How can you innovate as part of your day job?
Most people don’t have innovation jobs or live in Silicon Valley; they have regular jobs, little time and no money for new projects. How can you innovate under those circumstances?
Over the course of six years, Wedell-Wedellsborg studied successful corporate innovators to see how they managed to get it done, despite working in conservative industries and/or bureaucratic, highly regulated organizations. What these innovators shared was an approach that goes counter to much of the accepted wisdom around innovation:
- Don’t brainstorm on new opportunities. ‘Blue-sky’ brainstorms create far too many bad ideas. A better alternative is problem-centric innovation, where people focus on first identifying and then solving existing pain points.
- Don’t (only) look at new technology. New technology is inherently risky; many successful initiatives come from using old technology in a better way.
- Forget the future (sometimes). Trying to predict the future is risky; years of research has proven that people are very bad at it. A more powerful question to ask is, “What is the product or service we should have invented three years ago?”
- Don’t ask customers for their ideas. Much has been said about crowdsourcing and open innovation, but the reality is that most good ideas come from people inside the organization – provided they take the time to observe and truly understand their customers.
- Use corporate politics to your advantage. Successful innovators use their existing network within the organization to build support and proof of their ideas, at times working under the radar if need be, and creating extra time by piggybacking on existing corporate initiatives.
BOOK: The research is detailed in “Innovation as Usual“, published by Harvard Business Press.
SPEAKING: For conferences, consider Wedell-Wedellsborg’s keynote ‘Innovation as Usual’