Take Tiny Steps to Create a Culture of Innovation
CEOs often ask how they can begin to build a culture of innovation.
My response is that it is best to take baby steps…. Start by beginning to change the behavior of the top leadership and this will eventually permeate the rest of the organization.
Innovation Phase 1 – changing behavior
For a holistic approach to innovation please reference my previous article titled: “So, You Want to innovate? A 3-Phased Approach to Innovation.”
The easiest way to begin your company’s innovation journey is with the scheduling of two lunch meetings a month (two hours each) with your top leadership. The goal of these meetings is to get the team to start thinking beyond your current offerings and begin to brainstorm new concepts. We call this Phase 1.
Source of ideas
I have found that innovativeideas can often emerge from the following three sources:
- Current customers
- Books that discuss disruptive technologies
I recommend that you assigntasks to your leadership team that will help them start to think outside their current daily activities – and your company’s current solutions – and explore unmet market opportunities.
The Semi-monthly meeting agenda would have three team members present to the team during each meeting. One team member would present on a disruptive topic from a book they picked out and read; one team member would provide a summary of their current customer informational interview and one team member would present their findings on their non-customer informational interview.
Each presentation would be limited to 10 minutes followed by 20 minutes of group discussion on how this new information might be harnessed by the company to create innovativesolutions to bring to the market.
The goal is not to solve the world’s problems in these brief interactions, but to plant very tiny seeds that will eventually grow into more concrete ideas over time. The 10-minute presentation is the seed that is planted and the 20-minute discussion after, is the fertilizer that helps nourish the seed. The following weeks and months and follow-up water cooler discussions allowthe seeds to properly grow into a more concrete concept. This will happen at a conscious and unconscious level and the team will naturally start to be more aware of innovative opportunities as this process becomes increasingly part of their routine.
Meetings need a moderator
It is useful to assign one person to moderate the discussion. This could be a 3rd-party consultant or an internal team member.
The moderator’s job is to keep the conversation focused, to make sure ideas are not judged or rejected by the group during brainstorming sessions, and to keep track of the time and keep the meeting on schedule.
These meetings work best when they are fun, people learn, and everyone feels free to express ideas without judgment. The moderator’s job Is to ensure all three things happen.
Customer and non-customer interviews
Your team’s objectives during customer and non-customer interviews are to learn as much as they can about the interviewees’ business or individual needs and uncover pain points. It is important to avoid any agenda about selling your product during the interviews. Think of them as information interviews only… and the goal is to get into the mind of your interviewee and understand the obstacles that make their job or lives more difficult.
I will cover more on the interview process in a follow-up article.
Phase 1 will be ongoing and slowly become part of your company’s DNA. If the meetings are executed well, leadership will look forward to these meetings and will be a source of team growth and ideas.
The goal is to generate a pipeline of company ideas with the best ideas moving on to Phase 2 – Market Testing.
Ideas that should move on to Phase 2 are ideas that, over time, keep coming back up as great ideas that generate an enthusiasm that does not wane over time. These ideas often come naturally, and there tends to be team consensus that the ideas should be vetted more in Phase 2.
This process should not be tied to a timeline. Ideas generally emerge at their own pace, and the longer your company is consistent with these semi-monthly meetings, the better the leadership team will become at generating concept opportunities and moving them into Phase 2.
Innovation requires you to look through the world with different glasses. The more opportunities you have to learn about different technologies, interview current customers and non-customers, and view the world through different lenses, the better you will be at spotting opportunities.
Paul Benevich has been helping to re-imagine companies through innovation for the past 20 years. Paul can be contacted through his consulting company www.nonfictionbusiness.comor by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org