October 29

To Innovate, Don’t Start in the Middle

If you cut corners, you’ll get shoddy workmanship. It doesn’t matter what the task is; whether you are baking a cake or building a multi-million pound empire, a slapdash approach equals a less than ideal result.

Before you all rush to contradict me and offer the minimum viable product idea as proof of the way in which products can be speeded on their way to market let me clarify one thing. MVP may be designed to get products to market with minimum features and with the intention of issuing further developments down the line, but it certainly does not depend on a slapdash approach. Designing a product using MVP still requires organisations to follow a robust ideas generation, design, testing and iteration process.

No, what I’m talking about here is the idea that you can skip straight from the idea to the finished product without following a defined strategy which will lead you from one to the other. It something which I feel strongly about and which is one of the reasons why I got together with Derek Bishop and Jo Geraghty to write our latest book, Building a Culture of Innovation. Within the book we offer a six-step framework which takes organisations from wanting to create a game-changing innovation culture to making the change stick.

We are not alone in promoting the idea of creating a strategic framework which drives culture change; indeed an article earlier this year from the Innovation Resource Consulting Group advocated…

“a systematic approach to innovation”

…as well as sharing some interesting insights into Nokia’s innovation barriers in 2005. However, as the importance of innovation rises up the strategic corporate agenda I am noticing that an increasing number of articles seem to suggest that you can become innovative simply by adopting a few quick ideas.

What is sad is that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with some of these ideas but you can’t just throw them at an existing culture and expect some miracle overnight change. Quite simply, it just won’t work. When the culture and the conditions and the expectations and the attitudes are all geared along one track, the only thing that throwing a new idea across the line is going to do is derail the organisation. Building a culture of innovation takes time if it is to succeed. Yes, you can design some quick wins in along the way but whilst they might encourage, they are not the final solution.

How can you change your culture if you don’t understand where you are now? How can you expect your people to adopt new ideas if the leadership team isn’t wholeheartedly behind them? And how can you devise a new corporate strategy if you have little idea about where you want to be?

If you want change, if you want innovation and collaboration and agility and true customer insight then don’t start in the middle. If you take the time at the outset to understand and to map and to design then you have the chance to create a strong organisation which will deliver long-term profitability allied to the delivery of genuine solutions and customer excellence through innovation.


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