When you think of the level of innovation in your company on a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate yourself?
If you are like me, I have never really thought of myself as an innovator. But how do we as leaders create more innovation in our organizations?
This is important to ask as innovation plays a critical role in business success… or failure.
As Craig Dickman, Managing Director of TitletownTech, sees it, innovation and execution are the two things vital to business survival:
“If you don’t execute, you go out of business quickly. If you don’t innovate, you go out of business slowly.”
“Either way, you reach the end and so what organizations need to do is find a way to build within their processes the ability to explore, innovate, and create new value.” – Craig Dickman
In this week’s Scoop and podcast, I discuss with Craig Dickman how you can add innovation into your organization and planning process.
What is innovation?
Innovation has always been this trendy, vague, and abstract word that has a different meaning to everyone. Before you can leverage innovation to help you create the future you want for your organization, you need to understand what it is.
Webster’s Dictionary defines innovation as:
- A new idea, method, or device: NOVELTY
- The introduction of something new
That doesn’t help much. So, I asked Craig for his definition of innovation:
“You can bring it (innovation) back to the very simple question of what problem does it solve? That is what innovation is about. It’s about identifying a problem and figuring it out.”
That definition stems from Craig’s time working on a NASA space project.
When faced with a new problem, Craig’s leader fearlessly responded to her team’s uncertainty with, “I’ve got two years, I’ll figure it out.”
“And I walked away from that moment saying, if I ever build an organization, I want to get my team to the point that they’d say, you know what, this problem has never been thought of before, so what! We’re gonna figure it out and have that kind of confidence and commitment to explore and solve a problem.”
In essence, “We’ll figure it out,” is the simplest definition of innovation.
I love that definition. I want to congratulate many of you for being innovators. We have faced new problems and figured them out through creativity, exploration, and commitment to finding a solution.
But how do we make innovation simple and part of our everyday processes?
How do you add innovation into your business?
To make the definition of innovation more practical, Craig shared two types of innovation:
Discovery innovation is scientific/medical and aims to explore something to learn what it means.
Need-Based innovation means there’s a problem—there is something the market has not solved yet. How do we solve it?
Most of the innovation within your organization will fall into the Need-Based category. But how do you start injecting Need-Based innovation into your business?
By going through the four-step process Craig shares on the podcast:
Listen ➡️ Store ➡️ Explore ➡️ Execute
The first thing you need to do to implement Need-Based innovation is to listen.
“The most important quality for innovating is listening.”
If having a problem is a root reason for innovation, effective listening will help you define the problem correctly, setting you on the right path. Listening could mean to the market, your customers, or professional peers.
Craig had a few comments about why working with your customers is powerful for efficient innovation:
“One of the things that we would do that was powerful is we would get our customers together and show them our innovation pipeline. We’d say, ‘Hey, if any of these resonate with you, co-innovate with us, become the first customer.’…”
Innovating with your customers is crucial because it provides rapid market feedback as you innovate. This allows you to be more proactive with your strategy development as you are quickly learning what version of your solution will work or not.
After you’ve listened and gained insights, Craig suggests documenting and storing your findings. Skipping this step will make it harder to reference your findings later on.
The next step is to explore those findings. How can you solve the problems you uncovered? Here is where you begin developing a solution that you believe will solve the problem.
This leads to the final step, which is to execute. Once you’ve listened, documented, and explored solutions, it’s time to either bring it to fruition or move on if the solution would distract you from your core strategy.
Through these four steps, you will begin cultivating a culture of innovation that will lead to you creating the future you want!
The Stop The Vanilla Team is completing this innovation process as part of our vision and talent planning process right now and look forward to sharing our results with you.
In the Scoop over the next two weeks, we will share with you:
- The Innovation Index – The three levels of Innovation and how to measure and manage your company equally across them.
- Using the Innovation Index with your Talent – How to use DISC to engage all your team members to innovate more within your organization.
If you want to learn more about creating a culture of innovation in your business, listen to this week’s podcast episode with Craig Dickman.
It’s two strategic thinkers going at it on how to be more innovative in your organization. Don’t miss this gem.
Those Who Plan (and innovate)—PROFIT.