The word innovation is often overused by middle managers trying to deliver generalized advice, cliché, fluff, and opinion rather than scientific results. But many innovation consultants say the problem isn't with the word itself, it's how many companies choose to look at the process of innovation.
Dr. Amantha Imber is a psychologist, best-selling author, and founder of Australia's leading innovation consultancy, Inventium. With a PhD in organizational psychology, Amantha has also helped corporate giants such as Google, Coca-Cola, Disney, LEGO, Red Bull, American Express, and McDonald's find successful ways to innovate.
Her team consists of self-confessed science geeks who enjoy applying the latest and greatest findings from psychology and neuroscience to help organizations gain a competitive edge through innovation, by helping them realize there is much more to embedding a culture of innovation than placing multicolored beanbags in a room.
A quick Google search of "How to create a culture of innovation" returns more than 130 million results. But locating useful information that's not hidden behind a paywall or written in a language that is easy for everyone to understand is hard to find.
Taking token trips to a Google campus or reading a Steve Jobs biography does not make you an innovator. The harsh reality is the Apple or Google way might work great for them, but it's extremely unlikely to work for your business. We should respect these differences rather than try to replicate the path of others.
Instead, Inventium tries to wake people up to the fact the old way of doing things doesn't fit our always-online society. For example, Australian employment contracts typically state a 38-hour week and four weeks paid annual leave a year. However, Imber's staff often works much longer than this, not to mention bouncing emails or ideas at 9 p.m. on a weeknight. Her solution? She gave her staff unlimited paid leave.
Imber's latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the question organizations ask her on an almost daily basis. "How do we innovate more effectively? To embed a culture where innovation thrives, everybody must feel they can make a difference.
Providing individuals with an optimal level of challenge is a fantastic starting point. Teams, need to embrace different opinions and be unafraid to debate ideas that involve change. Organizations need to resist the fear of taking risks but have a strategy in place to ease concerns.
Rather than rushing from idea to implementation, leaders need to introduce an additional step. This stage could be to examine the investment required and ascertain if this is something the customer even wants.
On my podcast, I chatted with Dr. Imber about de-risking innovation and creating a culture that promotes results with scientific evidence rather than fluff or opinion. Challenging assumptions, and experimenting leanly and quickly are skills we all need to learn to ensure that any innovative strategy will deliver what it set out to achieve.