The past few days I have watched a series on the History channel about some early American entrepreneurs, Carnegie, Rockefeller, and Vanderbilt. There was a quote from Jack Welch on innovation. His main point was that for a company to be successful they need to innovate and that does not mean that the company needs some big bold idea every time, but they need to continue to find better ways to deliver a product or to improve the services they already provide. This has been a topic I have had on my mind over the past few weeks and something I had brought up during a few staff meetings about team innovation. What got me started on this topic was an article on FastCompany.com by Soren Kaplan “4 Strategies For Winning Over Innovation Naysayers.”
Not that I was dealing with a team of naysayers, but this article was helpful in just developing a better platform for why I expect innovation from my team. Too often it seemed that we had these lines drawn in the sand preventing our teams from offering up input on how to improve a process or service outside of their area of expertise. Like the thought that innovation does not need to be some big, new product, it can be a better way to deliver a service or product; this type of innovation can happen at all levels within your team and across divisions.
While the Fast Company article is aimed at neutralizing those “innovation wet blankets”, the 4 questions offered up to throw at those naysayers can really be applied from the outset within your team. I say take it a step further and take the four questions that Soren provides and make sure your team knows them from the start. They can provide better focus for your team as you continually look to innovate and guide the innovation process.
1. What’s the smallest step we can still take to have the biggest impact, in spite of the identified barrier?
2. What’s an example of a previously successful innovation that spread and grew despite the wet-blanket barrier? What success factors could be applied again?
3. What have we learned from previous attempts (failed or otherwise) that we can apply this time around?
4. What can we proactively do now without permission–and then ask forgiveness for later?
So how do you handle your “innovation wet blankets?” How do you guide innovation within your team?