Saturday, August 23, 2008

Are You In Shape to Innovate

“Luck Favors a Prepared Mind”
Innovation is like athletics. The ability to innovate is similar to that of an athlete’s preparedness that requires constant training & preparation. Similarly, Innovation requires one to be curious, have a sense of purpose, willingness to explore and be ready to accept failures gracefully.
Successful innovation is like an Olympic athlete, it is usually a result of huge efforts: both in execution & preparedness.
Many small & medium sized firms often spurn innovation during good times; the companies tend to concentrate on execution and profit maximization and look at innovation only when competition introduces new products. Such sporadic rush towards innovation is risky and often disastrous. Instead, companies should constantly prepare for innovation.

How to prepare for Innovation?

Creative people always have the following traits:
1. Curiosity
2. Sense of Purpose
3. Willingness to explore
4. Ability to withstand failures

Most people have these characteristics in their childhood – but are suppressed during adulthood.
Firms can use these traits in a productive and non-risky way by having idea generation sessions at regular intervals. These idea generation sessions should be structured such that participants should concentrate on current problems and generate ideas around it. The benefits of such sessions are immense: Operational efficiency increases, people are encouraged to think, and develop new ideas, enhances curiosity among participants and builds a sense of purpose. Most of the ideas generated during these ideation sessions are usually simple ideas, and few will be truly path breaking ideas. (See: Ideas to Concept – Small Ideas are better )

Companies can afford the risks involved with small ideas – and over a period of time, the organization gains proficiency in taking an idea into business opportunities. Over a period of time the company gains enough expertise to take on bigger ideas – and creating path breaking products.

The ideation generation sessions must be followed by idea scrub to identify low hanging fruits (see: Innovation Management - Taking Ideas to Concept ) and then create teams to work on those ideas. The first task for the team is to develop a basic design/architecture for implementing the idea. The next step for the team is to develop a business plan for that idea and see the viability of the idea.

Once the team goes through the business plan phase, it will be clear to them on which ideas are work implementing and which have to be rejected. The teams that work on rejected ideas will know the reason – and prepare them to face failures. Care should be taken not to demoralize the teams – instead the members should be encouraged to come up with better ideas.
Train yourself regularly for Innovation & you will win.

As the saying goes, luck favors the prepared mind; success in innovation goes to those who train for it. Companies that have developed the skills for innovation are the ones that will be successful at it. Preparing for Innovation implies equipping the employees with necessary skills and giving them enough opportunities to practice those skills.

1 comment:

Brendan Dunphy said...

Hi Arun. I agree with what you say, especially about small company's not innovating in 'good times' and only when threatened by competition. All firms need to put aside a small percentage of resources for longer-term innovation project's beyond enhancements. The hardest challenge is to keep doing this even when the economy worsens. Brendan at