When it comes to innovation, who you know can be just as important as what you know. That is, ensuring you have the right mix of expertise on your team and facilitating true connectivity, open dialogue and information exchange is essential for innovative organizations. In a previous post, Innovation: Creativity, Structure, Process & Renewal Capability Required, we outlined a method for evaluating the current state of your organization’s innovation efforts, based on the principles of renewal capability. Last week we covered two of them: Leadership and Learning Orientation. Today we’ll discuss Connectivity and Knowledge Management, reviewing what these dimensions of renewal capability look like in the most successfully innovative companies – what we call “innovation outperformers.” We’ll also give you some guidance in applying outperformers’ successes to your own renewal capability performance.
Are your people working in defined, isolated departmental structures or have you created spaces and encouraged behaviors that foster collaboration? Have you created a passionate and interconnected innovation department?
“The work environments that companies have provided for the past half-century are increasingly unsuited to emerging patterns of work and are inhibiting workers from performing to their full potentials.” This quote is from The General Services Administration of the U.S. Federal Government’s Innovative Workplaces: Benefits & Best Practices, a study that found adjustable and adaptable workspaces were significant factors in employee performance, creativity and satisfaction.
One of the things the study found to have a “major impact” on these factors was adjustable and adaptable space personalized to fit an individual’s work style. Outperformers know that some people prefer a desk in a walled office; others do better sitting on a sofa near a window, feet up on an ottoman.
An article about workspace design trends in FastCompany suggests that creating a collaborative environment where people can “mingle” opens up the possibility that people run into each other, a conversation is initiated and ideas start to flow. To do that, the article says, the office space should include nooks – areas where people can go with their laptops and maintain some privacy – around common areas and paths so people can think and work but are also likely to run into coworkers and have productive conversations.
Have you formalized a process for gathering and sharing information and ideas with your teams?
Regular “touch base” meetings are a simple but important part of team communication. These updates keep the work you’re doing on everyone’s front burner and prevent team members from losing urgency and enthusiasm.
Another way to keep everyone engaged and productive is to create a central online storehouse for inspiration, data, images, examples, ideas and other fuel for the innovation team. This kind of repository becomes an invaluable go-to resource and kick-starter, especially when the team finds itself staring at a blank screen.
Some of the best ways to generate thought and expand thinking are brainstorming sessions. Two ways we foster creativity are Flashpoint innovation workshops and Re/Discovery consulting sessions.
- Connecting with one another is important; connecting with consumers is imperative. Flashpoint innovative workshops help client teams see, feel, think and react through the consumer's heart and mind. We then capitalize on that knowledge equity by using a variety of visual, kinesthetic and auditory stimuli to generate truly creative thinking. We also use a combination of individual, small team and full group brainstorming activities to connect different viewpoints.
- Re/Discovery brings together consumer researchers and product developers to help clients identify, optimize and validate breakthrough product ideas that leverage internal technology leads or competencies. The process starts with a technology audit to pinpoint untapped potential – under-exploited, patented/patentable, and/or emerging technologies that are not part of the client’s active development portfolio. The audit includes ideation sessions with the client’s R&D group, then undertakes a systematic value creation model, enabling clients to bring new ideas to fruition even if in-house resources are limited. It’s powerful when “fresh eyes” are able to review a technology, and conceive entirely different ways to leverage it, creating a platform technology or a portfolio of new ideas that go further than the client team envisioned.
How willing is your organization to bring in outside resources?
Fresh thinking is critical to keep your organization out of the “we’ve always done it this way” rut, and from struggling with an inability to think creatively simply because they know too much about the product, industry and consumer. Of the innovators SpencerHall talked to during the development of our innovation study, nearly 60% include members of other departments in their innovation teams, and 70% bring in resources from outside the company.
One of the biggest inhibitors of innovative thinking is the institutional knowledge teams develop over time. This "conventional wisdom" makes it nearly impossible for teams to think outside the box they've built around themselves. Our Transforum® process moves participants beyond their comfort zone by blending the expertise of the client team with thought leaders in a dynamic online idea generation forum. These thought leaders (two dozen in each Transforum® session) include futurists, cultural anthropologists, engineers, consumer psychologists, trend spotters, inventors, and artists, all of whom contribute a unique perspective and define solutions in different ways.
Improving an organization’s ability to innovate isn’t magic, and doesn’t need to be mysterious. Improving starts with understanding how well your team is doing with the principles of renewal, and applying what’s learned in the assessment to determine the right steps to grow those capabilities internally. With the right action plans in place, any business can be confident that they’re on the road to more effective and powerful innovation.