Zen and the Art of Innovation

The very word “innovation” conjures up visions of exceptional products that have revolutionised their industry.  The companies behind these innovative products are seen as legends and are usually market leaders.

Corporate companies looking to drive innovation usually create innovation labs and fund secret research and development programs that are locked away in remote corners of the business where products are taken from most viable product (MVP) and polished up to become marketable products.

These innovation labs are often viewed as hot-beds of creativity and pointy headed geniuses.  However, while all this is going on the rest of the organisation continues to plod along at a slow, cautious, risk-averse pace.  By the time a super idea is debated, detailed business and cost and risk matrices drawn up, the market opportunity is gone and a new competitor has turned the opportunity into market reality.


Innovation is Everybody’s Responsibility

Innovation and its twin, disruption, need to be driven by all functions and departments of a company, not just the white coats with the washing-line of letters after their names.

At Modlettes we have a “high intolerance” for doing things the way they’ve always been done.

Innovation must be encouraged in all teams across the business.  If you are a small to medium business do you encourage your team to have ideas or do you play the role of the boss who alone is capable of ideas?  For example, is your marketing approach truly innovative, opening new communication avenues?   Looking to your communication teams, are they leading ahead of the curve, linking all forms of information through various stakeholder groups?  Does your finance team drive new approaches to improve the speed and accuracy of financial information?


Be Bold

Rejection of existing norms, boldness in thinking and agility (the new buzz word) in execution are prime attributes required to deliver innovation beyond the tech labs and move the product into the market place.  These attributes need to be utilised in every part of the organisation from finance to Customer service to achieve innovative outcomes.


For significant innovation to take place consistently requires an aggressive adherence to finding new approaches and solutions.  This is more commonly found in start-up businesses that must innovate to grow . . . or cease to exist.  Start-ups must rip-up traditional approaches to offset the financial and economies of scale that well-established companies enjoy.  However, the well-established companies often are risk averse and continue to bask in the warmth of the status quo.  Hunger for new solutions is rarely an attribute of the well-fed.


Making It Happen

One of the hazards of innovation is that there is no playbook to refer to in challenging times.  The ability to explore and utilise alternate paths toward the end objective are essential.  As most successful entrepreneurs will tell you, not every step is pre-planned.  Game plans are often amended as unforeseen problems must be solved.  Resilience, “never give up” attitudes and lateral approaches to problem solving are part of the tool box because the solutions are not available by keyword searches on the internet.  Empowered and highly motivated teams typically find solutions to the most difficult challenges.

For a company to be really innovative this culture must be driven by every team member, not just those wearing the white coats in the research and development department.  Undoubtedly, the leaders in the business must have an entrepreneurial mentality with highly developed intolerance against doing things the way they have always been done.  Only then can the company claim to be truly innovative.