183: To Innovate, You Need To Keep On Pushing

Inertia might keep the universe expanding on its own, humans need a push

MORE THAN A BIG BANG

For those who believe that universe was created during a big bang event, once the explosion occurred, we figured that the inertia created by that event would most likely carry on almost forever (although entropy and gravity might eventually slow things down).

For some reason, many individuals within major corporates think that all they need a similar kind big bang to trigger change – some major event, some big change, maybe a big layoff, maybe the rise of a stronger competitor, maybe a more clearly communicated vision.

Like the Big Bang, this event would cause waves of change throughout the enterprise, and trigger more events which would cascade through the organization, and inertia would continue to keep the change flowing.

Unfortunately, change is easier planned than done, and while these events seem to have the ability to change behaviors for a short period, they typically do not have long-lasting effects. Like most change, whether it’s trying to change a bad habit, or changing the culture of the organization, it takes time and effort.

A few Big Bangs will not create the momentum you need in order to make lasting change. You need to come at this from a mindset of continual small changes over time, each building on the next until the change cements into place.

This is especially true where one or more previous innovation programs have been tried in the past, with little to no change. When it comes to the right kind of program, there are many options to look at – however, to be successful, they all need dedicated effort and resources.

Since startups sometimes lead the effort in innovation, assigning a small corporate venture group to keep an eye on and engage with startups doing interesting things in your space, is one key component.

Many companies already do this – looking for innovations that they may be able to pick up before they get big, and reduce the risk for themselves. The main draw behind looking outward for innovation in your space is that these startups will likely be able to move faster than you – being smaller and agiler allows them to go where you can’t, to pivot as required, and maybe go places you would never be able to go.

Secondly, setting up internal incubators can help to not only capture those great ideas from your own people, but vet and prep them for possible productization or patent. Your internal incubator need not be hugely resources intensive – it could even be a part-time effort (like Google’s 20% time) which will allow your people the leeway and the freedom to work on their own passion projects, which, at the same time, could lead to your next billion-dollar idea.

You can use Design Thinking to help your people think freely, deeply embedding them in the minds of your customers, and unlocking their creativity to develop novel solutions.

Finally, depending your sensitivity to use of your intellectual property, you may be able to leverage an open innovation framework, sharing your innovations with the world in the spirit of helping your customer, as opposed to holding the profit motive as the prime directive (as most Silicon Valley startups have learned, first massively improve the lives of your customers, then the money will follow).

These are but a few ways in which you can develop an ongoing innovation initiative in your organization – the key to any lasting change, whether its for humans or corporates, is always consistent effort over time.

Humans, unfortunately, unlike the universe, still need to be pushed.