Is Your Company Innovative?

Is your company innovative? If not, is your department or team an innovative ‘pocket of excellence’? It’s OK to say no.

Many organizations and teams struggle to innovate. Why? Because innovation isn’t easy. There are some obvious reasons why innovation can be difficult, such as:

  • Leaders often prefer safer short-term rewards to risky long-term bets.
    • Executives, managers, supervisors, and informal leaders often feel pressured to prioritize current operations over future innovation. Operations are linked to predictably profitable outcomes (i.e., the reason any company is in business). On the other hand, innovation is — often by definition — undefined, not to mention a long-term play that may not result in a return on investment.
    • Although innovation can be risky business, ask yourself, “What if we stop innovating? Will our work look the same in two years? In five? 10?” Scary thought if you’re not innovating already. Innovation asks organizations to weigh operations with probable, immediate, and certain outcomes against actions that offer improbable, delayed, and uncertain outcomes. Research shows that most people will choose the short-term win over the long-term gamble, even if the potential upside of the gamble is much, much greater.
  • Creating a collaborative environment takes effort.
    • Innovation often requires collaboration, which can be difficult to get right if it’s not already supported by your organization’s culture. I suggest you do a quick six-cell analysis to determine if your company is ready to collaborate effectively.
    • Does the environment provide the information and resources to collaborate? Don’t forget time — everyone’s most precious resource these days is time and attention.
    • Are employees incentivized to collaborate?
    • Do employees have the skills and knowledge to collaborate? Are your people capable of collaboration?
    • Do they have an attitude that enables collaboration?
  • Competence and efficiency usually trump creativity.
    • High levels of competence can inhibit innovation. Think about it. The better you’re at getting something done, the less likely you’re going to spend time designing a new way to do it — or coming up with a new thing to do. When employees have decades of industry experience, this can be the silent barrier to innovation — because maybe you’re missing opportunities without realizing it.

At ILG, we are aware of this risk, but sticking with the status quo is not an option. One of our values is an “unwillingness to stand still.” We’re always searching for more efficient and effective ways to improve performance for our clients — and our staff. This unwillingness keeps us focused on developing innovative and smart learning and performance support solutions that power a client’s organizational improvement.

To some, it may be just another e-learning, or just another job aid. At ILG, every project — big or small — is a chance to do something different. Every project is an opportunity to improve and build upon the successes (and shortcomings) of the past. We identify these opportunities by debriefing projects, internally and externally, to identify ways to improve. From there we innovate — especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products — at kick-off meetings, design meetings, and whenever we run into new challenges.

So, back to my initial question: Is your organization innovative? If you answered “no,” maybe it’s time to take a closer look at your company. Ask yourself: What can I do to better understand priorities? How can I collaborate? What can I try that’s new? It’s all about getting that next big breakthrough you need to inspire your company to innovation.

2 Responses

  1. Susan Fisher

    Wow, the last reason was one I never thought of before — but it’s really true! It’s really easy to get into “production” mode when you’re competent. When starting any project, we should always step back and try to consider it as a novice would.

    • Mike Blahnik

      Thanks for the comment, Sue! It’s the quiet barrier, but we can’t ignore it. Best to pause, consider options, iterate, then get into production mode.

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