culture and still holds strong today. When it comes to the innovation process, context, not control.

That is to say, a leader should give enough context so teams can do their job well, but should not micromanage the actual work.

When you introduce a new process to enable innovation, empower teams with the tools and resources to follow along. This could be in the form of workshops throughout the process, providing opportunities to learn and execute at the same time. Don't dictate or mandate a new process, but instead provide what is needed to allow people to execute.

When launching new innovation programs, it is important to land quick wins that can be articulated throughout the organization. Whether a new behavior or a new process there are tangible ways to get an innovation program off the ground. Once trust is established, innovation programs can scale and grow over time.

Published on: Sep 4, 2018