Sorry, but your good idea isn’t innovation until you do something



An idea is not innovation. There exists an expansive divide between the idea and the execution of a project, between the concept and the reality. The purpose of leadership in any organisation is to shorten that gap as far and as soon as possible. An idea is only as good as how well an organisation brings it to life, and as mundane as it may sound to the creatives, there should be certain processes and tools to enable the award-winning idea to one day take centre stage.

The structure

Many organisations pay lip service to innovation and development, and there’s a simple way to determine which ones those are: if the organisation’s structure does not make innovation and idea generation part of how the business runs, then it’s most likely just talking. According to Prof David Owens, Strategic Innovation Management professor at Vanderbilt University (he is currently teaching a free course on Coursera so check it out), this is by far the biggest failure of innovation efforts.

Innovation does not happen in a vacuum. The way information flows and is shared in the organisation, the time it takes and how the information is developed to become knowledge and insight, is a key driver of successful innovation.

The culture

A learning organisation is a growing organisation. The way in which an organisation conducts business will determine how well innovation is incubated and encouraged. This isn’t to say that warm and fuzzy corporate cultures which enable employees to feel safe enough to share ideas are what you should seek — disagreement and constructive conflict are important. It is the fine balance between creating that “open to the new” environment while ensuring that the organisation is focussed on the right things.

The people
It’s also vital to strategically place people on innovation projects. Companies often create cross functional teams, with little consideration of the personality traits of the individuals within those teams. There needs to be a balance between the guys with the big ideas but poor follow through, and the tenacious guys who may not be as visibly creative, but will persist until they find the best solution. It’s knowing when you need who — understanding at which point in the process you need the “what if” people, and when to hand the baton over to the “but how” folks.

The stuff

Innovation takes resources. It takes money, technology and time. Companies need to be willing to make that investment because unfortunately, it will always take longer than anticipated, and yes you guessed it, cost more than projected. An idea is like a child. A parent cannot simply bring a child into the world and think that by hoping so, the child will become a great person. They have to provide a secure and loving environment, show it right from wrong and try to give it as much of a head start as they can and then they can hope it’ll be a great person. Organisations need to create and enable an environment in which ideas can live beyond the brainstorm session, giving them a real chance to see the light of day and change the world.



Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights. sign up

Welcome to Memeburn

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest in digital insights.