Project WolverineBroadcasting LIVE from the orbiting command centre

There’s a brilliant article at Fast Co. Design by Sohrab Vossoughi,  about the internal problems of companies stymieing innovation efforts.

As it says:

Innovation requires three things: identifying what to do, figuring out how to do it, and assigning the task to the right people.

Identifying what to do is fairly easy – the creation of a strategy can be done through group workshops and proudly announced to the rest of the company.  And as discussed earlier, important design comes from great leaps.

The other two areas are where it starts to fail.  Simply announcing that the company will ‘be innovative’ is not enough – the people who are supposed to be doing it need to be motivated.  Innovative products are an output of a company culture that supports people and encourages them to explore different ideas (see this post).

There is a sad observation made in the article though:

But in many cases, researching the client produces a more painful insight: That this is a company with structural obstacles to the innovation they’re looking for and little interest in removing them. When we encounter this situation — and it happens often — it poses a difficult problem. On the one hand, we’ve been hired to deliver an innovation strategy, something that we’re capable of doing. On the other hand, experience tells us that the solution, no matter how finely tailored to our client’s capabilities and culture, is in real danger of failure.

There is no magic bullet to turn a company around in a single session.  Creating an innovative culture takes time, and people need to be convinced that it will work.  This is especially a problem if the current business culture is not perceived to be a problem – why fix what isn’t broken?

A good idea is to give innovative efforts visibility throughout the company, to demonstrate both what effort was required, and what the benefits are.  Encouraging people to ‘buy in’ to the new innovative approaches will be the start of a trend from which the company will reap the rewards.


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