The Ideas Machine team has worked on hundreds of innovation projects over the years and we’ve seen how thousands of different people approach innovation. Here’s our top 5 list of successful innovation behaviours.
Often used in conjunction with innovation we know, but nothing beats it in our experience. Having the passion to make something happen is the single most important factor in successful innovation. It is what helps individuals and teams when times get tough, it is also what brings the energy required to keep a project moving to conclusion. Moreover it is what allows teams to fail, brush themselves down and start again. Successful innovators really, really mean it.
Less frequently identified by the writers on this topic, but in our view, discipline is a crucial factor in any innovation team. Discipline, rules, boundaries and structure all ensure an innovation programme isn’t a one-off whim. Creating some discipline around the innovation process it is what makes an innovation team gel, it is what creates a plan and outputs that an organisation can buy into , and it is essential in keeping costs and timings under control. It’s absolutely no use at all to just tell folks to ‘go think outside the box’ with no framework and no structure. Discipline doesn’t mean closing the solution space down, it means you are more likely to succeed if you structure what you are trying to achieve and why.
Simple and true; being curious, not taking the first right answer, challenging your assumptions and being willing to question and go find out are what sets successful innovators apart. Curious clients are the ones who recognise the need to keep discovering, accept a non linear hypothesis and they are the least likely to fail because they missed something.
Every team has a leader, but the leaders who create the environment for people to create and implement new ideas tend to be those who can put their ego on the shelf for a while. This is particularly true for corporate and FMCG teams –The Ideas Machine does lots of projects with large organisations – when innovation is happening within a large corporate, someone is usually tasked to ‘lead’ and often a C level executive sponsors the programme. What makes one team succeed where others fail, in our experience, is being able to leave some of the workplace hierarchy behind- to accept ideas from other departments and other disciplines- and to give junior staff a voice.
Making innovation happen requires doing things differently, and often involves changes to current process or approaches – successful innovation needs leadership. This is not always about one person, over the course of an innovation process or project- different people can take the torch – when someone takes the torch, and they mean it, the ideas created stand a much better chance of becoming real. Successful innovation is rarely a ground-up thing – sponsorship at a senior level, someone to clear the roadblocks, confirm the budgets, reallocate the team resources… all of these sound relatively dull, but they are what leaders of successful innovation processes do.
We’ve called this a top 5, it is subjective, based on our experiences – for more on The Ideas Machine case studies and approach, check our latest projects page.